The Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union has denied official recognition to the Greek Lettered Council, a group run by and for fraternities and sororities on campus. The recognition would have given them access to campus space and funding. When the council voted 10 to four against recognition in October, they cited an academic study that found sexual assault is higher in fraternities.
In other words, they are convicting our local Greek brothers and sisters of crime they haven’t committed. They made their decision based on a stereotype and despite the GLC’s promises not to be discriminatory. I am not a member of a fraternity or sorority but as a fee-paying Memorial student, I think this group should be recognized.
MUNSU might argue that it’s a preventative measure but what about the fact that they already recognized a student group meant solely for members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Adventists elsewhere have been known to protest against birth control, abortion and homosexuality potentially violating MUNSU’s constitution, which states that it will not ratify any group “that the council considers to be of a homophobic, racist, ageist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory nature.” Perhaps the MUN-based chapter of Adventists is more progressive and doesn’t advocate for these human rights infringements. In that case, why isn’t the GLC allowed to be recognized too?
Across Canada, fraternities and sororities are criticized for their gender exclusion but if people choose to congregate based on gender, that’s their choice. Besides, the GLC’s board wouldn’t be gender exclusive and they stated they would accept members who identify as gay or transgender. There is a bias against Greek lettered organizations because of their histories but some are actually progressive. For example, a chapter of the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi was founded last year at McGill University.
On top of that, a part of GLC’s planned mandate is philanthropy. Their fundraisers, which they could more easily hold on campus if MUNSU gives them space, would support not only the fraternities and sororities but also local charities like the Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation.
No one is planning to force students who don’t believe in Greek life to participate. The student union is supposed to represent all students. Many students here want to explore the Greek lifestyle and they deserve funding and access to space just like everyone else.
John Michael Bennett is Editor-in-Chief of The Muse student newspaper.