To transform fraternities on Locust Walk into cultural and wellness centers in order to foster positive and safe environments for students with minority and historically underrepresented identities.
To work toward creating a University of Pennsylvania community where everyone regardless of identity feels safe and represented.
About the cause
Fraternities are not the only source of sexual violence, racism, sexism, or homophobia on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus and not all individuals engage in these behaviors. With that said, toxic and dangerous behavior is undoubtedly rampant in such spaces. The problem is a larger systematic issue of rape culture, which is heavily present in fraternities. In the 2019 AAU survey, fraternities were marked as the most frequent location for experiences of sexual violence. Fraternities, being powerful institutions that occupy space in the center of our University of Pennsylvania lives, undeniably impact the way students go about their daily lives and sometimes negatively affect their wellbeing.
By centering fraternity houses on Locust and hiding cultural centers in the basement of ARCH, University of Pennsylvania reveals their prioritization of some identities over others. Our preliminary goal is to collect stories that show the detriment of having fraternities located in the center of campus.
We hope to instead transform these spaces into positive and safe environments for the collection and empowerment of minority identities. By giving a home to cultural centers and other marginalized groups, we are affirming their existence and importance to student life rather than rewarding offensive and degrading behavior performed by fraternity brothers. For a more detailed idea of the future CAFSA imagines, visit the map.
Please note that CAFSA as an organization is firmly committed to ensuring that we acknowledge and confront, both personally and collectively, privileges we hold. In addition to sexism, we will not tolerate racism, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, ableism, fat phobia, or classism from organization members or those who occupy our spaces. In joining this fight, you are also committing to these ideals.
This fight has been going on for decades and the University of Pennsylvania has not responded in an effective way. This page contains some of the historical precedent that has inspired us and may inspire you.
“Spaces make statements as eloquent as any emanating from administrators in College Hall. The current arrangement of the campus, with white male fraternities lining its central artery... is more appropriate to Penn of the 1950s than to what Penn hopes to be in the 1990s.’ The Berg and Faust Reports emphasized that these fraternities made Locust Walk for many members of the Penn community not only a site of racial and sexual exclusivity, but also a site of verbal and physical harassment. If Penn intended to move beyond merely attracting a diversity of students, faculty and staff towards creating and maintaining a genuinely heterogeneous and pluralistic community of equal access and opportunity, it could no longer ignore the symbol and the reality of exclusivity and, too often, incivility, that stood at its physical heart.”
"From our first night of New Student Orientation to our last step on Locust Walk, we are taught — and reminded over and over again — that the fraternities not only command the social scene, but also occupy the very heart of Penn’s academic campus. The allocation of physical space is political and it speaks volumes. And the hierarchies, priorities and ideologies of the University sure ring loud when walking down Locust. "
"It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? The way in which Penn’s three cultural centers — Makuu, Pan-Asian American Community House and La Casa Latina — are all housed in a small basement in ARCH. The way in which the Penn Women’s Center shares a building with the African American Resource Center. The way in which the chaplain’s office is squeezed into a small, hard-to-find space in Houston Hall. And the way in which there are no less than 12 magnificent buildings on the Locust thoroughfare alone used almost exclusively by and for fraternity men."
“The office was used as a space for PVP staff, as well as a meeting space for PVP student groups, such as Penn Anti-Violence Educators and Men Against Rape & Sexual Assault....'I think primarily, number one, it signifies a clear rejection of the acknowledgement that sexual violence is a serious problem on this campus,'”
"The fact that Locust Walk, Penn's most storied and traversed thoroughfare, is boxed in by fraternity houses, is more than indicative of Penn’s values and history. It’s also an issue of privilege—who is worthy of space, and who controls it. From a common–sense perspective, the idea that fraternities have physical preference over campus’s most heavily trafficked walkway, that they can throw parties in their yards by the Compass, that their proximity to the center of campus is much closer than many cultural centers, has an indelible effect on the social and cultural climate of campus."
"It falls to the student body to take action to improve a campus climate, which, since 2015, has been increasingly described by female undergraduates as having an “extremely problematic” sexual misconduct problem."
"Bowdoin Associate Vice President Scott Hood said the school's trustees -- 80 percent of whom are alumni of the Bowdoin Greek system -- had several reasons for voting to abolish fraternities, pointing to the "exclusive, self-selecting" nature of Greek organizations. "They tend to attract students who fit a certain mold," he said, adding that a majority of fraternity members are white, wealthy and athletes."
"New member education is a type of IFC educational programming concerning sexual health and sexual assault, which all on-campus fraternities are expected to complete...Only five of Penn's 27 fraternities fulfilled the requirements for all three educational events that were mandated."
"'It’s not just that fraternity members are more likely than other male students to commit sexual assault or indulge in binge drinking ... It’s that fraternities teach men that they must degrade women — and debase themselves — to cement their tough-guy bona fides,” Zimmerman wrote. “Of course, nothing can stop a bunch of guys from affixing Greek letters to their names. But universities should stop recognizing-and subsidizing-them. Maybe then our male students will learn better ways of being a man.'"
"Phi Delta Theta’s Christmas card featuring a dark-skinned Beyoncé sex doll is far from the first or most provocative fraternity incident in past years...'While the women were removing their clothing, members of the audience shouted racist remarks such as, ‘Where did you get them [n word]?'"
"Sexual violence should be treated more like we treat drunk driving: as a pervasive public health issue that requires understanding of risk met with a refusal to use alcohol as an excuse."
"...when compared to the University's treatment of other groups, such as fraternities or academic programs, it’s clear that Penn’s offer is inadequate...Penn’s offer for the cultural groups to expand above ground is a weak, half-hearted attempt by the administration to quell student minority groups’ demands. "
"The students called on top administrators to address the lack of space given to cultural groups, the need for more first-generation, low-income graduate student resources, and the need for more clarity surrounding Penn's sexual misconduct policies...'A bigger space will not only help spread visibility of our community house but also provide various resources to a larger number of students.'"
"Yet, on Locust Walk, the historic fraternity houses far overshadow other groups. La Casa Latina, Makuu, and the Pan-Asian American Community House are confined to a basement in the ARCH building...A student attending the forum also noted that 'being shoved in a basement' made the student feel more marginalized at Penn and affected their mental wellness. Indeed, when there are decadent, historic buildings devoted to fraternities, while PAACH, La Casa Latina, and Makuu only have single rooms in a basement, the University is sending a message that certain groups are more important than others."
"'It definitely feels like the renovations were kind of put in place in ARCH to almost appease the qualms of students who do use the cultural resource centers’ resources,” said College senior Lisa Romero, chair of internal affairs for the Latinx Coalition. “It’s like wrapping up a present very pretty, but the present itself sucks.'"
"The 6B’s long-term goal is for the cultural resource centers to occupy their own individual buildings on Locust Walk. PAGE Chair and College senior Tanya Jain said the group wants to prioritize this goal, even if they decide to move into other spaces in the ARCH."
"APSC chair Kamal Gill said both the Penn Women's Center and the LGBT Center occupy former fraternity houses, so he sees moving the cultural centers into fraternity houses as a feasible alternative. Penn Association for Gender Equity chair Tanya Jain added it took years for the Penn Women's Center to occupy their current house after the fraternity was removed from the house due to a violation of University policy."
"He explained that a few brothers in the house gave him a hard time about being gay. 'I think there's a lot less sensitivity in a fraternity,' he noted. Derogatory comments and jokes became frequent. Finally, Mike asked the fraternity's president to help him stop the constant verbal abuse."