The Greek-Lettered Council at MUN was denied MUNSU recognition at a recent Student Activities and Organizations committee. Only three board members out of around 15 voted for its recognition—the official voting list has yet to be released.
The Greek-Lettered Council (GLC) is a group created in November 2012 that aims to promote, offer resources to, and serve as a platform to Greek-Lettered organizations such as fraternities and sororities at MUN, while also serving and being open to the community as a whole.
This decision echoes the long struggle Greek life at MUN has had with the students’ union. MUNSU has stood in opposition to the recognition of Greek Lettered organizations based on their generally gender exclusive policies, as MUNSU’s constitution states it shall not recognize any group that is sexist or discriminatory in nature.
The GLC was formerly known as the Greek Philanthropy Society, and served as banner group for Greek Lettered organizations, so that they may conduct philanthropic endeavours on campus. In February 2013, the Greek Philanthropy Society was denied recognition, however was encouraged to reapply after meeting expectations of the MUNSU constitution, including finding a way for all MUN students to be involved, not just students in Greek Lettered organizations.
While the GLC is open to all people, regardless of gender or affiliation, it constitutionally governs Greek-Lettered organizations, none of which are gender inclusive. Controversy arose over whether MUNSU’s recognition of the GLC would inadvertently mean recognition of these gender-exclusive groups.
Several attendees of the meeting who opposed the GLC’s recognition noted how it served as a “bubble” in which to keep fraternities and sororities. Some called the GLC a way to “weasel” fraternities and sororities into MUN, and called it a “backdoor” way of giving Greek Lettered Organizations a space on campus.
“I think that if we’re opening the door to federating groups on campus that have subsidiary organizations within themselves and those subsidiary organizations are inherently going against what we’ve already not recognized, that’s an immediate cause of problem,” said Ryan Murphy, a science representative who opposed the GLC’s recognition.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be a spot where people get interested in Greek lettered organizations,” said another attendee. “It’s a bit of a backdoor. While we’re not recognizing the associations themselves, we’re recognizing a venue for people to become more involved in those associations.
Supporters of the GLC stressed that they were not looking to recognize any Greek-Lettered organizations, but rather an inclusive group who simply wanted a space on campus to fundraise, provide information, and connect with students.
“We’re not looking at being ratified so we can recruit people. We’d like to host a fundraiser or have a bake sale, or book out something. But we are not able to because we’re not recognized as a MUN student body,” said one GLC member. “We’re completely cut off from campus.”
MUNSU Science Representative Devin Grant brought up the point that the GLC has two distinct missions—community involvement and philanthropic activity, but also governance and guidance for Greek-Lettered organizations. He asked why the GLC had to be associated with Greek life at all, if they really just wanted to provide a place on campus for people who wan to do good work for the community.
“I don’t see why we have to hide ourselves,” responded a GLC member. “Just because we’re part of something that MUNSU doesn’t understand or approve of doesn’t mean that we should be ashamed to show who we are. I don’t see why we would have to say that we’re something else when we’re clearly not, we are clearly Greek members.”
“It’s a good place for first years to go if they’re interested in going Greek,” added another GLC member. “The first year they can join the Greek Lettered Council, then the following year they can join a frat or sorority. It gives them a good place to get information about what going Greek is about and what the lifestyle is like.”
There was also much debate over research studies showing the correlation between fraternities and sororities and sexual assault, rape, and discrimination on campuses.
“There is empirical evidence that indicates a link between Greek Lettered Organizations, sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment, bystander passivity,” said Ryan Murphy. “By working to recognize a Greek letter organization on campus you are systemically increasing the risk of a student dealing with one of those issues.
“I cannot vote to recognize this, because I believe that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, something’s going to happen, and I’m going to see a headline, and I’m going to hate myself forever.”
Many supporters disagreed with this argument.
“By typing in ‘fraternity, sexual assault,’ you’re going to get a certain type of article,” said a supporter. “There are also articles that give great research on the benefit of being in a fraternity or sorority. I don’t think we should ever correlate these students and what they’re choosing to do with sexual assault. That is unfair to these students and a judgement on their character because of something they are interested in.”
“Most Greek lettered students graduate with a higher average than other university students. We do more charity work than normal university students do, on a whole. Almost every single president of the United States has been a member of a Greek-Lettered Organization at some point. We are not all these bad things,” said a GLC member. She also stressed that sexual assault happens in all facets of the university community but are not as often heard about; Greek Lettered Organizations simply bear the burden of this bad reputation.
“We shouldn’t assume from the get go that they’re going to screw up. Any group can screw up but we assume that they’re not going to, and we should give the same respect to this group,” said another supporter.
The vote was cast after over an hour of debate.