So I’ve had some recent things on my mind…no, not the shutdown. This relates back to the field I am currently working in: Fraternity and Sorority Life Advising.
Many of you have seen the recent issues going on with The University of Alabama’s Greek System (for those that haven’t, here is the story). We were in the middle of recruitment during that time ourselves and one of the students I was sitting with began talking about it. After a lot of conversation, he concluded by informing me that Greek Life is set up that way, to discriminate.
This came as a shock to me. When I looked into joining, I actually looked in to NPHC life. I joined a Fraternity (not a frat, but that’s a different conversation) that included men from every social class, and many walks of life. I had black brothers, Indian-American brothers, an Asian brother, and even a brother that joined as an openly gay man. The night I decided to join, we had an hour long talk about what justice meant after playing ultimate Frisbee. I joined a brotherhood aimed at not only helping me grow (Building Better Men) but at changing the world around us for the better (Justice, our Foundation).
Needless to say, this idea that Greek Life was set up to segregate, while not foreign to me, was unappetizing. Then I thought about what he had said…a fraternity system established when only rich white men could attend college, with its rules set by the likes of Animal House (notice the men and sterotypes), and in opposition to change. The National Pan-Hellenic Council was established for the following:
stated purpose and mission of the organization in 1930 was “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.”
And yet we seem so stuck in our ways that we can’t seem to get over color lines. All of these organizations these days state that they do not discriminate, but as you can see by the Alabama story and the students thoughts, that isn’t always the case. The fact is that with society and competition between chapters as well as Alumni and all the other issues facing fraternities and sororities, often times making these changes can be an uphill battle. It leaves me wondering if we really want that change…or if we even know it isn’t there.
Another short anecdote, we recently had an all greek meeting aimed at opening communication between organizations. When we asked what diversity looked like, these organizations (with less than 2% non-white identifying students and even less as GLBT or having a disability) informed us it was that they had different majors and were from towns all over the state…
Are we really so stuck in our ways that we can’t even recognize when there is no difference? A man I have a great deal of respect for is Dr Rupert Nacoste who says in his book Making Gumbo In the University that
diversity will exist when the mix of people from a wide variety of niches of society is such that the occurrence of a conflict of ideas is unavoidable (Nacoste, 2010)
And if we are only recruiting the same old same old people, are we stretching ourselves? Are we pushing to improve? The challenge stands, it is time we make that conflict unavoidable!