’ve never been very enthusiastic about the idea of Greek Life in general – it’s always seemed like an exclusive, hyper-masculine straight man’s game – and I can’t say that recent developments have made it any easier for me to support it.
Temple has decided to no longer recognize Tau Kappa Epsilon due to what The Temple News reported as violations of the noise and alcohol codes, as well as the Good Neighbor Policy. Nationally, West Virginia University has suspended all Greek Life after a student death at a Kappa Sigma that is believed to be hazing related. And on Nov. 19, Rolling Stone published an in-depth article about a long history of rape culture within the University of Virginia’s Greek Life. Fraternities at UVA were subsequently suspended, as well.
Joshua Decker is a junior, an openly gay man, and is now in the process of making a new fraternity that is open to gay, bisexual and transgender men, calling it a “progressive” fraternity. Because it seems the majority of fraternities across the country are still riddled with heteronormative gender roles and rites of passage, this is the change that we need to see with Greek Life at Temple.
Decker, a French and theater double major, has rushed 12 fraternities over his time at Temple and feels that he has been disadvantaged because of his sexual identity. This spurred him to make a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity that has always been for “progressive men irrespective of sexual orientation,” according to its website.
Because Temple is not allowing Greek Life expansion until 2018, Decker said, the chapter will be open to men at all universities in the Philadelphia and Greater Philadelphia area.
“I think it’s about breaking down the stereotypes,” Decker said.
Fraternity members claim that sexual orientation is not a factor in the process of accepting new members.
“Almost every fraternity has at least one gay brother, and I have never personally witnessed a Greek discriminate somebody based on their sexuality,” said Justin Diaz, president of Temple’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu, via email.
Brothers from other fraternities agree with Diaz.
“I know a few openly gay people who are involved in Greek Life,” said Ari Abramson, a sophomore management information systems major and brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi. “Fraternities aren’t looking for the best looking guys who can get with a lot of chicks, they are looking for young, devoted men who fit into the culture of the organization. Sexual preference shouldn’t have any effect on getting a bid or not.”
Temple’s Student Activities website states that 1,100 students are members of Greek Life on Main Campus, but there are 27,725 undergraduate students here. That means that only about 4 percent of the student body is involved in Greek Life, so fraternities need to give serious consideration to how outsiders view them – and many non-members don’t buy the claims of equality, especially with the stories that national media outlets have recently exposed.
“Unless you’re in Greek Life, you have a connotation of it,” Decker said, referencing the belief that fraternities are focused more on parties and drinking than philanthropy and brotherhood.
“The culture of hazing is disturbing,” Decker added. “That’s not progressive.”
Diaz does not believe that hazing is as much of a problem as people make it out to be.
“The negative gets the focus, and in the case of WVU the tragedy gets the focus,” he said. “It does lead to a lot of the good we do being ignored.”
While fraternities undoubtedly raise huge donations for charities – Diaz said all of the fraternities together raised more than $10,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – hazing is not an issue that can just be swept under the rug.
A study by the University of Maine in 2008 found that more than half of all students involved in Greek Life and other student organizations are victims of hazing.
In the Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article about Greek Life at UVA, a victim identified as Jackie revealed that she was discouraged by her friends from reporting her gang rape by seven students because it would hurt their chances at rushing or being allowed into frat parties.
Rape culture is so strong in Greek Life at some schools that students may be afraid to report rape or support their friends who are victims of rape because it would hurt their standings with fraternities.
To me, that is a disturbing issue that no amount of philanthropy or brotherhood could ever hope to cover up – and while philanthropy is a noble cause to support, a shadow of negativity will continue to surround Greek Life until more progressiveness is introduced to the culture.
That progressiveness can start at Temple. The university needs students like Decker to lead its fraternities if Greek Life is ever going to earn back the prestige that its members claim it has. It’s time to look at what really matters – do we want to be proud of our Greek Life or do we want to keep it an abusive, exclusive club?
Vince Bellino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @vincebellino3