October 24, 2002

Greeks United Begins Operation

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In honor of the rejuvenation of the group that works to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the Greek system, Erica Kagan ’05, the LGBTQ liason to the Student Assembly (S.A.) and David Chipurnoi grad of Greeks United gave presentations last night in front of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and the PanHellenic Association.

The group was inactive last year because “basically the leadership was graduating. There wasn’t enough support within the organization because no one really knew about it,” Chipurnoi said.

Debra Newman ’02, who recently died, previously ran the organization.

Chipurnoi added he felt that, “one of the best ways to honor her memory is to not let the organization die.”

Kagan and Chipurnoi, the group’s facilitators, started the year with an e-mail to all the fraternity and sorority presidents that they are supposed to forward to the members of their houses. It explains what Greeks United does and invites those who need support for sexuality issues to e-mail either of the two facilitators or the group’s e-mail address, which is more confidential. It also invites such members of the Greek community to come to a meeting which will be held at an undisclosed location on Tuesday.

“This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. If you think about it mathematically, chances are there is someone in your house who might need to know about this organization,” Chipurnoi told the IFC.

The fraternity system in particular has a spotty history in relation to how welcoming it has been to members of the gay community.

Two years ago, an article ran in The Sun in which a member of the Greek system said that his house had actively decided not to give someone a bid because he was openly gay. Other students said they were afraid to come out to their house. That article later became the subject of a discussion in an ILR class on Greek leadership.

“A lot of suggestions came out of that discussion. Many of those suggestions have been followed up on. Over the past two years, we’ve increased programming on all issues of diversity, not just sexual orientation, partly in response to that article,” Jason Conn ’03, president of the IFC said.

One such program is the information sessions that the IFC is planning on holding on West Campus in November, which Greeks United is scheduled to help coordinate.

“The sessions are to let people know that they are welcome in the Greek system and to let students who have been through it talk about their positive experiences in the Greek system,” Conn said.

For Greeks United, such an event is important because of the misconceptions that many students have about the Greek system.

“The main problem is that the Greek system is seen as a social thing. People ask gay people why we’re in the G reek system. They don’t realize that there’s a lot more to the Greek system than the social scene or meeting people of the opposite sex,” Kagan said.

Chipurnoi too feels that the misconceptions people have about the greek system may be hurting the houses.

“A lot of guys who are gay or bisexual think they couldn’t be part of a fraternity because they are gay or bisexual. I would be lying if I said that anyone could go through recruitment being openly gay or bisexual and get a bid in every house,” he said.

“For the most part, individuals who are gay or bisexual tend to come out at the end of their career at Cornell or when they graduate. 99.9% of the time, the brothers are supportive,” Chipurnoi added.

Kagan added that for some it is rush itself that can be the hardest time.

“People weigh the positives and negatives of being out during rush. You might be scared that the one person you speak to might be homophobic, so you might not get into a certain house,” Kagan said.

To help those who are already in the system feel more comfortable and less alone, Greeks United has also pulled together a list of alumni from almost every house who have come out as gay or bisexual to serve as mentors to those who need it.

“They know the traditions and culture of the individual house, so they can serve as a mentor. It’s a shame to spend your years at Cornell suppressing such a large part of your personality,” Chipurnoi said.

Archived article by Freda Ready