Protest calls for abolition of USC Greek life

Image of protestors standing outside the Sigma Nu fraternity house. One stands in front wearing a black sweatshirt and holding a sign.
Students, parents and non-USC anti-Greek life activists expressed their experiences with Greek life and their opinions on the organization’s effect on university culture. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan)

Students, parents and non-USC anti-Greek life activists gathered  Monday at the Sigma Nu fraternity to advocate for the abolition of Greek life at USC. Under a boom microphone and the harsh lighting of video cameras, participants took turns offering their experiences and opinions on Greek life’s effect on university culture, while men in passing cars yelled expletives and heckled the crowd. 

Leila Hilf, a sophomore majoring in film and television production, organized the protest by posting her plans on social media before she was contacted by Greek life abolition organizations and parent activists.

A documentary crew was present at the protest, part of a two-year project by parents of children who died from hazing-related incidents. They expressed their desire for reform within the Greek system. Among them was Gary DeVercelly, who lost his son Gary Jr. in 2007 to alcohol poisoning in a fraternity hazing ritual at Rider University.

“Dealing with that devastation in our lives, we decided that we wanted to help prevent this from ever happening again,” DeVercelly said. 

Others did not believe reform was an option, and voiced their support for completely removing Greek life from USC. A freshman majoring in public policy at the event said that the entire system should be abolished.

“At the core of a lot of these institutions is decades of racism, decades of classism, decades of violence, decades of fear mongering, decades of toxic masculinity,” they said. “It’s almost cult-like … I just don’t think that there is a solution that is progressive, that any organization on this row or any organization in this country will understand.” 

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, the student said that the issue transcends sexual assault.

“This is about years of festering ignorance becoming something that is unavoidable and something that we cannot ignore,” they said. “This is about getting rid of it all.”

The sororities involved are also complicit, the student said. 

“It’s hard to separate sorority girls, when they live right across the street,” they said. “There needs to be accountability and there needs to be an understanding that this entire system has been built on the backs of ugly, ugly things.”

After students finished speaking, the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house, opposite Sigma Nu, opened its doors and two members spoke to the crowd with security guards stationed on the front steps. The members shared their opinions on abolition, telling the crowd that not all Greek life members are wealthy and that sexual assault frequently occurs outside of fraternities. The exchange became heated, and the members went back inside the house with one of the parent activists, saying they had a meeting to attend.