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Course examining social aspects of Greek life to be offered for spring

By Daily Bruin Staff

March 4, 2015 1:44 am

Students will be able to take a course examining social behavior in Greek life through extensive discussion and artistic performances starting spring quarter.

World Arts and Cultures 174A, a two-unit course titled “Desire on Campus: UCLA Sororities and Fraternities Move It Forward,” will take the form of an action conversation, which is a method of expression that includes deep discussion as well as dance and theater performances, said co-instructor Victoria Marks, a professor of choreography. In the course, students will discuss topics that Marks said are typically scrutinized by the media in Greek life, such as partying or sexual relationships.

The class will focus on patterns of social behavior people can learn from the media and their environment, Marks said.

“There’s a lot of complicated things which happen when young men and women hook up or begin and try to have a relationship,” Marks said. “We need to look at the social scripts that we’ve inherited and decide if we really want to follow them.”

Marks said she hopes more students in fraternities and sororities will sign up for the course to share their perspectives.

“Oftentimes, the finger gets pointed at sorority and fraternity students because of the deeply social nature of Greek life,” Marks said. “We’re not really hearing a lot from the students themselves. What about having Greek students be thought (of as) leaders instead of being discriminated against?”

The class will culminate in a final project in which students produce a collective 10- to 15-minute film about the topics covered throughout the quarter.

Marks said she thinks her method of teaching has been successful with other groups, including war veterans, who worked with artists to express themselves. She said she hopes this method will help students in the course better understand issues addressed in the course as they come up.

As of Tuesday, seven women in sororities have enrolled in the class, and no men have signed up. Instructors said they want to advertise to the UCLA fraternities to recruit more men.

Dr. Andy Rice, an ASPIRE Fellow in Socially Engaged Media in the Division of Undergraduate Education at UCLA, said he will conduct most of the filming portions of the class.

Marks ran a pilot version of the class this fall, which included three students in sororities.

Olivia Hansell, a fourth-year human biology and society student in Kappa Alpha Theta, took the pilot class and said her experience was eye-opening.

“It was incredibly challenging in some really cool ways that made me think,” Hansell said. “We discussed a lot of the unwritten rules that we all abide by but never talk about or verbalize.”

One example was a discussion about what they thought was the tendency of some women to say “sorry” frequently. Students also discussed the balance of power during a hookup.

“We used a lot of different movement exercises, which felt strange at first, but they fostered a sense of trust among the few of us that were in the class,” Hansell said. “At the end we had such an incredible level of trust that we felt comfortable talking to each other.”

The Healthy Campus Initiative plans to fund the course because officials think the class fits its goal of promoting health and wellness on campus, said Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost of the initiative. UCLA could not be reached for comment for this article.

The class will count for either a World Arts and Cultures elective or research credit.

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