Students turn to Abolish Greek Life, Dear PWI and The Vanderbilt Journal to voice experiences of exclusivity on campus

In efforts to create discussion for social change on Vanderbilt’s campus and beyond, students use Instagram as a platform to share harmful experiences.

Students+turn+to+Abolish+Greek+Life%2C+Dear+PWI+and+The+Vanderbilt+Journal+to+voice+experiences+of+exclusivity+on+campus

Sahanya Bhaktaram, Deputy Life Editor

Vanderbilt students have flocked to social media platforms like never before to reform campus culture. No article could fully address their intentions, but the essence of their efforts lies within the principle that social justice is long overdue. After George Floyd’s death, millions took to social media and gathered in the streets to protest police brutality and support Black Lives Matter. Articles and posts flooded the internet with educational resources to combat implicit bias and help the United States, and the world, recognize the systemic racism that exists today. 

In tune with the quote “change begins at home,” groups of Vanderbilt students have called for action in changing the harmful campus culture that perpetuates the broader issue of racial inequity within the United States. Since many of students are far away from campus for the summer, social media apps like Instagram are serving as a principal platform for discussion. Here are some of Vanderbilt’s most prominent accounts following this initiative. 

@abolishvandyifcandpanhellenic

One of the Abolish Greek Life account’s many “Why Abolish” anonymous submissions. Screenshot by Sahanya Bhaktaram

The @abolishvandyifcandpanhellenic account posts first-hand, sometimes anonymous narratives from past members and those outside the Greek system on the harmful nature of IFCPH Greek life. The Abolish Greek Life movement extends beyond just Nashville, with campuses like University of Richmond and Washington University creating similar Instagram accounts. Contributors share similar sentiments that the Greek system was designed for privileged white people while perpetuating racism, homophobia, rape culture, sexism and financial exclusivity. They denounce the idea that reform is enough to fix these issues. 

At Vanderbilt in particular, the movement began when a few Black women dropped out of Kappa Kappa Gamma in wake of George Floyd’s death. Other members of the sorority dropped in solidarity which sparked the dialogue of a modern Vanderbilt that could exist without the Greek system. 

“In the wake of everything that was going on, I reevaluated what I could be doing better. I realized that I was putting money into this system that was designed to exclude Black people and my money could be better spent in other ways such as donating to bail funds or even my education,” Katherine Deegan, a rising senior who helps run the Instagram account, said. 

The main goal of the account and the movement generally is to elevate non-Greek voices, especially non-Greek people of color, members of LGBTQ+ community and low SES students because those are the three communities that are historically excluded from IFC and Panhellenic. The account is now approaching 2,500 followers. 

“The movement is not about people who were in Greek Life and dropped, it’s about those harmed and an attempt of reconciliation to make Vanderbilt a safer and more inclusive place,” Deegan said. “We figured that Instagram would be a very powerful tool because most people that are a part of the community we want to reach are also on Instagram.”

To make a greater impact, a group of Vanderbilt alumni wrote an open letter to the administration who want to see Greek Life abolished. To show support, students can sign the letter which can be found in their Instagram bio. 

@dearpwi

One of the five posts on the national @dearpwi Instagram account which cites racial injustices at Vanderbilt. Screenshot by Sahanya Bhaktaram

@dearpwi is an account that reaches far beyond Vanderbilt’s campus. Its page accepts submissions from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) at predominately white institutions (PWI) which make up the majority of college campuses in the United States. The stories range from experiences in the classroom to a variety of social settings both on and off campus. 

While the posts about Vandy are varied, they highlight recurring injustices against people of color on campus. In addition to the story above, other stories include the use of the racial slurs, the Confederate flag as decoration and being forced to leave a room in the library to make room for white classmates. 

The account, which has over 27,000 followers and 157 posts, seeks to prove that these instances of marginalization are not anomalies and are happening everywhere—including our campus. Since its first post June 12, Vanderbilt has now been featured five times on the account.

@thevanderbiltjournal

The first post on The Vanderbilt Journal’s Instagram from June 14, which now has almost 700 likes. Screenshot by Sahanya Bhaktaram

The Vanderbilt Journal serves to deliver “pieces on race, sex, campus culture & everything else,” according to its bio. The Instagram page, which now has just under 3,000 followers, features op-ed style submissions by students regarding current events. Popular topics include plans for the Fall semester, performative activism, BLM, thoughts regarding the downfall of Greek Life and international students’ response to the global pandemic.

Its first post, titled “About Time” by Darius Cowan, debuted June 14 and discussed the sentiment of being Black in America today. 

Posts titled “Where Have All the Frat Boys Gone?” and “Men Staying Silent” have also garnered significant attention on the account. The former addresses the lack of initiative demonstrated by certain IFC fraternities regarding the Abolish Greek Life movement, while “Men Staying Silent” critiques complicit behavior which allows sexual assault to occur on campus. 

These issues swarming our campus are never too sensitive to cover and allow transparent insight into the opinions of the Vanderbilt community on important matters. Submissions to the account are accepted via email.