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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Greek life: Contradiction

Published: December 1, 2006
Section: Opinions

Last Monday, the Brandeis community received its weekly announcement from the Student Union highlighting upcoming activities. One specific event caught our attention: A mock fraternity party held by the Peer Educating Responsible Choices group. Despite the administrations general opposition to Greek life, and many students distrust of Greek organizations, a student-funded organization held a party in the guise of a pseudo-fraternity event. This is one example of the communitys inconsistent response to a topic the university tends to find rather uncomfortable: The existence of Greek organizations, and their perpetual non-recognition by the University.

The administration has been consistent in its unwillingness to recognize these off campus groups. This policy is at least partially derived from a 1988 decision made by the Board of Trustees, who voted to eliminate such groups. In Appendix B of Rights and Responsibilities, it is clearly noted that social fraternities and sororities, in particular, are neither recognized nor permitted to hold activities on campus because they are not open to all students, on the basis of competency or interest, which is inconsistent with the principles of openness to which the University is committed.

However, the university is also founded on other tenets, including social justice. The University mission statement emphasizes that the school generates students capable of promoting their own welfare, yet remaining deeply concerned about the welfare of others. This past October, Greek organizations on campus worked extensively to raise money for charities: Delta Phi Epsilon raised over $4,000 for the American Cancer Society and Zeta Beta Tau fundraised to donate more than $2,500 for the Boston Childrens Hospital. Whether or not the administration is fond of the selectivity of Greek organizations, it cannot be denied that members of these organizations are dedicated to social welfare. These groups could potentially achieve more with school support.

Oddly, though the university is officially against Greek life, the administration allows events and organizations to utilize the language and spirit of fraternities and sororities. For example, Student Events last year used Greek letters to advertise during Bronstein Week. This suggests that the administrations only real objection to these clubs is their exclusivity, rather than the behavior that the stereotypical Greek organization exhibits.

Of course, fraternities are not the only exclusive organizations that students take part in on this campus. Certainly drama and music organizations, as well student government positions (and student newspapers) occasionally will disallow certain students from performing a highly-specific task if they are not qualified. For certain, Greek organizations exhibit a very different, perhaps more subjective, form of exclusivity, but the universitys argument does not specify which of these varieties of exclusivities are in conflict with the Universitys principles of openness.

The greater concern here is that despite a university policy, Greek organizations do exist, and despite a lack of recognition they will continue to attract students from our university. Though the status quo offers no real disadvantages for these groups, the reasons for a lack of recognition are technical. Recognition will allow Greek organizations to gain a degree of legitimacy that may be justified considering their popularity with members of the student body, and their dedication to social justice.