There are problems within Greek letter organizations, and as a chapter president for one of those organizations, I do not deny this. Incidents that have occurred at UCLA as well as all over the nation indicate the Greek community must accept that changes must be made.
To help our Greek community address these issues, we must first recognize the actions that have been taken, and be mindful to not associate the problems in a few chapters with the entire Greek system.
Actions that have been taken by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to address racism and ignorance in our community include presentations by the Anti-Defamation League and Alliance through Intergroup Dialogue, which our chapter presidents and council presidents attended.
The workshop by the ADL tackled the topics of language, anti-bias, cultural sensitivity, cultural appropriation, how organizations can be more mindful in their interactions with their members and the structuring of their events. The workshop by the Alliance through Intergroup Dialogue challenged our Greek leaders to explore their relationships with identity, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and disability status.
A specific task force called B.R.I.D.G.E., or Building Respectable Inclusive Diverse Greeks Equitably, is also beginning to help with addressing these matters within our community.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life continues to equip students, through active participation, with knowledge and skills in helping to create and contribute to a diverse society. The structure of monthly, two-hour chapter president meetings has been completely altered to become a forum for Greek leaders to explore how the leadership can acknowledge inequalities within the community, and work to upend the traditional power structure between many of our councils.
I am not a student of color on this campus, therefore I do not feel I can evaluate whether the actions that have been taken are sufficient or in the right direction. However, while the steps taken by the Greek community may be small, I do believe they need to be acknowledged and encouraged by the UCLA community in order for change to continue.
I also feel we must change the way we talk about Greek life.
“The use of stereotypes to fuel social rituals is by no means exclusive to Greek life, but is worryingly endemic in the sprawling social organizations affiliated with and sponsored by the university,” said a recent Daily Bruin editorial.
Yes, there were incidents in our Greek community that showed unsettling ignorance of Greek life members. But these incidents occurred in three of our Greek organizations: Alpha Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Pi Kappa Phi. These are three of the 65 current Greek letter organizations on campus, or only 4 percent. Yet, the authors of the article feel that racism is worryingly endemic among all organizations.
When members of the UCLA community lump all members Greek life together, it perpetuates the idea that Greek life must lack the diversity needed to facilitate cultural awareness of its members. This could not be further from the truth. Many students may not realize that UCLA has a long-standing history of culturally-based Greek letter organizations. The first Greek organization at UCLA was Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a historically African-American sorority and member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Multi-Interest Greek Council, Latino Greek Council and Asian Greek Council comprise half of our Greek organizations on campus, yet they are routinely forgotten and the diversity they bring to our community is ignored.
It is obvious that increasing diversity in Greek life will help the community grow stronger and more aware of our unique cultural histories, and therefore help to prevent issues such as the “Kanye Western” raid and ignorant statements in the Pi Kappa Phi minutes.
However, when prospective Bruins – especially minority students – see articles that present UCLA Greek life in such a negative light, why would they want to join a Greek organization? When all six Greek councils are treated as one mass of racism and intolerance, why would students take the time to explore our 33 culturally-based Greek letter organizations?
I agree that choosing to be in Greek life puts you in a spotlight that necessitates showing your values outwardly and constantly. I agree that the actions of three of our chapters in the last year have caused members of our community to doubt the integrity of Greek life on our campus. I agree we should be encouraging our Greek leaders to push for change in our community, but I also believe that to accomplish this we must encourage the small steps that have been made, and not continue a rhetoric of demonizing all of our 65 Greek organizations for the actions of a few.
Ansazi Levy is a third-year communications student and president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi.