May 5, 2011

Students Push IFC for LGBTQ Acceptance at Fraternity Parties

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As a freshman from a small town, Josh Barrom ’13 expected Cornell to be accepting of the LGBTQ community. But at one of the first fraternity parties he attended, he danced with another male student and was told to stop.

“The brothers came up to me and told me to leave. It was very intimidating, and I was shocked when it happened. One of my friends, who is also LGBT, was scared that they would follow us,” Barrom said.

Barrom said that since then, he has found more acceptance of homosexuality in the Greek community than he first saw. He said the initial experience, however, negatively shaped his impression of the Greek system.

Some students think there is a disconnect between LGBT and Greek groups while others saw the Greek system as insular and closed-minded of the gay community. However, they feel the Interfraternity Council has failed to address these issues.

“The efforts to create a proposal have been shot down,” Nate Treffeisen ’12, incoming Student Assembly LGBTQ representative said. “I think it’s their responsibility to go beyond individual houses and make it a point of safety.”Treffeisen said that multiple attempts to introduce legislation were turned down by the IFC executive board. Several weeks ago, Sean Donegan ’12, IFC Liason to the Greek-LGBTQ Relations Ad-Hoc Committee, discussed the possibility of creating legislation to address gay-specific discrimination at an IFC Special Taskforce meeting. The task force approved the creation of a recruitment event for LGBTQ students, which is not a legislative action, and declined to produce LGBTQ-specific legislation, Donegan said. Donegan did not submit any written proposals to the IFC because initial discussion of the ideas did not progress any further, Treffeisen said.“They haven’t stepped up the level of responsibility they need to in terms of handling this situation,” Treffeisen said. “Generally, [IFC] thinks that it’s up to the chapter houses to decide … but as we’ve seen, there are incidences of people being harmed by [discrimination against LGBTQ students].”According to Donegan, some IFC executive board members said that the legislation would be unnecessary because the gay community was sufficiently protected by more general anti-hazing and discrimination legislation.“They were concerned that any new policy, unless it was actually changing something, was unnecessary,” Donegan said. “They said there is no point in making needless rules unless it is for the purpose of increasing protection, if [protection] were seen as inadequate.”IFC President Dan Freshman ’12 said that while the IFC constantly works toward incorporating as many communities in its system as possible, current legislation sufficiently addresses LGBTQ issues.“We have a very clear policy against discrimination; therefore, adding a gay-specific policy would be redundant,” Freshman said. “IFC does not condone discrimination against any class, including minorities and the LGBTQ communities.”While Donegan said he agrees with IFC leaders’ rationale, others were disappointed by their resistance to the ideas.Student Assembly LGBTQ At-Large Representative Matt Danzer ’12 said current IFC policies provide necessary protection for the LGBTQ community, but there is still a need to educate LGBTQ students on how to report discrimination. “What worries me is that individuals in certain communities that have been historically discriminated against are less inclined to report issues than majority students, than straight white males,” Danzer said. “I would like these groups [that are] historically discriminated against mentioned specifically and explicitly because … that encourages them to come forward.”Several LGBTQ students said they do not know how to report bias incidences against them. They also expressed varying views on how comfortable they feel attending open fraternity parties. Franky Rodriguez ’13 said that while he has never experienced blatant discrimination, he would not feel comfortable dancing with another male student at a party unless the attendees were predominantly gay.“I feel like me just having fun with a guy would start problems … I can definitely tell how at night, if two guys are holding hands walking into Collegetown, they’re looked at and laughed at,” Rodriguez said.Jesse McElwain ’13 attributed conflicts between Greek and LGBTQ communities to stereotypes, which he said make both groups reluctant to communicate with each other. While introducing LGBTQ-specific anti-discrimination policies may prevent future conflicts, McElwain said the true value of such a policy would be to promote discussion between the Greek and LGBTQ communities.“I think that the most important piece of introducing a policy like that is actually the discourse that ensues, rather than the placement of the policy,” McElwain said.

Original Author: Akane Otani