Lumpkin: Don’t leave out multicultural councils when discussing Greek life on campus

Daniella Lumpkin, Op-Ed Contributor

Greek life at a university like Northwestern is often seen as limited to formals and fund-ragers. This leads students, both in and out of Greek life, to assume that all who join a sorority or fraternity on this campus share a common experience. Maybe this is true of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association, councils with huge resources and whose presence on this campus seem overwhelming. But students must remember that there are not two councils on this campus, but four. Each has its own histories, challenges and goals, but are different and significant nonetheless. The National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council are unique from IFC and PHA, and should not be overlooked in discussions about campus Greek life.

The recent Daily op-ed brought up some very valid criticism about the toxic environments that fraternities and sororities can create –– emphasis on can. I cannot speak for other councils, and to a lesser extent even other organizations, but in my sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, there are plenty of areas that need improvement. It is heteronormative, hyper-feminine (to the point of explicitly condemning some expressions of masculinity), and features a whole host of other problems from a lack of acknowledgement of mental health issues to ableism. However, unlike many PHA and IFC chapters, it is not founded on the racial and socioeconomic exclusion of certain populations. And left out of the narrative are the strides we make as chapters and organizations to make ourselves more inclusive. People like me should get to feel included in the organizations we love, no matter our background.

Those steps toward improving our Greek organizations don’t happen overnight, though, and they will never happen by simply removing those spaces for discussion and growth. For all their problems, sororities and fraternities are service organizations that center around ideals of sisterhood and brotherhood, scholarship and the betterment of one’s self. Those are powerful things to dismiss summarily and in fact take away a valuable opportunity to be checked on both privilege and problematic views. Growth is important, and having a support system and a framework in which to make those changes is essential.

The sweeping with use of the term Greek life in these conversations (by which most intend to refer only to IFC and PHA) is also highly problematic. It reflects the tendency of people on this campus, both administration and the student body, to see anything that isn’t wealthy and white as an exception to the rules and norms of campus. This only serves to suggest that our experiences in non-white Greek organizations are not as valuable as theirs, because we are not as valuable as they are.

Daniella Lumpkin is a Weinberg junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.