Greek house blacklists operate under secretive, informal rules

by Reilly Olinger | 10/31/19 2:10am

10-31-19-news-fratbanlift-sydneygillman

Blacklist policies for Greek houses are decided on a house-to-house basis.

by Sydney Gilman / The Dartmouth

Greek house blacklists are designed to ban certain people from entering a Greek house, often for reasons including alleged sexual assault or any factor which makes members unsafe. However, there are no universal rules or policies governing blacklists — most policies are decided on a house-by-house basis. Title IX coordinator Kristi Clemens said she supports the creation of a universal blacklist policy in the Greek system, but she acknowledged that the goal would be difficult to achieve.

“I think that having universal guidelines is a great idea, [but] having worked in the system a long time, my expectations are low,” Clemens said. “The houses are so unique and want to keep their own individual policies and processes.”

Clemens advises Greek leaders every year regarding blacklist policies. She said she shares a set of guidelines with each of the houses: a member has the right to feel safe in their own house, Greek houses are private spaces, blacklist requests should be based on first-person experience, houses should follow consistent policies and practices with their blacklists, and members cannot request other houses to blacklist an individual, since this could be considered retaliatory. 

Clemens said that these guidelines are not binding rules, but rather, they serve as a guide to avoiding complications. The guidelines are designed to create safe environments while also giving equal treatment to all students. 

“What I’ve tried to do with these guidelines is to give houses and individuals the agency to decide who they want in their space, while still protecting the rights that any member of our community has on campus — which is a really delicate balance,” Clemens said. 

Blacklists are a highly sensitive matter, about which many people are misinformed, according to Clemens. She said many Greek leaders believe that they are not even allowed to have blacklists. 

“Some houses still think, falsely, that we tell them not to have a blacklist, ” Clemens said. “Students trust each other a lot more than they trust me. So I think information gets passed down from leadership to leadership, and some things get lost in translation or don’t get passed down at all. All I can do is every year say, ‘It’s okay, you can do this, but here are some things you should keep in mind.’”

Maggie Flaherty ’21, who is involved in sexual violence prevention efforts on campus, said she attributes some of the misinformation regarding blacklists to the secrecy of Greek policies. 

“I think frequently Greek houses are in the headspace of trying not to break any rules and [staying] on the good side of [the] administration,” Flaherty said. “So, if someone is even concerned that something they are doing is not allowed, then they will perpetuate the narrative that, ‘This isn’t allowed — you have to keep it a secret.’ There is a lack of transparency in Greek policies, in-house Greek policies, just because houses are trying to not break any rules.”

Flaherty added that blacklist policies’ occasional intersection with sexual violence also makes it a sensitive topic, although sexual violence is only one of the many reasons why someone could be blacklisted. Any concern for the safety of a house’s members is a valid reason to put someone on a blacklist, according to Flaherty. 

Clemens also said that blacklists are only one piece of ensuring safety in Greek houses.

“Blacklists are a great tool,” Clemens said. “But [they are] not a substitute for any formal adjudication through the College. I think the tendency is often for students to say, ‘We’re going to take care of this ourselves,’ and then end up in my office a few weeks later and say, ‘We made a mess of this. How can you help us?’”

Flaherty expressed the importance of communicating with staff and administrators. She said that a lot of the misinformation about blacklist policies could be ameliorated through asking questions rather than making assumptions surrounding the Greek system.

“I think a lot of times we, just as students, assume that we know how things work and the way the Greek system works,” Flaherty said. “If you actually talk to staff, they’re quite willing to explain actual policies to you. I think that could help get rid of some of this misinformation and create a better environment within the Greek system, or [serve] as a step towards doing so.”

Director of Greek Life Brian Joyce declined to comment, and the leadership of multiple Greek houses were unable to be reached for comment.