March 6, 2003

Greeks Groups Discuss LGBT Issues

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Yesterday night, two organizations on campus, Greeks United (G.U.) and Greeks United Straight Alliance (GUSA), addressed the Greek community.

Presentations were made at the Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Association and Multicultural Greek Letter Council (MGLC) meetings. G.U. and GUSA discussed their roles in uniting the Greek community with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

G.U. is a confidential organization that “provides social networks and support for members of Cornell’s Greek system who are also part of the LGBT community,” said Maurice Ducoing ’03, president of G.U.

The organization was re-founded for the third time last semester. G.U. had been “inactive before because there wasn’t an investment in who would take over after members graduated,” Ducoing said. However, the future of the organization “look[s] very bright,” because of attention focused on increasing membership, new alliances with other campuses and internal re-organization. There has been communication with other colleges and universities in Binghamton, Syracuse, Ithaca and Cortland.

“We’re trying to reach out to them to see if they have a community of people who would be interested in started something like G.U. … if it’s conducive to their Greek system,” said Erica Kagan ’05, vice-president of G.U.

G.U. hopes to increase its presence on campus through GUSA, which was established this semester. GUSA is a member of Haven, Cornell’s umbrella group for LGBT students.

“[GUSA] came about because GU found that a lot of their members had a really difficult time trying to come out to their house because they were afraid of how they would be regarded,” said Dana Shanis ’03, president of GUSA.

GUSA is not limited to LGBT members but is open to all students in the Greek community. The new organization aims to recruit and identify members in each house. Members are then educated on how they can lend support and create a safe space for someone in their house who is also in the LGBT community. Currently, one-third of the houses in the Greek system are represented in GUSA.

“We hope we’ll be able to provide a safe place in each of the houses for any[one] who wants to come out,” Shanis said.

Although G.U. addressed IFC last semester, Ducoing believes that GUSA will be far more effective in conveying “the credibility and urgency of [these] programs.”

GUSA has “a significant infrastructure, credibility and links with powerful members of IFC, Panhel and MGLC … they will be very supportive of our organization,” Ducoing said.

The meetings yesterday helped to increase awareness of the programs’ existence and opportunities.

“Many people in the Greek system would be interested in helping GUSA,” Kagan said.

“Just getting the name out that we’re supportive of the LGBT community will make a big difference in allowing people to come out about it,” Shanis said.

With these programs, someone who wants to come out about their sexuality can first go to someone in their house. They can become more comfortable with the additional support of G.U. and GUSA. After going through this process, they will be better equipped to help others in the same situation.

“They can effect change in their own lives and others who aren’t as advanced as they are,” Ducoing said.

“I personally believe that the Greek system and the LGBT community have been at odds … [these organizations] will be directly helping to facilitate the climate on campus,” Ducoing said.

Archived article by Diana Lo