May 23, 2016

Letter: Administration Action Against Greek Life Unfairly Punishes Multicultural Greek Organizations

On March 2, 2016, the Center for Leadership and Involvement (CLI) advisors met with presidents of all fraternities and sororities to discuss changes to Greek life that will be effective in the 2016–2017 school year. Shortly after, changes were announced that prohibit Greek organizations from applying for Student Government Finance Committee and Annual Allocations funding, and require us to pay for room reservations scheduled through the CLI—with a limit of 10 room reservations per academic quarter.

These changes, implemented without the input of student members of Greek organizations, unfairly jeopardize the operations of the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) by treating all Greek organizations as a monolith.

The University’s actions are hardly influencing or reforming North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) affiliated fraternities and instead disproportionately harm MGC organizations. Restricting resources from the most vulnerable members of a community will not move Greek organizations into a more accountable and accessible relationship with the University.

Membership in multicultural Greek organizations spans many cultures and religions. MGC organizations undeniably serve to promote the awareness of multicultural diversity, and our presence and multicultural events illustrate that we have never stood for targeting certain social groups with hate speech. Instead, we actively work to solve these problems in our community. Our mission toward multicultural inclusivity does not enable us to support a culture of exclusion, racism, and misogyny. The MGC organizations have always been involved in conversations to create accountability for the Greek community including discussions in the past for an Interfraternity Council and rapid responses to issues concerning the larger Greek community. Recent MGC-sponsored events include Alpha Kappa Alpha, Beta Chapter’s “Save our Sisters,” which discussed gender violence in the black community; Delta Sigma Theta’s World’s AIDS Day event which distributed at-home HIV testing kits, condoms, and information pamphlets; Alpha Phi Alpha’s town hall with campus safety staff to discuss interactions between students of color; Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.'s Month of Empowerment which included weekly events such as “What makes YOU a Superhuman?” and Cultura y Chocolate; Lambda Phi Epsilon’s annual Be the Match Bone Marrow Registry sign-up geared toward adding Asians to the national bone marrow database; and UCPD and Alpha Kappa Delta Phi’s “aK-Defy the Odds” Breast Cancer Awareness Philanthropy Week, which raised $4,000 for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

We understand the University's attempt to hold Greek organizations accountable, especially in light of recent events; however, MGC organizations should not be subjected to collective punishment for infractions we did not commit. Our values of inclusivity, service, and diversity lie far from the recent actions of fraternities. In no way do we condone the racist and misogynistic actions perpetrated by other Greek organizations. However, stripping funding and resources, and essentially banning Greek life in formal terms, is not the answer. The University’s actions only serve to force Greek activities underground—to spaces that are less accessible and difficult to regulate. While it is easy to group all Greek organizations together, this approach is unjustifiably flawed in its overly simplistic view of MGC organizations. Greek organizations were founded on the basis of sisterhood, brotherhood, and community. MGC organizations strive to maintain that sense of community, but for a fundamentally different reason: to support and integrate minority representation in Greek life and beyond, where historically minorities have not been accepted. We have also been integral in maintaining a supportive space for ethnic minorities on campus and the University has acknowledged this. Previously, MGC organizations were categorized as “cultural interest clubs,” rather than as traditional fraternities and sororities. This is apparent during RSO fairs, when MGC organizations are placed away from Panhellenic and NIC organizations and instead given tabling space near cultural organizations. The University’s decision to punish us alongside Greek organizations ignores our distinct identities, further excludes us, and deprives us of resources that allow us to pursue our mission of multicultural diversity. For over a century, member organizations of UChicago’s MGC have provided services through substantive projects to better our communities.

But in light of recent intolerable racist and misogynistic scandals in fraternities, why are multicultural organizations suddenly being included in Greek life? All MGC members identify with underrepresented social groups that are maliciously targeted by fraternities. Why then should we, as Latinxs, Asian-American, and black men and women, be held accountable for racist actions and comments that were made against us? Why is it that multicultural Greek organizations are being punished for actions of fraternities with which we have never had formal ties or associations?

We are ethnic minorities, and we are also a minority within Greek life. MGC organizations have fewer members than other Greek organizations because MGC organizations serve underrepresented communities. As a result of this, we are not able to rely on member dues for event funding and instead obtain the bulk of our funds from Student Government. The administration’s new policy will disproportionately harm us. Five out of six UChicago MGC organizations do not own a house and therefore rely on the University for meeting and event spaces. MGC and each organization within MGC holds chapter meetings once a week, which already adds up to 10 room reservations per quarter. This new policy leaves us without a safe University-sponsored space to hold our brotherhood and sisterhood events, recruitment events that maintain and increase our membership, cultural awareness events, and MGC-wide social events. Furthermore, without access to campus spaces, our fundraising efforts will be severely impacted. We will have nowhere else to turn to for funding or support.

MGC hopes to continue serving the University community and our brothers and sisters at full capacity. But we can’t do that without student and University support. On a campus that preaches diversity and inclusivity, supporting MGC organizations and other important cultural groups should be obvious. We support the University’s cause to create a safe space for every person on campus and have shown this through our actions and programming. But the impending changes to our RSO status places our ability to enact positive, inclusive change in our campus community at a standstill.

–Multicultural Greek Council

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