Q&A and Resources

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You can learn more about diversity and equity initiatives at Chapman by visiting their website: http://www.chapman.edu/students/campus-life/diversity-equity/index.aspx

How would diversity training be facilitated?

Diversity training would be an introduction to the differences and social justice issues prevalent in the Greek community. There will be a short lesson (15-20 minutes) on a variety of topics dealing with race/cultural background, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, class, and others. The majority of the training, however, would be a discussion between members, facilitated by a member of the Department of Student and Campus Life’s diversity and equity initiatives team. During this time, students can feel free to ask questions, or speak up about their own testimony.

The reason it is more discussion based is because there seems to be more merit when people learn from their peers’ experiences, rather than just hearing a lecture and not knowing how it effects the people directly around them

Does Chapman already do this?

Chapman does put on introductory diversity trainings for departments such as SGA, UPB and SCL, as well as advanced trainings in a multitude of areas, such as the Safe Space program, which is a 2 1/2 hour intensive training about the LGBTQIA community.

Will this actually change the campus?

Here are some positives that can come out of diversity training.

  • Preparation for the business world – Most companies put on diversity trainings for their employees that are mandated by the company or corporation. Since Greek life teaches us how to prepare for meetings in a professional setting (business attire, presentations by officers, etc.), we should be prepared for the diverse populations we could be working with in our future careers
  • Preparation for personal lives – There will be many different people in your life with diverse backgrounds. In order to better understand them, and accept those differences, one must become educated about inclusive speech and other issues surrounding different identities and intersecting identities.
  • Increased education – With increased education comes increased ACTION. Some students may be hearing a lot of this information again, some may be living it in their every day lives, and some students may be hearing it for the first time! Regardless, there is no doubt that more education will lead to changes in the way people interact with others. Will it completely alter the system? Maybe, maybe not. It is up to the individual about whether or not they want to use inclusive speech or take what they learned during training and use it in the real world. But at least they’ve heard the message.

What other resources come after diversity training?

The Department of Student + Campus Life’s Diversity and Equity Initiatives team has many programs in which students who wish to learn more can partake and become more involved in making a difference on campus. Some examples would be:

  • Safe Space Trainings – 2 1/2 hour training on the LGBT community. At the end of the training you will receive a placard noting that you are a safe space on campus for LGBT students to talk to you about important issues.
  • Safe Space Committee Meetings – Activism for the LGBT community, off campus and on
  • Social Justice Council – Talking about social justice issues on campus and how to impact the campus climate
  • Club Meetings: Black Student Union, Asian/Pacific Student Association, Queer Straight Alliance, Disability Alliance of Chapman, Chapman Feminists, etc. Learn about how to become an ally for different populations on campus and in the world.
  • Ubuntu – A discussion group occuring 6 weeks during the spring and fall, to talk about community and issues pertaining to social justice in the global world.
  • SCL programming put together by diversity and equity: film screenings, speakers, special guests (like the Department of Student + Campus Life on Facebook to find out when these events will take place!)
  • NEXT STEP SOCIAL JUSTICE RETREAT – a weekend long retreat with over 60 students, focusing on going in depth with diversity and equity issues.
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Ability

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When talking about ability, many people assume that we are only talking about mobility, or physical disabilities. But ability can span many different kinds of disabilities, some visible (such as mobility disabilities) or invisible (such as ADHD)

In my survey, the types of disabilities I listed included:

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders
  • Blindness or Low Vision
  • Brain Injuries
  • Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Medical Disabilities
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Speech and Language Disabilities

27% of my survey responders are living with a type of disability (visible or invisible). That’s more than 1 out of 4.

How can you tell if someone has a disability

Sometimes you can’t. That’s why it isn’t same to assume that nobody in a particular group or chapter doesn’t have a disability.

The best way to address this subject so people do not feel as though ableism (the discrimination of people with disabilities) is prevalent in their chapter, is to have education about physical and mental health, and provide chapter members with education about how to provide support and resources to help. Executive council should be open to listening to how people are feeling and seek accommodations if they are requested.

Testimony from someone living with a disability in Greek life

This student suffers from severe anxiety and depression.

From just looking at me, no one could tell that I have depression. I’m always very social and friendly. However, I feel as though sometimes my sisters inadvertently judge me. They say, “Why don’t you come around anymore?” or “I didn’t see you last night, where were you?” I don’t want to tell them that the reason I didn’t go out is because I was at home trying to recover from a randomly occurring panic attack. I’m ashamed of having this [disability], but I don’t feel comfortable telling anyone for fear that they will think I am making it up.

When asked if diversity training would make a difference in the Greek community she said:

I think it is really important to touch on these issues in discussion. I might be more open to sharing my story if it were in a safe space where invisible disabilities are being talked about. Greek life is great at being advocates for philanthopies and helping other people with their disabilities, but what we really need to focus on is trying to show students that there are members within each chapter that need that advocacy and understanding too!

What we can do

  • Promote positivity toward mental and physical health. Hold program meetings where the focus is on discussing how to have positive mental health, and ask for suggestions on how to make the chapter a more open and positive place for discussion.
  • Accommodate members accordingly for activities such as skit and Greek week, or exchanges with other chapters. Not everyone can do a pirouette or tug of war. Not everyone can play laser tag or ice skate. Make sure if one of your members is struggling with a physical or medical disability in which these activities are difficult for them, that they at least can attend and take part in a different way that accommodates their needs. That way they do not feel left out of isolated from the rest of the group.

Class

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A chart showing the population of the United States according to socioeconomic class.

For many, Greek life is a privilege. With all the extra expenses for dues, letters, tee shirts, and all the other things that come with being a Greek, it is easy to see why some are not as drawn to joining a Greek community. And though many chapters provide payment plans, deferments, or financial inactive status, sometimes it is just not enough to keep people in their chapters. Socioeconomic class is one of those parts of someone’s identity that may change throughout their life, and may not be seen by looking at them from the outside.

Testimony from a Working Class Student

Annie* belongs to a working class family from a poorer town in the San Francisco bay area. When asked about if diversity training and discussion might help improve the situation of classism in Greek life, she responded by saying she believes it would help a lot. She also talked about her sentiments:

Chapman is a great place to be but the social class differences can feel very isolating at times. Kids who come from affluent communities have very different experiences with race, violence, finances, education, and many other things that I feel can be a big barrier at times. I feel like most kids probably mean well but have grown up in a bubble that has perhaps caused them to be extremely ignorant to lifestyles other than theirs. People will try to say they understand where you’re coming from but since most truly don’t it’s seldom a very comforting feeling. I do not blame the majority of students for it, I guess I just wish there was some way for them to know/understand more.

*”Annie’s” name has been changed to keep her wishes of anonymity.

What we can do

  • We should give more support for sisters/brothers that can’t pay for extraneous things (like tee shirts, crafting, etc.)
    Sororities and fraternities are an expense, and many men and women are aware of this going into the Greek system. Dues are an inevitable part of Greek life and cannot be avoided, and most fraternities and sororities offer payment plans to make joining the organization more affordable. However, other things do build up over time that can make it difficult for members of lower socioeconomic statuses to “keep up”. For example, taking on a Little is something that many men and women look forward to doing during their time in Greek life. However in many cases it requires a lot of crafting, buying expensive clothing items such as letters, and other expenses. No woman should have her Greek experience dampened by not being able to do certain things due to financial struggle.Providing support does not have to be monetary, but even small things like having crafting parties where you all share supplies (so the member doesn’t have to pay for all of it his/herself). Buying inexpensive lettered sweatshirts in bulk so that you can get a discount, or even having sewing parties where you make your own letters (the best gifts come from the heart!)

LGBTQIA

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Expanding on our progress

Currently, Greek life has a LGBT 101 training specifically for Greek students. It focuses specifically on the treatment of LGBTQIA brothers and sisters in Greek life and how to be there for them during their coming out process and others. Greeks are encouraged to attend this 1 1/2 hour program, but it is not mandatory. While I love this training (I have facilitated the training myself), I wish that more people would hear these words. Since it is all volunteer attendance, some of the people who really need to hear what we talk about in the training won’t get to hear the valuable lessons we teach about acceptance.

A small part of the diversity training would touch upon LGBT students and how we can help create a safe space and supportive environment for those who just want a community where they can be themselves.

Testimony of an LGBT Greek

I’ve heard many different things about the treatment of LGBT Greeks at Chapman, some good and some bad. One girl in Greek life (who identifies as lesbian) gave me her testimony about her personal experience with being gay in a sorority.

When asked how she felt about the Greek life culture as it relates to LGBT students, she responded:

As for Greek life culture as it relates to LGBT students, I probably have a different view than most. As a whole, my chapter is very welcoming of me. I know that there are those with issues with it though, and it saddens me when people make assumptions about me, judge me or my actions within the sorority. For a while, sisters would joke around with me, like “Don’t watch me change”, and things like that. I took these jokes how they were presented, but sometimes it’d still hurt my feelings considering it’s pretty insensitive.

I asked her if there were any particular times when she felt oppressed because of her identity.

Because of my religion, no one other than my parents and close cousins actually know I’m gay and in a relationship. Relatives constantly ask if I have a boyfriend, and it’s heartbreaking answering with a shrug and a “no”, when I’ve been dating the same woman for about a year and a half and am completely in love with her. It’s the hardest thing, loving someone so much but not being able to be open about it. Thankfully, at school is where I can be me, so I can’t actually think of a time at school, excluding Greek Life, where I’ve felt oppressed.

However, when it came to Greek life, she told me that she has felt oppressed at times, even by her own sisters

Before recruitment, over the summer, I was also told that a few sisters felt like I needed to “tone down the gay” otherwise our chapter could have a stigma as the “lesbian sorority”. In reality, these thoughts shouldn’t exist because people should understand that I am the same as everyone else. Its heartbreaking to be asked to silence who you are, and it’s gotten to the point where I know that anytime we have PNM’s around, or new members around, I have to act like someone I’m not. Until after their initiation, most new members will never know I’m gay or dating a sister, and that’s because some sisters expect that I silence that until at least that point. I do this willingly, but sometimes I wonder if it’s right to do this or not. I do know that the majority of my chapter is overwhelmingly supportive, and very open about my situation with people outside the chapter or even some new members. I appreciate those sisters so much.

When I asked her if implementing diversity training (where people are introduced to inclusive language and an open discussion about diversity related topics) she responded very positively:

YES YES YES. This, without a doubt, should be mandatory and implemented. It’s truly sad that it isn’t yet. You know, in most work places, there is a diversity training of sorts. Why hasn’t that been implemented in the college equivalent of a work place – Greek Life? If our generations views are ever going to change, we need to begin implementing change at an earlier stage in our lives. Greek Life opens our minds up to a lot, including issues of diversity that are still strange and foreign to many members. To not facilitate the development of those within Greek Life, specific to diversity, would be a crime.

What can we do for our LGBT community?

  • Don’t assume your brother/sister has a crush on you just because they like the same sex. Just like how you may not have a crush on everyone of the opposite sex, they are the same. It’s unnecessary to say things like “no homo” or “don’t watch me change” because it just makes the other person feel as though they are being pushed away by homophobia.
  • Saying “Bring your “man”/”woman” to formal” leaves out an important fact. My chapter is actually really good at not doing this, but it is still something that I feel needs to be addressed. When referring to a date for formal, date party, or other events, one cannot assume that each person will bring a date of the opposite sex. Doing so practices the idea of “heteronormitivity”, or the mindset that heterosexual relationships are the standard, “normal” relationship. Though there is a heterosexual majority in Greek life, that is not everyone’s romantic preference. Using terms like “partner” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend” or saying “bring your DATE” instead of “bring your [insert member  of the opposite sex]” can eliminate any awkward feelings someone might have if they identify as LGBQ. Inclusive language is a small, but very important change a chapter can make in creating a more welcoming environment.
  • We need more acceptance of different gender expression. In the binary way of things, we have two types of expression: feminine expression for girls, masculine expression for boys. In reality, that’s not always the way it is. You could have women that are “tomboys”, who prefer basketball shorts to dresses and skirts, and you may have boys who feel more comfortable in form-fitting or feminine clothing. In certain events where there is a dress code (recruitment, meeting, etc.), it is understandable that you would want your members to present themselves in a certain way, to look uniform and professional. Just be cautious that maybe those members do not feel comfortable dressing in that particular way. Have discussions about this to make sure that your members do not feel as though their freedom of gender expression is being dimmed. Even small changes like allowing women to wear slacks and a nice blouse instead of making them wear a skirt that they are uncomfortable in, can make them feel more comfortable, like they don’t have to change who they are.Besides, it’s the character on the inside that decides if they are a good fit for your organization… not what they are wearing.

Race

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Most Common Response

“Greek life is only rich white kids”

I got this response a lot, from both unaffiliated and affiliated students of all racial backgrounds. It is not a new fact that Chapman University has a predominantly Caucasian population. However, making statements like “It’s ONLY white people” is pretty telling of the issue at hand: Generalization. Greek life has people of all racial backgrounds, yet people only see the crowds of white faces when they look at us as a whole. By saying that Greek life is only white people shows that minority students who have chosen to join Greek life are being disregarded. Although minorities may be outnumbered by white students, that does not mean that they don’t exist.

The best way to understand how students of color feel about the treatment of people of color within Greek life, is if we ask them and listen to what they have to say. By letting the sororities and fraternities engage in these conversations, it will bring forth a better understanding of how they can make Greek life seem less intimidating for students of color. We may not be able to do much about the pool of racial diversity at Chapman, but we can definitely spread awareness about how to create an environment of inclusive language

Why are we SO AFRAID to talk about race??

When I asked an African American student at Chapman (who wishes to remain anonymous) this question, he responded with the following:

Race comes up from time to time, but I feel as though the reason that white Americans [in general] don’t dwell on the subject is because it’s not something they really have to think about, you know? They are not subjected to a lot of the racial situations like other people are. Like every day I am reminded of my black identity. It’s the little things, like when people look at me and cross to the other side of the street, or assume that I come from “the ghetto” when really I grew up in the suburbs my whole life. So I’m totally comfortable talking about my experiences with race and racism. But I’ve found that my white friends and peers get uneasy and feel as though they have to walk on egg shells, because they haven’t had to deal with those experiences and they fear that their comments will be in “poor taste”.

What we can do

  • Try not to stereotype. Some stereotypes are just really silly, but some are very hurtful. Try not to generalize an entire population based on race, not everyone is the same just because the color of their skin is similar.
  • Don’t make people of color feel like a “token”. By making a person of color feel like they are the “only one” in the group, it has the potential to make them feel isolated and separated from the rest of the group.

My Story: Social Justice and Greek Life

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I cannot speak for anyone’s experience but my own. I am not one to generalize or make claims about a certain population or identity, even if I find that I am a part of it. But I have my own individual story, experience, and feelings toward the subject of social justice in Greek life.

I read a lot of people’s quotes through going through the survey, both from Greek and unaffiliated students. I have to say, I stand sort of on the fence between the divide. Yes, I see a lot of bias toward rich, wealthy men and women in Greek life. I see the heteronormativity, and the implicit ableism that occurs during Greek life events. But as a part of a sorority that shows acceptance, diversity, and overall kindness and understanding to all its members, I also do acknowledge the celebration of our colorful and diverse sisterhood. But maybe it’s because I have the perspective of an insider looking out. Still, even in a chapter that I am proud of, there are things that we, and ALL chapters, need to change and keep in mind.

In terms of the four areas of social justice touched upon in the survey, I will share my own opinions and experiences with these topics:

Race

As a white female (and I am very pale skinned) I had never really thought about my race. Other than the occasional “Oh my God you are SO WHITE” comments from a few of my friends. I suppose I typically feel the symptoms of “white guilt” where I see what my white ancestors have done to people of color and it makes me sick to my stomach because I can’t go back and change history.

After attending the Next Step Social Justice Retreat in 2012, I became extremely open to talking about race, and recognizing my privileges in society for just being a white person. Typically I don’t have to worry about being stereotyped or judged for the color of my skin, while others are hurt by it every day. And by talking about race I also recognized that maybe some of the things I have said in the past could have inadvertently hurt others. I would have never known, unless someone had told me how they felt about it.

I feel like people in Greek life could benefit from these discussions and maybe gain some of the epiphanies that I did. It gives minority students a chance to speak up, and students in the racial majority may learn something new that they didn’t know before!

Ability

Disabilities don’t always show on the outside, they can be internal, and you may never know if someone has one. I suffer from very severe depression, and no one would guess it from looking at me, because I am always smiling and have an optimistic demeanor. What people don’t understand about my disorder is that it doesn’t mean that I am going to cry and be cynical all the time. However, there are times when I lock myself away and isolate myself from others to be in my own head.

Too many times in my survey did I see the words “There are no people with disabilities in my chapter”. I heard this from one person of every chapter that I surveyed, and yet I also surveyed members of each chapter who had a disability. It is easy to assume that someone is able-bodied, however maybe they are keeping quiet about an invisible disability. Making accommodations for those who ask for it is a good way to start.

Gender Identity/Orientation

Looking at me, I obviously express myself as female. However, my orientation is something that maybe not a lot of people know about me. I actually identify as bisexual, but haven’t come out to too many people. Most people assume I am straight because I am in a relationship with a male partner. The truth is that when deciding who I want to be in a relationship with, I do not look at gender as a deciding factor.

Being bi comes with a lot of stigma that really peeves me. People view it as a “phase” or that bi girls are just trying to get attention. Often times I feel as though women are less affectionate with me for fear that I might be attracted to them or hit on them (even though 100% of the time I’m just not interested, because I have a boyfriend). This is why I haven’t spoken up about it openly to any of my sisters. Though I know we have a few LGBT members of our chapter, and they are very accepted, I still fear for being judged by those who maybe don’t understand or empathize with non-heterosexual people.

Class

My family was once a part of the upper class. But because of the recession and a few other hiccups with my dad’s job, we lost a lot of our wealth, and now identify as part of the middle class. This is one of the hardest transitions for me. I can barely pay for food these days, let along my dues and all the extra things, like tee shirts and letters. I have to work two jobs and a paid internship in order to stay in my chapter. Luckily they are understanding and give me the option of payment plans and financial inactive status. Still, I often feel alienated when I can’t afford the tee-shirt everyone is wearing, and I can’t take another little because it’s too expensive. At times, my struggles with my finances have made me consider quitting my chapter… even though I really really don’t want to!

Assessing the Climate (Part II)

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In the survey that I sent to a sample of 100 Greek affiliated AND unaffiliated students at Chapman, questions 7-10 asked open-ended questions. Here were some of the responses I received from my questions concerning the issues of race, sexual orientation, ability and socioeconomic class.

I will not disclose the names of any organizations, however, I will specify whether the student was Greek affiliated or not, as well as other identifiers such as race, sexual orientation, ability and class wherever applicable and appropriate. Names will be kept anonymous.

 7. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote racial diversity? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life’s racial diversity? Elaborate.

Several UNAFFILIATED students of color responded with:

  • “I am not affiliated and Greek life and there isn’t a lot of racial diversity in greek life, it’s mostly rich white kids with the exception of 1 or 2 non-whites.”
  • “Greek Life at Chapman is not inclusive. When I first got to Chapman I felt no desire to join a sorority and the fact that I did not get approached by anyone about a certain house like my White counterparts definitely solidified my decision. My perception about Greeks at Chapman is that they only let in a select few minorities and to go further, they only select one or two Black students at a time. I have heard stories of these students being called the token and other degrading and disrespectful terms. I also have a perception that Greeks at Chapman try to meet a certain quota of minorities so that they don’t seem racist. As an African-American, I am simply turned off by the Greeks at Chapman.”
  • “I am not affiliated, but formerly was.. I was very happy in the organization I was with regarding diversity; however, I feel that the majority of Greek chapters don’t embrace different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures.”
  • “There are some chapters that do promote racial diversity, but the vast majority of people I see wearing letters are white.”

Several GREEK students of color responded with:

  • “Being at Chapman racial diversity in general is hard to promote. How can you promote whats not there?”
  • “My chapters blessed to be pretty inclusive but there’s still a lot of growing that can happen.”

Several UNAFFILIATED caucasian students responded with:

  • “Greek life, at least on Chapman’s campus, seems to be composed almost entirely of rich white girls.”
  • “I think that Greek life is just as diverse as the Chapman population as a whole, which is to say, not very. Chapman in general is still not racially diverse in a way that would allow you to identify a discrepancy in Greek racial diversity.”
  • “White white white. There tends to be more racial diversity with fraternities in my opinion…”
  • “I am not affiliated, and Greek life seems to be a good representation for the most part of Chapman’s ethnic diversity within the student body.”

Several GREEK caucasian students responded with:

  • “It’s not that we don’t promote racial diversity, it’s just that mainly white guys rush us. We can only do so much with what’s available to us, y’know?”
  • I think by purposely promoting racial identity you are actually making racism more apparent. When looking at the girls going through recruitment you never say “oh we need a white/black/asian girl, that doesn’t matter. We say we need her because our chapter would be at a loss without her.” It is about the women’s character and integrity, not the color of their skin”
  • “They do try to be open to all members. Even though predominately white, I believe that all brothers of color feel totally comfortable and welcome.”
  • “I don’t believe we necessarily PROMOTE diversity. We consider ourselves a welcoming group where anyone is free to rush/ join if the members get along well with the potential members. If being accepting to anyone who rushes is considered promoting, then yes, but we don’t have any specific programs aimed at racial diversity to my knowledge, nor do I feel it’s been a problem in the past. If we had complaints or concerns, we might be open to looking into something like that.”
  • “We don’t promote it. Chapman has very little diversity, so it’s not common to avoid talk of diversity.”
  • “yes, definitely! We have girls from all sorts of different backgrounds and we love to incorporate people’s cultures into our own and learn about everybody’s background!”
  • “I do not think that my chapter does enough to promote racial diversity. We hold specific “talks” on issues and topics within my sorority but the topic of race is never brought up but at the same time I feel like we don’t really have a racially diverse community to recruit new members from. Lucky for us, this new group of members is the most racially diverse yet!”

8. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote acceptance of LGBTQIA people? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of the treatment of LGBTQIA people within Greek Life? Elaborate.

Several GREEK members of the LGBT community responded to this question with the following answers:

  • “My chapter is very accepting of LGBTQIA people. Several of my sisters are out, and the girls and their partners are very accepted. However, we do not have open discussions about it, it’s just kind of something that “just is”.
  • “NO. People have been turned down just for being “too gay”.”

Several UNAFFILIATED members of the LGBT community responded to this question with the following answers:

  • “It seems that different sexual orientations are fairly well represented in Greek Life, almost more so in fraternities than in sororities. It appears that guys are less frightened of a gay brother and girls are more frightened of a gay sister.”
  • “I have yet to see pretty much anyone recognize asexuality in any way within Greek life or at Chapman in general. (I really appreciate it being an option on this survey, by the way, thank you.) Because I’m not a huge part of the GRSM community or affiliated with Greek life, I don’t know for sure, but I haven’t heard bad things about their treatment.”
  • “I am not affiliated. My perception is that sexuality is genuinely ignored, but there is an (I feel accurate) stigma that Greek Life is definitely a heteronormative part of society, and the pressure to stay closeted and/or not make one’s gender expression/sexuality a big deal, or even discussed (my main personal reason for not considering Greek Life).”
  • “Getting better from when I first got here. Still there could be more Safe Space Trained Greek Life people. Also a lot of their Greek rules are still heteronormative.”
  • “In organizations built upon the enforcement of gender cohesiveness, I think the exclusion of transgender individuals is pretty prevalent, and the sheer selective nature of Greek Life tends to suggest that if there is a climate of “dislike”, someone can be rejected. In the friend-choosing system in place, if members of a chapter are uncomfortable being presented with sexual diversity, their discomfort can be described as “wouldn’t fit here” and “not a good match”. Ergo, there is probably more rejection and mistreatment that could ever be quantified.”
  • “It seems like most chapters are queer-phobic.”

Several GREEK heterosexual members of the community responded with the following answers:

  • “we don’t outwardly promote it but we accept LGBTQIA people and it shows through our chapter.”
  • “Yes. We are fully in support of the LBGTQ community and have many members who are openly a part of it, and they’re just as welcome as they would be otherwise.”
  • “LGBT promotion has no place in Greek life. They have another club for that. We as an organization are accepting, but don’t promote it.”
  • “I believe we do. We are all encouraged to attend the LGBT lectures. Not to mention many of our sisters are part of the LGBT community and they are all equally accepted.”
  • “I think more could be done”
  • “We don’t hate on LGBTQIA, but we probably don’t do enough to support them either.”
  • “I am not sure how the treatment of LGBTQIA is exactly within Greek Life, but since they are sisters, I feel like they are accepted more since they have a bond. Unlike the treatment of other people who are not in Greek Life.”

Several UNAFFILIATED heterosexual members of the community responded with the following answers:

  • “I don’t know anything about the treatment of LGBTQIA people within Greek Life.”
  • “Not affiliated and honestly, I can’t imagine the treatment of LGBTQIA in greek life is that great. It seems like one of the main aspects of greek life is parties, drinking, and flirting with the opposite sex. Obviously it’s more than that but it just doesn’t seem like greek life is the place where people non-heterosexual acts are promoted”
  • “I feel that the majority of people in Greek Life are unaware or ignorant towards the acceptance of those in the LGBTQIA community.”

9. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote acceptance and assistance for people with disabilities (which can include visible disabilities, such as using a wheelchair, and invisible disabilities, such as depression, ADHD, etc.)? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life’s acceptance and assistance toward those with disabilities? Elaborate.

Several UNAFFILIATED students with disabilities responded with the following answers:

  • “I am not affiliated. I am unsure about Greek Life’s acceptance and assistance towards those in their chapter with disabilities, but that may be telling in and of itself.”
  • “I haven’t seen any *obviously* disabled people who are affiliated, but I don’t know about non obviously disabled folks.”
  • “I highly doubt it. Image seems to be pretty important to the chapters. Some may view having a member with a disability may taint their image.”

Several GREEK students with disabilities responded with the following answers:

  • “I am not the world’s best dancer (I have coordination problems), and I feel like events like airbands and skit are very focused on what people can do with their bodies in terms of dance, stunts, movement, etc. I don’t possess those skills, and feel really left out when skit comes around because I can’t keep up with my sisters. Sometimes I feel personally targeted because I made a wrong step or didn’t do a move right. I’ve learned to just sit on the sidelines.”
  • “I think more could be done, as someone dealing with/ someone who has dealt with depression.”
  • “I do not believe we actively promote the acceptance however we do discuss the acceptance of people with disabilities during our pre recruitment discussions.”
  • “I think there could be more of a “discussion” created about people with disabilities but I was definitely impressed with a seminar that came to the chapters recently (last year) that talked about teen girls and bullying/depression. I would DEFINITELY love to see a program like that every year (maybe once a semester on a variety of topics including all sororities)”
  • “Of course. I myself have cerebral palsy, and I’ve never felt unaffiliated or distant from any of my chapter ever.”

Several UNAFFILIATED students with NO disabilities responded with the following answers

  • “I can’t honestly say. They all seem very accommodating on the outside, but I don’t know how the systems operate on the inside.”
  • “Greek life sure emphasizes physical ability ( especially dancing) so in that respect,I would say Greek life could provide more diverse awards that recognize a range of talents.”
  • “Many of the Rush events are not catered to people with mobility disabilities. That should be taken more into consideration.”
  • “My response here is similar to my answer to question 8. In general, physical disabilities seem not to be too much of an issue, but someone with sever ADHD or aspbergers syndrome would not be as popular, therefore less likely to be accepted in a system propelled by a social aptitude test as its gateway.”

Several GREEK students with NO disabilities responded with the following answers:

  • “we as a whole dont promote it but we do have members who accept and assist those with disabilities”
  • “Perhaps – it doesn’t appear to be as prominent of an issue but perhaps that’s my shortcoming. We do a lot of philanthropy work and help those who are not able to provide for themselves.”
  • “Yes, we support and include all of our members that have disabilities. Regardless of your disability, you can participate in anything you want.”
  • “This is a hard question because I am unsure if we;ve ever had members with disabilities. I know of learning disabilities, but it hasn’t affected them so far. I will say that we (as in executive board) do different forms of communication that goes best for that person. For example, we know a girl who never checks e-mails or texts and doesn’t pay attention in meeting (maybe because of ADHD) so we have someone verbally tell her about upcoming events. However, like any other chapter, there is always room for improvements.”

10. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to accept people of all socioeconomic classes? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life as it relates to socioeconomic class?

Several UNAFFILIATED students of middle class status or LOWER responded:

  • “All rich white girls. It’s costs a lot of money to make friends.”
  • “The Greek life at Chapman makes it clear who has what socioeconomic status based on their affiliation.”
  • “You better be rich, win the lottery or take out a loan. There are not enough scholarships and those in charge of taking dues usually come from a place of privilege so they have no idea what they are saying when they tell you that you HAVE to pay X amount to be a member. That’s some people entire paycheck for a year!”
  • “I believe that all Greek Life accepts people of all socioeconomic classes and does their part to have everyone participate if they want to be involved. However, I also know that dues for Greek Life can be very pricey and even with assistance still unaffordable to some.”
  • “Fees are a luxury, and often form a clear line between those who can afford to pay them and those who can’t. It is exclusionary and classist.”

Several GREEK students of middle class status or LOWER responded:

  • “Yes, without a doubt. While it is an expense to be Greek, we try to keep our dues affordable to all so that we can have a variety of socio-economic statuses.”
  • “Dues can be expensive, and while my chapter provides payment plans and deferment options, I still sometimes wonder how I’m going to pay my dues. It has made me want to quit at times.”
  • “It’s too expensive, people with lower incomes need-not-apply as per fraternity policy.”

Several UNAFFILIATED students of upper middle class status or HIGHER responded:

  • “Definitely more upper class.on top of dues,you are expected to buy outfits, t-shirts, pay for trips. Which many college students cant do as frequently as Greek life requires them to.”
  • “all i know is that most Greek life (particularly girls) walk around like they own the campus and i think part of that attitude comes from the letters they wear and their other clothing. clothing at Chapman says a lot about a person. either you look like you just walked out of a Nordstrom magazine or you don’t. it seems like the people in Greek life want to make sure they look like they walked out of Nordstrom which makes them look like they are of the upper class and if you aren’t of the upper class then you’re not good enough to be in Greek.”
  • “If there were a test where you had to match wealth to a sorority/frat, it wouldn’t be hard. In other words, socioeconomic class seems to be a huge factor.”

Several GREEK students of upper middle class status or HIGHER responded:

  • “Yes. We are all very open with each other and are aware if other sister’s need extra support and work with them to make sure that they can afford to stay in our chapter.”
  • “Sometimes I feel like there is some awkwardness with some people about money/not being able to pay for certain things but overall I think there is a good amount of acceptance.”
  • “My chapter definitely does a lot to accept people of all socioeconomic classes. We are certainly not the most expensive sorority to join on campus but we offer a variety of scholarships for our members through national headquarters that women can apply for. There are payment plan options and moral support for those who want to join but may not be on the same socioeconomic level of others. If you want to join and we think you would be a good addition to our sisterhood, we will do all that we can to make sure you can afford it!”

After assessing the climate and surveying a variety of students, many of my own theories about the sentiments of Greek life were correct. There must be a bridge that is built between the unaffiliated students and Greeks at Chapman, whose opinions (for the most part) are clearly polarized. The rest of my blog will break down these 4 areas of diversity and what we can do as a University (affiliated or not) to improve people’s perceptions of diversity in Greek life, and to increase people’s knowledge and understanding of others.

Assessing the Climate

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I couldn’t blog about the feelings of Chapman students without actually talking to them first! So I sent out a survey over Facebook, asking my friends that were affiliated with Greek life, as well as unaffiliated students, to respond to 10 simple questions:

  1. What is your gender?
  2. What Greek chapter are you affiliated with (if any)? *
  3. What is your racial identity?
  4. What is your sexual orientation?
  5. Do you have any visible or invisible disabilities?
  6. In terms of socio-economic class, what class do you or your family identify as?
  7. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote racial diversity? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life’s racial diversity? Elaborate.
  8. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote acceptance of LGBTQIA peoples? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of the treatment of LGBTQIA peoples within Greek Life? Elaborate.
  9. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to promote acceptance and assistance for people with disabilities (which can include visible disabilities, such as using a wheelchair, and invisible disabilities, such as depression, ADHD, etc.)? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life’s acceptance and assistance toward those with disabilities? Elaborate.
  10. If you are affiliated, do you believe your chapter does enough to accept people of all socioeconomic classes? If you are NOT affiliated, what is your perception of Greek Life as it relates to socioeconomic class?

So far I have received over 121 responses. Since my account on surveymonkey.com limits me to viewing only the first 100 surveys submitted, I will be going off that particular sample size.

* The reason I asked for Greek affiliation is not to call out particular chapters or their members, but rather to make sure that all chapters are being represented. All names and affiliations will be kept anonymous unless otherwise stated. Currently I have received surveys from all the sororities, and the majority of fraternities with the exception of Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Phi Gamma Delta.

My Findings

Questions 1-6 were all multiple choice questions with quantifiable data, and questions 7-10 required quotes and elaboration on specific topics.

Out of a sample size of 100, 75% of responders were female, and 25% were male. About 38% of responders were NOT affiliated, and 62% were in either a fraternity or sorority.

When asked about racial identity, about 76% responders identified as white/caucasion. 24% of students were minority status, which included Hispanic (2%), African American (4%), Asian (12%), Indian (1%), Middle Eastern (3%) and Multiracial (2%).

When asked about sexual orientation, 80% of students were recorded as heterosexual, while 20% of students identified as LGBQ. That means that 1/5 of responders were a part of the queer community.

When asked about disabilities, over 1/4 of students (27%) claimed to have some sort of disability, whether it be an invisible or visible disability. 73% of responders were not diagnosed with any disability.

When asked about socioeconomic class, almost 1/2 of students (44%) responded saying they were middle class or lower, while the remaining 56% belong to the upper middle and upper class.

Summary:

24% of responders were some sort of racial minority status

20% of responders identified as LGBQ

27% of responders are living with a type of disability (visible or invisible)

44% of responders are a part of the middle class or LOWER.

What is UBUNTU?

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What is Ubuntu?

“Ubuntu” is a philosophy that stems from African culture. Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines Ubuntu as: “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper-self assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed”

What a wonderful world that would be… if we all stood together and uplifted our communities, feeling empathy toward others, and striving to understand them and make a difference. That would be an ideal community.

Why Write About Diversity?

In the spring of 2012, I attended Chapman University’s Next Step Social Justice Retreat, a weekend-long program sponsored by the Department of Student and Campus Life, which focuses on creating a community of discussion pertaining to social justice issues. As a gay rights activist, Chapman Safe Space Trainer, and feminist, I thought I was going to be the one to teach my colleagues a thing or two about social justice. But what I didn’t realize is that over the weekend, my peers would teach me more about myself and my identity than I could have ever learned on my own.

That weekend I learned to analyze myself and my privilege. I was left to reflect on things I hadn’t thought of before… my inherent privleges by being born white, the fact that as a middle class person I have access to fresh fruits and vegetables that lower class people don’t, the fact that I am able-bodied and don’t have to worry about getting into a building with stairs. These are all things I took for granted before, but I began to see that for some, they do not get the luxury of taking it for granted. It is a constant oppressive struggle for them every day. And that doesn’t sit well with me, knowing that people continue to struggle with their daily lives because of reasons they can’t change, while I sit around and do nothing about it.

Coming back to Chapman after the retreat, I looked around and saw a million things on Chapman’s campus that had to change. From the way buildings were laid out, to the way that people would use the words “That’s so gay” in regular conversation. I began to think that this campus had to get a massive wake up call that not EVERY student is white, straight, upper class, and able-bodied. There IS diversity… we just have to start recognizing it and giving it the attention it deserves.

We can’t change the world overnight, but I feel like if we start to recognize, celebrate, and welcome differences within our student population, it can create a better community at Chapman.

Why the Greek Community?

When I think about communities that I am a part of, one of the communities that comes to mind is my Chapman community. And even more so within my Chapman community, I am a part of sub-communities. For example, I am in the following groups at Chapman:

  • Alpha Gamma Delta
  • Queer Straight Alliance
  • Chapman Feminists
  • The Department of Student and Campus Life
  • #ChapmanPRA
  • The Conservatory of Music

Among many others, these are some of my communities.
In particular, I want to look at my first community listed… Alpha Gamma Delta. I initiated into Alpha Gamma Delta in the spring of 2010 as a freshman. I was still “finding myself” and my identity at this point, but I was so excited to be a part of a group of women who are dedicated to strong values and ideals, and who accept and uplift all of their members. However, Greek Life as a whole intimidates me. It always has and it always does. As a whole, it’s loud and it makes its presence known. Over 1/3 of the student population is a part of Greek Life at Chapman University. And from my observations, the people who are in it seem to love it, and the people outside of it just don’t get it.

I find that at times, there is a rift between my Greek community and the other communities I am a part of. I often hear people outside of Greek life complaining that “Greek Life is elitist… it’s just for skinny, rich, white girls and rowdy frat boys who play sports”. I’ve heard this from more than one person. I won’t lie… it kind of offends me, since I am in Greek life and that has NOT been my experience within my own chapter. It’s like people are judging us before they get to know us. And while Chapman is not the most diverse school in the country… it doesn’t mean that diversity isn’t there!

What has to change?

I want to build the bridge… between what unaffiliated students believe us to be, between what Greek life students think we are, and what the true reality is. I want to educate the 1/3 of the students in Greek Life that yes, we have diversity, and it deserves recognition and celebration!

I believe the best way to even begin to accomplish this is to give Greek students an introductory diversity training! A training like this already exists through the Department of Student and Campus Life’s diversity and equity team, and is given to the students working as Resident Advisors, SGA elected officers, and employees of departments such as UPB and SCL. However, Greek Life is 1/3 of our campus. If 1/3 of our students are properly educated about inclusive language, and how to make their chapters more welcoming and accepting of differences, I believe we will start to see a shift in how students feel they are treated on Chapman’s campus.

This training would be for students going through the new member process, as well as for active members right before recruitment season.

Plan of Action

1) Survey students in Greek Life and outside of Greek Life to assess the climate of how people feel about the areas of race, sexual orientation, ableism and classism in Greek Life. Get DIRECT QUOTES and thoughts from students.

2) Compile quantified data and demographics (such as gender, minority status, orientation, etc.)

3) Address people’s concerns as listed in the survey.

4) Present this data to the VP of member development in Alpha Gamma Delta and request a training for my own chapter (it will be like a focus group to see how the diversity training affects our members).

5) Eventually share this blog with the head of Chapman’s Greek Life program, Alli Seagal, as well as the focus group results from the Alpha Gamma Delta training. Ask if she will work with me to help fund a program for ALL of Greek life.