The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday August 9th

Greek members quiet on talking LGBTQ issues

Some cite not wanting to impact recruitment. Others don’t want to stir up controversy.

In a six-month investigation, The Daily Tar Heel asked all 58 UNC Greek organizations a series of questions on their attitudes toward making sure the organization is a welcoming place for LGBTQ students. The survey was sent Dec. 21, and the deadline to respond was Jan. 12. One Interfraternity Council fraternity was missed in this timeframe and received the survey Thursday.

Out of 58 organizations, 10 responded to all four questions by press time. Three who responded were from the IFC, one was from the National Pan-Hellenic Council and six were from the Panhellenic Council. None of the 14 fraternities in the Greek Alliance Council responded to the survey.

The four-question survey asked chapters if they have a formalized policy on anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, if they would accept LGBTQ students into their organization, if they have any current LGBTQ members and if they have methods to foster an inclusive environment for LGBTQ students in their organization outside of a formalized policy.

Seven of the 10 organizations that responded had formal policies that specifically mentioned sexual orientation.

Others had broader wording. For example, Paige Hopkins, member of the Theta Pi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., an NPHC sorority, said in an email that her sorority’s anti-hazing policy protected all members against discrimination and harassment, including those who identified as LGBTQ.

“All existing and prospective members have the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” the organization’s policy reads.

Paul Irby, the president of IFC fraternity Sigma Phi, said his fraternity hasn’t yet needed a formalized policy because of “a strong culture of social conscience and inclusiveness.”

Terri Phoenix, the director of UNC’s LGBTQ center, said in an email that making sure anti-discrimination policies of Greek organizations include sexual orientation and gender expression is important.

Five of the 10 organizations that responded to the survey didn’t say if they have current members who identify as LGBTQ because of privacy or because they do not ask. Two of the 10 said they have current LGBTQ members.

When asked how they make sure LGBTQ members feel welcomed, Panhellenic sorority Kappa Delta mentioned having allies within the sorority who push for equality in the community. Both Phi Mu and Alpha Phi sororities said they host regular educational events and programs on sexuality and inclusivity. Multiple Greek organizations mentioned open discussion and non-discriminatory recruiting.

Hesitant to talk

Garrett Holloway, president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., said he didn’t feel his organization could respond to the survey, and he doubted that most NPHC organizations would be willing to respond to the survey or talk about LGBTQ policies.

He said national organizations set the rules, and individual chapters or members often don’t want to say something in fear that it won’t align perfectly with their national associations.

“They monitor everything we say and do,” Holloway said.

One member of a Panhellenic sorority didn’t want to respond until a later point — after fall recruitment. When asked how she thought discussing her experience would hurt the process, she did not respond.

Another Panhellenic sorority president didn’t want to talk unless she could review the entire article before print, which is against The Daily Tar Heel’s policy.

A member of an IFC fraternity didn’t want to respond because he did not know how his response might affect his fraternity. He also did not respond as to what he thought that might happen.

Though none of the GAC chapters responded to the survey, The Daily Tar Heel spoke with coed literary and art fraternity St. Anthony Hall’s current and former president earlier in the investigation.

Seeking inclusion

Lucas, who asked not to use his last name because members of his hometown don’t know he is gay, joined Sigma Phi his first year at UNC. When he came out to his parents that same year, they threatened to cut him off financially.

Though he was still a pledge, the fraternity members started researching scholarships and alternatives for Lucas. They discussed fundraising to support him for the time being.

“It was just this overwhelming support,” Lucas said.

He knew not all fraternities would accept him because of his sexuality.

He especially pointed to older fraternities on campus.

“They’re trapped by their age, and they’re trapped by these old habits,” Lucas said. “I know a lot of fraternities, especially the more famous ones at UNC, they are anti-gay. Like, if you are gay, you are not allowed in the fraternity — and they’re open about that.”

Seth Paterson, vice president of public relations for the IFC, said there is no problem of homophobia in IFC fraternities. To assume so, Paterson said, is placing an unfair stereotype on Greek organizations.

An LGBTQ-friendly environment, he said, is something that comes naturally and can’t be forced.

“We encourage each chapter to have their own persona or brand depending on the group of people,” he said. “They then attract people who are like them. Diversity is encouraged by diversity.”

Junior Christian Haig, who is president of St. Anthony Hall and identifies as gay, said his organization facilitates diversity through its reputation as an artistic, progressive community.

“Given the nature of art, you have an open environment where freedom of thought and expression are openly encouraged,” he said.

Taking steps

Phoenix said the center has worked with multiple Greek organizations to facilitate discussions and educate members on LGBTQ issues.

Organization leaders and members should host inclusive events, celebrate LGBTQ community events, use inclusive language and have current LGBTQ members, Phoenix said in an email.

Lucas said discussions help Sigma Phi members brainstorm concrete steps toward solutions — whether it’s regarding LGBTQ inclusivity or other complex issues.

“In our fraternity, we talk a lot about culture,” Lucas said. “What culture are we developing? What are we trying to instill?

“What values do we want our culture to consist of?”

@llizabell

special.projects@dailytarheel.com



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive