Greek organizations look to be more inclusiveBy Hannah Mask | 02/17/2011 12:10am
In response to the racial slur that targeted graduate student Justin Zimmerman Feb. 4 and the subsequent campus chalkings, an idea for a new organization comprised of fraternity and sorority members was implemented, said Christy Boardman, a junior majoring in French and economics.
Greeks for T.I.D.E, or Greeks Together for Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement, seeks to encourage the greek community to promote a more unified and engaged campus environment through an outward sign of solidarity. They held their first meeting Wednesday night, and about 35 people representing around 15 greek organizations attended.
Though Greeks for T.I.D.E. held their first meeting in response to recent events, Boardman, who is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, said the idea has been in the making for a while.
“This idea really cannot be credited to one person,” she said. “It has come out of numerous conversations between members of varying fraternities and sororities.”
As the floor opened for discussion, attendees shared similar sentiments, agreeing that the way many view greeks at the University contrasts with the pledges they took when they were oriented into their respective organizations.
“We came to college and joined organizations and unintentionally segregated ourselves,” said Savannah Bass, a member of Delta Delta Delta.
Though Bass said many share the blame for segregation, the only way to solve it, she said, is through education.
During homecoming week, several greek organizations pair up with other organizations that are traditionally comprised of students whose race differs from their own.
Jack Heflin, a junior and a member of Phi Gamma Delta, said he appreciated the opportunity to work with another fraternity, but the idea fell short when the fraternities failed to do anything together.
“It’s like a group project,” he said. “You can get the work done but get nothing out of it. It’s important to take advantages of partnerships.”
Heflin said as of late, he’s no longer proud to be greek.
“I want to get back to finding pride in being greek,” he said. “I want to feel like I’m doing something good. I can see why people don’t like us.”
Ideas, such as holding a candlelight vigil, getting people involved in Greeks for T.I.D.E. by visiting other houses and organizing a walk to raise awareness about the problem of segregation, were discussed at length.
“We could start [the walk] at the fraternity house where [Zimmerman was insulted], and walk down sorority row and end at Foster as a solidarity or unity movement,” said Lindsey Smith, a graduate student who is an alumna of Alpha Gamma Delta. “You’re the people who can spur friends to do something,” she told the group.
J.D. Stapleton, a member of Zeta Beta Tau, said the best way to move past the stipulations that are placed on greeks at the University is to separate oneself from the past.
“If everyone speaks up and has respect for your house, respect for yourself and respect for the University, there can be change,” he said.
However, race isn’t the only issue that keeps greek organizations segregated.
Cameron West, a member of Sigma Lamda Beta, said it’s necessary to remember to respect others’ religious views and sexual orientations.
Boardman presented attendees the opportunity to sign a pledge through The Birmingham Pledge Foundation. The pledge, which may be viewed in full at birminghampledge.org, states that those who sign believe everyone, regardless of race or color, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Similarly, every act of racial prejudice is harmful to oneself, as well as others.
“I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort,” the pledge concludes.
Nancy Hogan, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha who is also the president of the Black Student Union, said rendering the word “hate” is vital.
“This needs to be something on campus the students want, not the administration,” she said. “It needs to start in the greek community, because we’re seen as the forefront of the University.”
Though Greeks for T.I.D.E. is still looking for opportunities for funding, Boardman said they are working toward being recognized as a non-profit organization so that donations can be made tax deductible.
Boardman said she was excited by the turnout and especially encouraged by the fact that so many people were willing to talk.
“It shows that people really do want a change,” she said.