Changing the Greek Life community

Anthony Clemons

So, by this time, you have each probably read about, heard about or otherwise know about the racist chanting by members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma.

When the story first broke and the video surfaced, I was at first horrified. I thought to myself, “Great, yet another bad example of Greek Life.” But, the more I thought about it, I realized I was being extremely selfish. How could I be worrying about what this does to the image of Greek Life when these racist chants, racist beliefs, racist attitudes and racist actions serve to belittle, disrespect and discriminate against people of color every day?

So, instead of complaining about what this does to the image of Greek Life, I challenge my own chapter and those in the greater Greek community to stand up and do something about it!

We continuously tell people that Grand Valley Greek Life is different, but we fail to acknowledge the ways in which our system is a part of the larger Greek system – part of a system that feeds racism, part of a system that feeds sexism, part of a system that feeds homophobia.

We can argue about the various ways we combat discrimination, value diversity or otherwise promote inclusiveness, but are we truly doing things that change the discriminatory system into an inclusive environment for all individuals?

We cannot simply say that our individual chapters are not racist, sexist or homophobic, and move on. We have to move into creating systemic change so that everything – from our recruitment practices to social themes to party invitations – are consistent with the inclusive environment I keep hearing everyone on social media saying we have here at Grand Valley.

As a gay student and as the President of Sigma Phi Epsilon on campus, I sometimes find my identities at odds with each other. In an atmosphere that promotes heterosexuality, it can feel at times isolating, but the majority of the time I don’t feel out of place or that I’m not meant to be a part of my organization.

We have to make this a norm for everyone. This may mean having some hard conversations at our meetings about what we are doing to being more inclusive. It may mean that we need to do more programs surrounding diversity and equity. It may mean that we take part in philanthropic efforts of underserved communities more often.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know we need to do more. We can no longer hide behind our accolades that our Greek community is different than the rest of the country’s Greek communities – WE HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT. And that difference starts with all of us.