Petition, letter speak out against National Panhellenic Conference Boys' Bid Night ban

StudCo considers resolution citing self-governance concerns

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Many sorority national headquarters are putting strict measures in place to prevent member participation in this year’s Boys’ Bid Night activities. Several chapters have been required to schedule mandatory meetings or social events in lieu of Bid Night activities, in addition to a request from the National Panhellenic Conference last week requesting all sororities cancel organized Bid Night activities.

Many students are pushing back against these additional restrictions — both from individual chapters and the National Panhellenic Conference — which functionally mandate the exclusion of sorority women from the annual festivities. The restrictions are condemned by some as strengthening gender discrimination, impeding personal liberties and lacking transparency to the University sorority community.

The NPC’s restrictions, sent to sororities with University charters on Jan. 20, was made without consultation from University sorority leadership, but it falls within the NPC’s authority, said Inter-Sorority Council President Allison Palacios, a third-year College student.

“Each national organization has the capacity to exercise their own sovereign rights over their members,” Palacios said in an email.

All the same, students wrote and circulated a petition as well as a letter to the National Panhellenic Conference and national sororities to voice opposition to the Boys’ Bid Night ban. The petition — started by fourth-year College student Story Hinckley, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta — aims to revoke the mandate in support of women’s rights at the University. Hinckley said the way the NPC and ISC are treating the issue right now will not lead to beneficial change.

“Instead of correcting issues within the [Inter-Fraternity Council] and fraternities themselves, these issues will be continually addressed indirectly through restrictions on the NPC or ISC,” Hinckley said. “With the issue of rape and sexual assault on Grounds, women continue to be punished twice.”

The letter, written by women of the University’s Kappa Delta chapter, addressed the NPC and National presidents, citing the issue of gender discrimination in the new regulations.

“Sororities are organizations founded to empower women,” the letter reads. “They are, by their very nature, organizations meant to foster strength among their members. They are organizations that inherently promote gender equality. This mandate is diametrically opposed to the values on which our organizations were founded and continue to uphold.”

The letter also condemns the choice to exclude University sorority women from the formulation of restrictions.

“Given the current climate surrounding Greek life at the University of Virginia, it is appropriate and necessary to question the occurrence of Boys’ Bid Night and its value to our community,” the letter reads. “What is inappropriate and concerning to us is the compulsory nature of this mandate. Not only were none of the chapter leaders consulted, but some 2,000 members of the national sorority chapters at U.Va. are expected to comply with this decision.”

Kappa Delta’s National Chapter is one of the national organizations imposing additional restrictions on the members of its University chapter. Fourth-year College student Taylor Enders, former president of the University chapter, noted backlash to the restrictions.

“On Boys’ Bid Night, no sorority woman is allowed to go to a fraternity, even if they are acting as an individual,” Enders said. “Basically, before we have been prevented from planning events as a sorority that involved drinking, but this is the first time, from my understanding, that we have been mandated to do something as individuals.”

Many fraternity members have voiced opposition as well, claiming the restrictions imply they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly. Inter-Fraternity Council President Ben Gorman, a third-year College student, said the IFC has not been contacted by any sororities but he has seen fraternity frustration mounting.

“I think fraternity members are frustrated,” Gorman said in an email. “Despite supporting, creating and implementing these new [FOA] standards of safety, they have been written off as incapable of being responsible individuals without the chance to demonstrate they can hold safe social events.”

Gorman said disregarding sorority members’ rights has the potential to create backlash throughout the entire Greek community. Instead of leading to positive change, the restrictions may bring overall negative consequences.

“By discrediting the safety initiatives the policy undermines the principle of student self-governance that our University was founded on,” Gorman said. “Rather than encourage students to hold themselves accountable for their actions, system-wide bans are often perceived as collective punishment and consequently impede cultural change.”

Hinckley and Gorman called for a sustainable, long-term solution to the issue of safety in the Greek system.

“If you were to lock someone in a room for two years, odds are that person would remain safe,” Gorman said. “But that's only a Band-Aid solution that assumes people can respect neither themselves nor their peers.”

Second-year College student Abraham Axler, chair of the representative body and second-year class president, said he is similarly frustrated by national sorority action. Axler is sponsoring a Student Council resolution which calls on national sorority organizations to allow University sorority chapters to decide how to proceed.

“Be it resolved that the Student Council of the University of Virginia strongly urges National Sorority Organizations to affirm the ability of their members to execute their University-approved safety plan before intervening with National mandates,” the resolution reads. “To respect our principles of trust and student self-governance, by engaging in meaningful dialogue with their U.Va. members to create collaborative policies.”

Axler said he chose to sponsor the bill because of his strong feelings on the issue, which stem from the huge number of constituents impacted by national sorority authority.

“This matter is urgent as many of our constituents are distraught by both a breach of their self governance and of their restriction of activities on Jan. 31,” Axler said in an email to Council. “This is a time where we need to be responsive to our constituents.”

Council will vote on the resolution in a special session Tuesday evening at 7:45 p.m.

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