March 7, 2013

‘Allies’ Will Aid LGBTQ Students In Cornell Greek Life

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The Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Thursday to help dispel the perception of — and existence of — biases within the Greek system toward students in the LGBTQ community. The resolution provides for the training of “ambassadors” within Greek houses who will act as resources for their fellow brothers or sisters.

“This program was long overdue in the Greek system. It’s time that the Greek chapters embraced their own diversity and don’t just enforce a heteronormative stereotype,” Dean Iwaoka ’13, LGBTQ liaison at-large representative and a sponsor for the resolution, said.

Iwakoa said his motivation in sponsoring the resolution was to create a support system within Greek chapters for the LGBTQ community and for those unsure about their sexuality.

Iwakoa cited several factors inhibiting Greek chapters from being more sexually diverse communities, including the stereotype of the Greek community as a homogenous body and the perception of increased biases against LGBTQ students, which prevents LGBTQ students from joining.

The LGBTQ-Ally Ambassador Program, which will be created by the resolution, will train certain Greek students to act as “ambassadors.” The students will provide emotional support and resources to those confused about their identity within the Greek system.

“Empowering allies living in the house could potentially change the culture of individual houses. [Iwakoa] and I designed the LGBTQ Ally-Ambassador program with this specifically in mind,” said Emily Bick ’13, president of Haven, the LGBTQ student union.

Iwaoka stressed that the resolution would help empower LGBTQ students.

“[The ambassadors will provide] groups of students with an environment where they can ask real questions and have very deep conversations,” he said.

The goal, according to Juan Carlos Toledo ’15, Tri-Council Liaison and a sports writer for The Sun, is to have at least one ambassador per house for the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council and a few ambassadors for the Multicultural Greek Letter Council.

The ambassadors will be trained by Haven, the LGBTQ resource center and the Greek Tri-Council. However, because the Tri-Council is composed of multiple sub-parts — the IFC, Panhellenic and the MGLC — the S.A. has chosen to give it the freedom to implement the program independently, according to Iwaoka.

The ambassadors could be LGBTQ students or simply allies of the community, according to Iwaoka.

Both Iwaoka and Toledo stressed the importance of making LGBTQ students feel comfortable about joining Greek life.

“We want [the Greek community] to be as big and vibrant as possible. We don’t want people who’re questioning their own identity or identify as LGBTQ to select out of the community,” Toledo said.

Original Author: Kritika Oberoi