Previous Daily Bruin articles regarding Greek life have made clear the Greek life system’s intent to upgrade the way it addresses diversity on campus. Former Interfraternity Council President Derek Bergmann’s submission pointed out several initiatives to demonstrate that fraternity leadership “has prioritized education concerning racial and gender identity.” But while Greek life’s current diversity efforts may be commendable, it seems like they are coming from the wrong place.
People in Greek life need to re-evaluate their own principles regarding diversity, and internalize these values into everyday Greek life operations.
I’ve observed – albeit from a limited outsider perspective – that when Greek life leaders are challenged for scandals, they respond with attempts to protect its reputation. They point to the argument that their system is being demonized, and they only engage in diversity efforts to the extent that it revives its public image. Anasazi Levy’s recent submission stated that “choosing to be in Greek life puts you in a spotlight that necessitates showing your values outwardly and constantly.”
However, what happens to these values when students from the outside cease to challenge them and make Greek life’s flaws known? What happens when the Standard of Excellence points go away, and you are forced to act out of internal principle rather than external incentive? To what extent is Greek life using its received criticisms as a cue to internally reflect, and think critically about its current modes of operation?
These questions are at the crux of institutional integrity, and this is the issue that students from the outside are pointing to when they say that “racism is worryingly endemic among all (Greek) organizations.”
Levy’s submission urges students to acknowledge pre-existing diversity in Greek life and avoid making holistic generalizations about the institution. Cornerstones of diversity in Greek life, like the Multi-Interest Greek Council and the Latino and Asian Greek Councils, are, as Levy says, “routinely forgotten and … ignored.”
This raises several questions. How is this diversity being utilized to better the entirety of the Greek community? Do multi-interest and cultural Greek organizations frequently interact with unassociated fraternities and sororities? And what do these Greek life organizations do together to structure immediate responses when they are challenged on grounds of diversity and discrimination?
These questions show that Greek life does not seem to be institutionalizing its educational efforts. While workshops, town hall events and Macklemore panels are all powerful educational tools, neither these events nor the lessons they impart remain when the next pledge class comes in. Greek life leaders need to implement organizational systems and mechanisms and sustain the educational processes that combat the roots of discriminatory behaviors.
Many people are upset that everyone in Greek life gets a bad reputation when only three of them have been involved with scandals in recent years. While such generalizations are a problem, it is important to emphasize that every chapter in Greek life must hold every other chapter accountable. It’s not just that three of the 65 chapters were involved in scandals, it’s also that the other 62 let them.
There are many tangible opportunities for Greek life leadership to start taking even bigger steps. They could encourage pledges and current members to attend Sigma CHAI‘s social justice educational series starting this Friday. Social Justice Advocates and Alliance through Intergroup Dialogue both offer workshops to help build a more inclusive campus community. Attend them and find ways to creatively integrate what you learn into the rush process, so every member of Greek life has opportunities to develop social awareness.
Furthermore, the leadership should create mechanisms that facilitate diversity between separate Greek life councils. After all, people in Greek life should interact with people who will challenge them to grow and contribute to a flourishing multicultural community, not just people susceptible to the same biases and the same ways of seeing the world.
Most importantly, understand that being less of a problem is different than being a part of the solution. We can find ways to put Greek life’s educational development into practice on campus. The IFC dropped $8,000 for the Macklemore panel – imagine if half of those funds were directed to support the undocumented students community when it was attacked last quarter, or for transgender students in spring. A commitment to diversity should be defined by more than just preventing future mishaps and scandals.
I want Greek life to challenge itself to live up to its rhetoric and make necessary institutional sacrifices to truly take a stand against its blemished history. It is time for Greek life to find systematic ways to utilize its diversity and unprecedented ability to build community in order to be different, and more importantly, to make a difference.
Muhammad is a third year sociology and English student, chief of staff for USAC General Representative 3 and Sigma CHAI co-director.