University News

Greek life fights stereotypes with panel

An MPC Friends event emphasized the positive aspects of the fraternity and sorority experiences

Contributing Writer
Monday, March 18, 2013

“Our image on campus might be different than our self-perception,” said Simon de Jesus Rodrigues ’15 of Phi Kappa Psi at a panel on Greek Life and Social Inequalities, a Minority Peer Counselor Friends Unity Day event Friday afternoon. “I came into Brown with a lot of negative stereotypes about what fraternity life was like,” he added, but he said he has found these stereotypes to be inaccurate.

MPC Friends Meghan Koushik ’13, Sabine Williams ’15 and Rahil Rojiani ’13 organized the event, which included members of various fraternities and sororities on campus as well as Terry Addison, associate dean of student life. “There seems to be limited dialogue between members of the Greek community and members of the TWC community,” Williams said. The event aimed to facilitate open discussion about issues surrounding Greek presence on campus, she said.

The approximately 50-person audience mostly consisted of students personally involved in Greek life, and the conversation was often peppered with snaps or cheers from audience members in support of their brothers or sisters on the panel.

Throughout the hour and a half discussion, the panelists, prompted questions from Williams and Koushik and audience members, discussed topics such as non-Greek student perception of Greek life and racial and economic diversity within individual fraternities or sororities.

Rodrigues said he believes many students have inaccurate perceptions of Greek life based on a single experience or interaction with a specific fraternity. Often, fraternities are collectively portrayed as hyper-masculine and misogynistic, he said.

Harrison Tross ’13, a Phi Kappa Psi member in the audience, agreed with Rodrigues, saying the association of fraternities with parties mischaracterizes a group of people with varied interests and academic drives.

“I got an email from a friend worried I was going to lose my identity,” said panelist Alejandro Acero Murillo ’15 about peers’ reactions to his decision to pledge a co-ed fraternity, Zeta Delta Xi. Many of the panelists had similar experiences with friends concerned that fraternities enforced conformity.

Sigma Chi member and Herald opinions columnist Zachary Ingber ’15 said his fraternity attempts to help its members grow both as individuals and as brothers. When people interact with brothers outside of the house, he said, they often realize that there is diversity and individuality within the fraternity. “Greek life contributes nicely to a Brown experience,” Ingber added.

Addison said Greek life at Brown is unique because of its inclusive nature, which he attributed partially to the general independence and free-thinking nature of the student body.

He added that though Greek communities are open to all interested pledges and want a diverse group of pledges, they face a problem attracting people of different backgrounds. He also spoke about historical racial segregation in Greek life. Many non-white fraternities and sororities were started by those prohibited from joining all-white organizations. Though anyone can technically join, Addison said that people are often drawn to organizations that consist of members with whom they can already relate.

For example, Murillo said some students believe they must be queer to pledge Zeta Delta Xi, which has a reputation for welcoming members of Brown’s LGBTQ community.

The position of different Greek organizations on campus also varies widely, panelists said. Zohra Kalani ’14, president of Alpha Chi Omega, said sororities have a very different role on campus than fraternities.

“We’re limited in the ways we can reach out to the Brown community,” she said, referring to sororities’ inability to throw “Class F’s,” parties or events at which alcohol is sold and admittance is charged. These events are often the primary way that non-Greek students interact with Greek life at Brown, Rodrigues said.

The panelists spoke highly about the beneficial aspects of Greek life. “I really appreciate the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood spanning through all parts of life,” Kalani said.