September 18, 2017

GUEST ROOM | Fraternity is Not for All

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Regardless of what the Interfraternity Council wants you to believe, fraternity is not for all. Most of us live in varying degrees of denial of this fact, but repeating “Greek life is bad” over and over dulls the message to those who need to hear it, and prevents us from discussing the deeper issues.

The first fraternities were made up of wealthy white men who had enough free time to sit around and come up with elitist group names. It is and always has been exclusionary. Everyone loves to shit on Greek life, but we are all components of the system. It’s the conflict of loving the benefits and simultaneously suffering from the many shortcomings. Frat parties wouldn’t exist if in no one showed up. You can’t distance yourself because you’re unaffiliated.

As recent events remind us, everyone has the capacity to be hurt by the Greek system, but those most affected are in marginalized groups. The Greek system upholds privilege. It is a microcosm of the many issues inherent to American society. It protects wealthy white men from the consequences of committing hate crimes. It allows their wealthy white girlfriends to bail them out before they can make it to jail. It protects their names and their faces to bypass character assassination and preserve their bright futures. Greeks, the system doesn’t need you to protect it. It was not built in a day. I promise your alcohol and affordable housing will live another year.

Thus, a white fraternity can be kicked off campus for invalidating and enacting violence against women, safely reorganize 5 minutes from Ho Plaza without being called a gang and commit a hate crime, but Black Students United can’t comment on the crime without being reported and silenced.

I chose to be in Greek life, but membership is a privilege and a strain. The intersections of my identity often lead certain types of people to think I speak for entire groups. I am expected to be an expert on “wokeness” and patient enough to answer invasive questions with kindness. In spite of my discomfort, I have spearheaded discussions on race, religion, LGBTQIA+ issues and more, because there are no institutional systems in place to promote diversity and inclusion. I put in the work to make the lives of marginalized Greek members a little easier. Unfortunately, closeness to Greek life does not equate to safety or comfort, and my white counterparts do not put in the same efforts to promote change. It is not the responsibility of oppressed groups to end their oppression —  it’s the job of those perpetuating and benefiting from discriminatory systems to change their behavior.

It may be easier for you to stomach, like and share the usual “Greek life is bad” mantra, but that superficial thinking won’t help those who need it most. Instead, share news articles and uplift the voices of marginalized groups without talking over them. Use your privilege to elevate those who are silenced and underrepresented.

If the administration actually cared, they would realize that kicking Greek organizations off campus is never enough. Maybe they could put some of their endowment and that ambiguous student activities fee toward mandatory diversity and inclusion programs. Maybe they could hold criminals accountable. If not, the same people will exist in the same social circles with the same viewpoints and the same apathy towards change. Greek life can’t be dismissed, it must be dismantled.

 

Majelia Ampadu is a junior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Guest Room appears periodically throughout the semester. 

  • bigredalumnus

    I live 500 miles from Ithaca but I can see the chip on the writer’s shoulder from here. The writer chose to attend one of the most elite (elitist) institutions, founded by white men, in the world. And he has a problem with fraternities?

    Daily Sun editors, you can do better. Ask Prof Daniel Schwartz, it’s time for his annual screed.

    • Luzann Ampadu

      The writer is female and as she stated it is a privilege and a strain. Regardless of who you are you have perpetuated the denial of the real underlying problems in our society. The real concern is that our children are living in a society and systems that denies the hate and does little to change it. It’s good to hear specific groups have taking steps to be welcoming but this hate needs a another, deeper, level of change. The “chip on” her “shoulder” attitude is another measure to speak against and try to silence the very real hate that is crushing our children and furthering no solutions.

  • Don Noveau

    I’m a fraternity man. I joined Theta Delta Chi in 1966. I am now identified as an EWM. I write to clarify that in 1966, we had black and gay brothers, we had them before I joined, and we still have them. We also have a broad spectrum of other identifiers that are brothers now. They come from at least 5 foreign countries, and I cannot count the ethnicities and points of view present at 800 University Avenue. One reason I can’t count them is because WE don’t count them. What matters is the fit. I’ve worked, since 1966, to make Thumpty a haven for anyone who wants to associate with like-minded men who need each other for support and confirmation, and who do not discriminate by race, POV, ethnicity, or much else. Yes, we network; that’s the point. This is the reality here, not the 5 to 10 year old blog posts about drugs and sexual harassment. I’m on campus today, and I’d love to show you around. Dan25@cornell.edu.

    • Samsohn

      Love you Don!! All you state about our fraternity remains true. We are a diverse brotherhood, united by individuality and a love for each other. If standards are set, our houses can be the strongest institutions on campus.