The recently formed Student Assembly Greek-LGBTQ Relations Ad-Hoc Committee began working this semester to improve the relationship between the LGBTQ and Greek communities.
The committee, which was formed during the fall and began meeting this semester, is composed of representatives from the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Letter Council and Haven, the administrative umbrella for LGBTQ student organizations.
The committee discussed various goals at its meeting Tuesday. The committee wants to organize educational rush seminars, push for the creation of an explicit non-discrimination policy and encourage students in the Greek system to advertize events to the LGBTQ community, and vice versa.
Sean Donegan ’12, IFC liaison to the Student Assembly, said measures like educational rush seminars could portray a different side of the Greek system to freshmen and prospective fraternity members.
“The vision the committee has for itself is trying to build bridges between the LGBTQ and Greek communities,” said Matt Danzer ’12, Student Assembly LGBTQ representative and chair of the committee. “It’s not that Cornell sees antagonism between the two communities. Where we run into trouble is that there’s so much overlap … and yet there’s not a really strong relationship between [these communities].”
Danzer stressed that the S.A.’s creation of the committee was not a response to any event of discrimination that occurred on campus.
“The question ‘why now’ is a really fundamental one ... [but] this is not a response to anything that I’ve heard,” Danzer said. “This is something that has just languished over time — the idea arose and I decided to take it now, because at the end of the day, if we take a proactive step in engaging these communities, we’ll have a positive relationship between them.”
Emily Cusick ’12, Panhel vice president of recruitment, publicity and extension, also described the committee as a preemptive effort, rather than a response to a specific incident.
“There has not been any real conflict so far that I’m aware of in the Panhellenic community,” Cusick said. “I’m doing this to prevent something that could happen.”
Nathan Treffeisen ’12, a member of Delta Chi who has participated in the committee’s activities, said that one of the committee’s goals is to remove the idea that being a member of the Greek community and the LGBTQ community are mutually exclusive.
Treffeisen, who is openly gay, rushed Delta Chi in the fall and now serves on the fraternity’s executive board. He said he feels there are misleading stereotypes about both communities.
“I feel like I had a very false understanding of what went on [in the Greek system] and I wish I’d known as a freshman that there was a place for me,” Treffeisen said. “You think that you’re not ‘fratty’ enough to feel comfortable in a fraternity ... [but] you realize that there’s more to a fraternity than what you see at open parties.”
Danzer said he believes the divide between the Greek and LGBTQ communities centers around misconceptions.
“I think it’s not a question of comfort versus discomfort; it’s more a question of understanding identities,” Danzer said. “If you’re a gay student rushing a fraternity and you don’t think that your brothers understand your identity, then it can be tough for you to feel truly at home in that fraternity — and I think the same deal goes for Greek students who want to be involved in the LGBTQ community.”
Danzer emphasized the importance of getting individual students to act, rather than relying on administrative action.
“The true goal of the committee is to foster grassroots-level engagement between the LGBTQ-Greek communities. At the end of the day, it can’t be seen as a top-down effort,” Danzer said. “Individual LGBTQ and Greek students need to take it upon themselves to engage with one another ... to work as one Cornell community, rather than two communities in the Cornell umbrella.”