Westhampton College '09
I have recently been made aware of changes that were made to a sorority's policy regarding its socials. Previously, members were able to bring anyone they wanted as a guest, without having to clarify if this guest were a friend or a date. However, by democratic vote, this policy has been changed so that members are only allowed to bring males as dates unless the female they choose to bring is one of the following: an out- of-town-visitor, a visiting alumnus, a relative or a love interest.
Nearly every sorority on campus has a similar policy. While this policy may not explicitly discriminate based on sexual orientation, it does make a clear statement to the members of the sorority. With such a close-knit community, if the other sisters see that someone's date is another female student from the University of Richmond, by process of elimination they would fall under the category of "love interest."
By not allowing members to bring friends as dates, these women must make their sexual orientation known to everyone in the sorority. I believe that if someone chooses, she should not feel pressured to advertise her sexual preference, and that this should not play into her decision of becoming a member of a sorority. Members who may not be comfortable declaring their sexual orientation should not have to lie, pretend that they are heterosexual, or abstain from going to the social. One's sexual preferences should not be brought into question.
I ask the members of this and other sororities with similar policies what message they want to convey to potential and current members. Do you want to be part of an organization that is alienating to lesbian or bisexual women? This sorority's Web site states that the organization does not "discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation or marital status."
Apparently, this group does not want to discriminate against any of its members, but if indeed this were an organization welcoming to all types of people regardless of sexual orientation, why do you feel the need to isolate these members by making them declare their sexual orientation at socials?
When members of this and other sororities have the power to produce the necessary changes that would make their group welcoming and accepting to all, why do they choose not to? That is not to say that there are members who do not oppose this recent change. There have been those who have voiced their objections to the leadership of the sorority, however these women feel that they cannot bring these concerns to the larger Richmond community for fear of being ostracized by their own sorority sisters. Obviously, the University of Richmond student body is not known for its overwhelming acceptance of anyone outside of the typical Richmond stereotype. Despite the administration's efforts to promote diversity and acceptance, I see little change on campus. I would like to call on students to voice their opinions and concerns despite any fears they may have of acting out against their sororities, because why would you want to be part of an organization in which you are afraid to speak your mind?
Many may not be happy with the way things currently are here at the University of Richmond, but there can be no change unless students are willing to take initiative. Students need to take responsibility for bringing about a campus free of discrimination in any form, and they should start within their own sororities, fraternities, sports, clubs or other organized activities. There may be a fear of being kicked out, but ask yourselves if you are willing to sacrifice your beliefs and ideals in order to have one more line on your resume. I also call on the university to re-examine its position regarding these types of Greek policies. While they may not be able to directly change the laws of these Greek organizations, the University should have open conversations with sororities and fraternities encouraging them to examine their policies and to create an environment welcoming to all members.
I ask myself why so many students seem to have no problem attending a school where the student body perpetuates a community in which individuality and free thought are shunned and scorned. Maybe if students would open their eyes, they would see this school for what it really is, and be inspired to take action to produce the change that this university needs.
Contact Anna Douce at email@example.com