Recently, some of my friends and I reached a special milestone. April 1st marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of our small chapter of the college fraternity we belong to. Which fraternity doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that it is one that focuses on Latino culture and community upliftment. Back in 1995, we decided bringing a chapter of this organization to our campus was a necessary thing for us as men. At the time the graduation rates of Latino men were much less than those of other communities. Those who didn’t flunk out felt that they needed guidance, focus, and a sense of leadership that could not be supplied by the current student groups at the university. This inspired my friends and I to spend a lot of time, money, and physical effort to go on a journey that would change our lives.
Looking back 20 years, not one of us regret making that choice. We are now husbands, fathers and elder statesmen of the fraternity, yet the bond we share with each other, and the men who came after us is unique and everlasting. These are not just words, it truly is our life. I say this now because if one were to look at the state of collegiate Greek life, you would think it a crazy, foolhardy move for anyone to ever consider joining a Greek lettered organization (GLO). The headlines of what is going on with ‘traditional’ (i.e., traditionally white and male) organizations is cringe-worthy at least, downright shameful at worst. The most recent escapade of Sigma Alpha Epsilon with their racist chanting, as well as the spate of sexual violence and harassment being attributed to collegiate Greeks all seem to point to the notion that the time of the Greek lettered organization is over. For many, this may absolutely be true.
The Current Blowback
The blowback against GLOs has been hard. Universities have decided that rather than come across as discriminatory, they would rather consider GLOs as persona non-grata on campuses across the country with some universities banning the type of organizations outright, or banning their social events en masse. At my own University, a decision was recently made that no GLO that offered housing (i.e., a frat house) can discriminate based on gender or any other personal criteria. Those who did not choose to “co-educate” would simply cease to exist.
I was a part of these discussions, though not part of the ultimate decision, but I wholeheartedly agree with the outcome. A fraternity can exist if it so choses to as long as it doesn’t violate any laws or put anyone in danger, but a university does not have to pay for their house. That is typically a privilege shared only by the few traditional GLOs. No female or ethnic GLO on our campus has ever had an official house.
Recently, a group called the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition, a lobbying group whose membership includes many of the largest GLOs in the country, have considered lobbying Congress to make it harder for universities to investigate allegations of sexual assault, and to make it harder for universities to punish the campus organizations themselves should a member is found at fault. This kind of approach is absolutely ass-backwards, and from my perspective, does not speak for me. GLOs should be making it easier to provide a safe space for everyone on their campuses, and each organization should be doing self reflection and internal work to make sure their members are not involved in assaults, period.