COVID-19 has been causing mass death for over two years. We’re sleepwalking towards authoritarianism and climate catastrophe. Not to mention all the other symptoms of living in a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist society that we face. When it was announced that Delta Gamma’s housing would be taken away for a semester, that was the last straw for Case Western Reserve University students, for whatever reason. Shortly after the new year, a petition began circulating on social media attempting to reverse a move by CWRU to use the Delta Gamma sorority’s house as housing for students quarantined due to COVID-19 infections. As of the writing of this column, the petition has garnered just under 2,000 signatures. This reflects seriously unhinged behavior.
As one self-described “Case Parent” wrote in the petition comments, “the audacity and absurdity of the white privilege and entitlement is stunning. Kudos to Case for putting the health and safety of all their students over 19 Greek life peers. Voting so folks can read that fellow Case parents know that this is absurd and an utterly privileged, poorly understood stance.” While this parent hit the nail on the head with their assessment, my main gripe does not focus on the literal validity of Delta Gamma’s petition. As the petition points out, there are other spaces, such as an unused fraternity house, that the university could have chosen to designate as quarantine housing. The true absurdity of the situation lies in its outlier status.
It’s well known that CWRU students live in a “bubble.” There are few groups on campus that go beyond performative and exploitative philanthropy in favor of truly challenging the status quo. These groups tend to get far less attention, likely due to our inclination for resume building over solidarity. I’ve all too often heard my peers lament that they don’t have the time or don’t know how to galvanize collective action. Well this has now been disproven. The ease and quickness with which Delta Gamma obtained the significant number of petition signatures, poetic Instagram stories and heart-wrenching Facebook posts shows that CWRU students have the capacity for action when their privileged conditions are immediately at risk.
This is not to say that we should follow the exact strategy followed by Delta Gamma’s supporters for more serious causes. Awareness-building methods, such as petitions and social media posts, will never be liberating on their own (or even effective as the main focus of action). In this sense, it reminded me of the much more warranted uproar to the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) recognition of Case for Life (CFL), formerly known as Students for Life (SFL), in the spring of 2020. Students quickly mobilized to share the petition for a student referendum and garnered the necessary 500+ signatures. The referendum succeeded in momentarily overturning the recognition. However, beyond the initial spurt of support, no long-term base was built to harness this energy. CFL would succeed in receiving their recognition, with little widespread opposition, less than a year later.
What needs to become commonplace is the supportive energy displayed under the two scenarios mentioned above. As I discussed in my last column, community organizing is the best way to harness that attitude to build a better world.
So, maybe, just maybe, instead of going through Greek Life recruitment this month, you can join a community-based organization. The people you meet in these organizations—those who will march in the streets with you on a cold rainy day or work through mundane strategy at a weeknight meeting—are far better “family” than whatever “brothers” and “sisters” you get through Greek Life.