Fraternal organizations have lasted for centuries. The modern American fraternity has existed in some fashion for roughly two hundred years. Many of these organizations were formed as like minded individuals came together to articulate a certain passion or cause. As time has endured, we have seen the emergence of new groups and new causes.
In 2012, fraternity and sorority life sometimes loses track of the cause or the purpose. I would articulate that this purpose is to be better than average. We strive to be better than our non-member counterparts. If that is the case then it is time we have the INCLUSION conversation.
Before you make up your mind let me share some context. From my time on fraternity national staff I learned that is not uncommon for gay men to become founding fathers of organizations. Founding organizations (or refounding organizations) tend to be very clear on their values and expectations. Our community often muddles the values and hides behind ancient practices which often exclude these men. While I do believe that fraternities should not be excluding membership based on sexual orientation this is not the INCLUSION conversation I want to have today, even though that would be an extremely relevant conversation.
We have created an environment that does not allow people to be themselves. We push people to conform to our own standards and opinions and do not allow men and women to be themselves. There needs to be a serious conversations about whether fraternities and sororities are single gender or single sex conversations, how we articulate this decision, and why it is important to our organizations to have this experience. There are men and women in this world who are missing out on a values based experience because WE do not allow them to be themselves and we foster an environment which does not welcome individuals.
In my previous life, I had a fraternity who offered membership to a female student who presented as male. BOOM! A line was drawn in the sand. You would not believe the number of people that came out of their cubicles and offices to decide whether this was right or wrong. When fraternity is done right, there is nothing better. Who were all these people showing up to question an organization living their values? I find that when people get scared or a shift in the environment takes place people jump to conclusions. This is the reason we have to start the conversation. We need to be talking about issues, trends and developments in our community so that we know how to support our students, our organizations and our values. NOT so that we have to deal with PROBLEMS. It only becomes a problem when we hide behind our own inability to think proactively and be accepting of change.
It is time we had a conversation about it: we need to discuss whether fraternities and sororities are sex based organizations or gender based organizations.We need to talk about how we as professionals facilitate an environment in which cisgender students feel comfortable in joining the community? How do masculine and feminime roles play a part in our communities? Are we creating an environment in which a masculine woman feels comfortable being herself through panhellenic recruitment?
Join me and others on August 8th for the first Values or Not! conversation at 4pm EST. Details regarding call in information will be provided in the coming weeks. In the mean time visit the website below to receive articles to read in advance of the conversation: