Opinion: Greek life should engage more with the broader Vandy community

MLC-IFC joint events are important on campus in order to improve relations between these groups and eliminate divide.

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Opinion: Greek life should engage more with the broader Vandy community

The new Zeta Tau Alpha (left) and NPHC (right) houses, as seen from the green.

The new Zeta Tau Alpha (left) and NPHC (right) houses, as seen from the green.

Hunter Long

The new Zeta Tau Alpha (left) and NPHC (right) houses, as seen from the green.

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

The new Zeta Tau Alpha (left) and NPHC (right) houses, as seen from the green.

Lyndsey Delouya

As the year kicks off with parties on Greek row, recall last semester’s fraternity Kappa Sigma and Caribbean Students Association (CSA) joint party. Although there were hesitations by both organizations about how the party would play out, as this was the first event co-hosted by an Interfraternity Council (IFC) fraternity and a Multicultural Leadership Council (MLC) organization, the party was a huge success. The party even reached maximum capacity, and people who wanted to join in on the fun were turned away for safety reasons. This joint event was a great first step toward a campus-wide goal of creating a more inclusive community, and we should try to establish a precedent where different types of organizations co-host more social events. 

This party helped spark a conversation about the isolation of Vanderbilt’s Greek organizations, which make up approximately 35% of Vandy’s population. The IFC and National Panhellenic Council (NPC) at Vanderbilt are historically dominated by white affluent students since their founding in 1843 and continue to be today. A historically African American Greek organization wasn’t brought to this campus until over a century later in 1971 with the founding of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. 

This historical separation continues to have repercussions today. In speaking of her first party at Vanderbilt, CSA President Danielle Richardson said, “That same night a fraternity was right across the street… It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen- all the white people were at one party and all the black people were at one party. Over my time here I came to realize that that’s just how it is. White people and non-white people don’t party together. Since that day, I’ve always wanted to see a party that had everyone.”  As a member of the Greek Inclusivity Alliance (GIA) and the Diversity and Inclusion chair of my sorority’s chapter, I agree with the sentiment that an unwanted divide exists in the social sector of campus, and I believe we all have a duty to actively address this issue. 

The intention behind MLC-IFC joint events should not be thought of as a savior complex, held because “it’s the right thing to do.” Rather, these joint events should be thought of as an opportunity for students to interact with new people who can share different perspectives.

As students, we limit our growth when we surround ourselves with people who have had similar life experiences; real growth that takes place when we step outside of our comfort zones. 

Student leaders are addressing the issue of exclusivity at Vanderbilt. For example, VSG is currently working on a platform to build connectedness across different experiences on campus by facilitating joint events between different student organizations, VSG President Frances Burton said. 

GIA co-chair and Kappa Sigma member Aaron Niederman talked about Greek life’s responsibility to align their cultural competency and collaboration goals with values already fundamental to chapters. As Vanderbilt’s largest community, Greek students should be informed in cultural competence to increase their appreciation of differences, making inclusive efforts more successful. Inclusive efforts also have a longevity piece: informing culturally competence will make Greek chapters more suitable for the everchanging Vanderbilt population, Niederman said. 

There have been efforts in making Greek Life more inclusive. For example, members of the Greek Community must attend diversity and inclusion events as a part of the Greek Member Experience, a program that requires Greek students to interact with the community in a number of areas. However, I think we need to do better. To help Greek students reach beyond the Greek bubble and interact with the wider campus, we should have more spaces for authentic relationships to form outside of the classroom. The CSA and Kappa Sigma party was a great example of this, and should be replicated in various forms without the need for Vanderbilt administration to call for it

There needs to be an intrinsic value within all of our chapters to want to engage with MLC organizations and the wider Vanderbilt community. Greek organizations should co-host more social events, if not at least because they have the space to do so unlike many non-Greek organizations. But it is not the responsibility of MLC organizations to reach out to the exclusive Greek community. We are a community of forward thinking, intelligent students who should be leaders in the movement toward inclusivity. This is an opportunity for Greek life to break down the social barriers on campus. Now that we are aware, we get to make the change.

 

Deputy Opinion Editor Jack Rosenblum contributed reporting to this piece. 

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