Editor's Note: Mature language is used in this podcast. Quinn Humphrey is a features writer on staff. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
In the second episode of this two-part series, Campus Culture: Exploring the Social Landscape at the University of Richmond, contributor Noah Goldberg explores the social scene at UR through interviews with several current and former students from different parts of the UR community.
Hosted, edited and produced by Noah Goldberg. Edited by Nina Joss. Podcast art created by Jimmy Quinn and Nina Joss.
JARMAL BEVELS: You know I mean at one point, I thought everybody who was white was racist.
DALE MATTHEWS: Just not wanting to like, stick out like a sore thumb, you know, you can, you kinda, change my wardrobe a little bit.
BEVELS: So, like, you know, this whole process goes smoother. I wish I would have had I thought it was just like, this is America.
NOAH GOLDBERG: Welcome to part two of Campus Culture: Exploring the Social Landscape at the University of Richmond. I'm your host, Noah Goldberg, and I'm a junior at U of R. In this episode, you will hear the accounts and experiences of several current and former students from different parts of the UR community, including student-athletes and members of Greek life organizations on campus.
In part one, we began by exploring the history at the University of Richmond and its culture and particularly how race has been a part of that history and how these generational and historical roots from its past are affecting U of R’s social landscape and present climate today. This episode will attempt to juxtapose diverse perspectives from those embedded in the Richmond social landscape. I hope to provide you with these accounts, not to impose a judgment on you of any actions or conclusions regarding any particular party, but rather to present you with various perspectives of students and people on the UR campus community and let you hear what they've said and make your own judgments.
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STEPHON JACOB: Yo. Ay what’s good, bro. What’s up my guy how you been. Good what you up to. Doing some work real quick.
GOLDBERG: I began by speaking with Stephon Jacob, a former football player at U of R who graduated in 2018. He's still in Richmond, pursuing a master's degree at the VCU Brand Center. We began with Stephon describing his home community, including the three different high schools he attended in Maryland.
JACOB: So in Maryland, I was raised in Montgomery County, Maryland. It's a pretty middle-upper class area. I went to three different high schools. My last high school was my local public high school called Damascus, and it was more like small town. Everyone who went to that high school pretty much grew up together and I lived in the same area. I just went to private schools like I knew all the kids that were there.
GOLDBERG: While Stephon explained to me that the main reason he came to U of R, was of course, to play football, there were other attractions and factors that played into his decision, such as proximity to his home, rigorous academics and remaining in private school like he'd been for most of high school. His transition into U of R as a freshman was mostly natural, but he did say he came with a few surprises, however.
JACOB: Yeah, I would just say there wasn't much diversity from the aspect of like, there were only a limited thing that you could do if you were to come in with the freshman dorm, you could ask everybody on your hall what they're doing tonight, and more than two people would be doing the same thing like that. That's rare in any school that freshmen are all going to the same parties, or like doing the same thing. So just like my freshman year, when you're going out, it's like, all right. Kind of gets boring. Like you can only go to three places, so and they're not as diverse or like it's just not that many places to go to, especially when you're under 21. You can just go to people's houses or people’s apartments to party.
GOLDBERG: It's interesting that Stephon often mentioned there were limited options of social activities for him as a freshman, but not that surprising when you consider, you know, UR’s small undergraduate population of about 3200 students. However, Greek events and parties do make up a significant portion of those available activities, and that's based off of both my own experience and the experience of others.
What was your kind of experience with Greek life your freshman year, and maybe specifically kind of how it changed from that first to second semester? Because it kind of seems like a lot like at least when I was a freshman, that your first semester of freshman year, kind of like everybody, like athletes, kids, rushing Greek life, like every- because no one's in a frat yet or in a sorority, everyone's kind of just going out and experiencing everything. And I feel like once people start pledging, it really like kind of starts to take shape. And then that second semester is when you really get a feel. So whether when your first semester in your second, what kind of like reads were you getting initially when you first got there on Greek Life's roll at the school?
JACOB: I'm going to try to remember because I was a long time ago, but I think like my freshman year guess in general, it was a lot of like and just like lodges and off campus apartments, off campus house parties, which were fine, like I usually just showed up with, like a friend or two. It wasn't like I didn't need to be like, know, everyone there. And I rarely ever knew everybody there. It was kind of just like I would just show up because someone that I knew was going and they would just, like, tell us that they're going there. And that was kind of common. It was I never really ever knew the people who, like, hosted the event. It was really just like my friends or friends of friends are going and they probably tell us about it and that was probably because as a athlete, all the upperclassmen, who would usually host the parties were playing in the season and like I redshirted my first year. So it was like we didn't travel to games when they were away games, we didn’t stay at the hotel. So it was like we kind of had to figure out on our own because like we don't really spend time with people outside of our sport. So it's like it's kind of tough to figure out what's going on when your social group isn’t going to be there.
GOLDBERG: So you said, like, how kind of that first semester you're going to more of Greek stuff because your teammates were in season and you didn't. So it sounds like you didn't know a lot of the people at the lodges and things like that. Obviously, that was before they added lodge lists, which started when I got to school. It was it ever was it ever a problem getting in to you said look at it like it is pretty common, especially that first semester to be partying with a lot of random people being at a larger house party. At any point, did it become an issue where people are giving you a hard time for for not knowing people?
JACOB: Yeah, I wouldn’t even say not knowing people. I don't even know what explanation it was. But I mean, from like my freshman year, to even my junior year, it was always like a tough time, like just trying to even get into the lodges and even just like off campus events as well. And the only way you can get there was this. I think they had like people that would shuttle, like shuttle and it was like, well, if you don't know the people that are in shuttle, then how would you ever get around to these places? So it was definitely weird in the fact that it was very exclusive events. And like luckily a couple of my friends that played football were in frats. And I know girls that we hung out with were friends with these guys and stuff like that. But it was never really ideal for athletes or football players, I guess, to be that just because we didn't really know people.
GOLDBERG: Would you say that these this Greek off campus life, be it lodges or off campus parties, do you think that was kind of running the social scene or did you find that there were a lot of other things to do?
JACOB: It was probably running the social scene at U of R, but I also ended up going downtown more like VCU side of campus because just because it was more of like inclusive, like culturally, it just made sense for me. Just now with people who, like, have similar interests or like it's more welcoming like me and my friends were going to VCU stuff more.
GOLDBERG: Can you describe what you mean by kind of more inclusive and welcoming, going, exploring that social scene?
JACOB: This is like the scene downtown was definitely more it was just more open, like it was like public clubs or bars. Anyone can get in as long as you have an ID. And it was a lot more people that were more diverse in backgrounds instead of just like traditional frat scene.
GOLDBERG: After Stephon explained to me what he saw the role of Greek life on campus and some other groups and organizations that make up the social landscape, I decided to ask him about the Princeton Review ranking, which we discussed in part one. As a reminder, the Princeton Review put out a list titled "Little Race/Class Interaction," and it says on the website, “based on how strongly students agree that different types of students interact frequently and easily at their schools.” So as a reminder, the University of Richmond was ranked 10th on this list and was ranked 4th on the list last year.
JACOB: Oh, yeah, that's not surprising at all, which I literally was laughing when you said I was like, wow, not surprising. I'm sure, I don't know how they found those numbers out. But, yeah, it's it's just because I just think the culture like- it's very exclusive. It's like if you're in life, like in the Greek life, you're in the business school, it's like very structured, like, OK, then you hang out with us and we go to the parties. You're outside of that norm. It's like it's really hard to get in. And like, sometimes people don't want to be in it. They just want to hang out and socialize like if athletes were to host these sort of events. Anyone can go. It's just like we don't have the time to host events like everybody else does. Yeah.
GOLDBERG: It had become apparently clear that in Stephon’s view, Greek life had a major role in the social scene at Richmond. When I asked him a little bit about the makeup of the people on the football team, which is the largest athletic team on campus, he explained that it was a very geographically, racially and socioeconomically very diverse roster and group of players and included very different- there were players very different from himself. So I decided to ask him if he recalled maybe some of his teammates experiences or views or if or if they had similar attitudes that he had been describing to me.
What do you, what do you remember hearing about from your teammates? Like you just mentioned, that there were other guys that had, whether it was public school or maybe just different areas, were used to being the majority. Maybe their high school was predominantly Black, a lot of athletes, what do you remember hearing from them about the climate of campus?
JACOB: It was tough for them because I don't think they knew how to communicate with people that weren’t like them. And I think people also didn't know how to communicate with them either. So it was just like, I don't want to say it clashed, but it just like wasn't really an ideal fit. But I feel like me personally, I know that I could talk to anybody regardless of their race, but people might have had trouble talking to me. But I know that, like, I could feel comfortable going out of my way to say something. But the guys on the team who didn't come from that background, it was definitely challenging. And they kind of, usually would tend to themselves way more or like go back home or they had a they had a time struggling on campus.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Were you seeing that out of any of your white teammates too, or did it seem like it was pretty much just Black players?
JACOB: It was mostly Black players. I feel like the white players could get along on campus pretty fine.
GOLDBERG: Earlier you mentioned you said you had some teammates that were in fraternities, too, at the same time as being on the team, right?
GOLDBERG: And, were all of them white? Were any of them any Hispanic, Asian, Black?
JACOB: One was Black. There was one Black guy in a frat.
GOLDBERG: Was he it was a Black frat or was he just in a standard fraternity?
JACOB: Standard fraternity. But where he came from, he also was at the same area for me as Maryland, and he went to a predominantly white school as well. His whole career. You know, like before Richmond. So he was kind of used to it.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, kind of similar to you had had experience with that before.
GOLDBERG: Lastly, I asked Stephon what he thought about the school's role and the social experience of its students and its campus community. He told me that they need to know what's happening in their campus community, implying as if they're unaware of certain things. So I asked him to clarify what things he was speaking about, that he felt maybe the school wasn't really aware of.
JACOB: The experience for minorities on campus isn't the same experience socially as it is for white people on campus, because just because of the social events that are happening are mostly with white people. So it's just like it's just not the same. But there aren't as many diverse things happening on campus.
GOLDBERG: Our next conversation is with the current junior and member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Quinn Humphrey.
QUINN HUMPHREY: Hi, I'm Quinn Humphrey. I'm a junior at the University of Richmond. I am a male. I'm white. And I'm, I'm in Lambda Chi Alpha.
GOLDBERG: Quinn grew up in Pelham, New York, a suburb of New York City in Westchester County. It's a small town, and he said that there were about 200 students in his graduating class and that both the town and the school are overwhelmingly white. Quinn didn't know many people who went here before attending U of R, and he described having little knowledge of what the social dynamics were, particularly regarding Greek life.
HUMPHREY: I do remember specifically because I've reflected on this in the past. During my tour, someone asked about Greek life and the social scene, and the tour guide completely dodged the questions like, “Oh, Greek life is doesn't dominate social life. Greek life is a factor in social life, but it doesn't control what you can and can't do. Like we have the city of Richmond. People go out there all the time, there are other clubs and activities you can join.” But yeah, that kind of that one point that she made stuck with me just because of the fact that, like, looking back three years later, I can tell that that was, and pardon my French, but that was complete bullshit. But like, yeah, that was that was my general first impression of Richmond walking on.
GOLDBERG: So, so you mentioned there how obviously and know all colleges are going to do it. Of course they want to highlight the good things and, you know, leave out the bad aspects. And like you mentioned on the tour, kind of, you know, didn’t necessarily blatantly lie, but wasn't exactly painting the most accurate picture about the social landscape and Greek life’s role. So, so it doesn't sound like that schools, whether it's Richmond or other schools, are really telling a lot about this at all, that a lot of their sessions kind of are focused on the academics and the resources they have and things. Looking back, now that you've been in school for for over two years and you said you went back and you didn't really have expectations coming in of the social landscape and that maybe you learned some new things. Looking back, what do you think would have been the most important aspects to know about a university and making that decision? Meaning do you think that knowing the social landscape is the most important, knowing the academics is the most important, sports? Well, how would you kind of value those different factors, looking back on it?
HUMPHREY: Yeah. Well, I definitely would have, I think, appreciated like an honest response, and I know, like I said before, I appreciate the fact that Richmond’s marketing and high school recruitment kind of vibe was very relaxed and not formal as other schools I've been to. But I think if they had addressed that question said, like, “Yeah, Greek life is a pretty fundamental part of social life. Like there are other things you can do besides Greek life to still be active and have friends and have a social life. But like Greek life is a big pillar of that.” And it probably wouldn't have swayed my decision, but I would have then come in in my freshman year knowing exactly like what what dominated the social stratosphere. Like if if I if I went to this school and I, I mean, I was lucky. I was fortunate enough to become a part of it, but. Like the I- if I got- But no, I do think that if I was aware of the social scene, then I would have had to think a little bit more about my decision. Just because you can't plan for contingencies like you, just things are going to happen under your control and you don't really know what's around every corner. But I think having all the information, like honest, 100 percent information from the source is something that isn't really valued that much in the college recruitment process. Like, yeah, every school is going to hype up their admissions, every school is going hype up their enrollment stats like, oh, we have X percentage of these students, like we have a number of international students like that. Like, that’s all important, those statistics are what universities thrive off of and that's what draws students in.
But at the same time, students are committing four years of their life, a lot of money to come to your campus and live there. So I think it's important, I think emphasizing like what the social dynamic is on campus at that time that it's students coming on is very important because then they're aware of, “Hey, if I'm not if I'm not in this particular group, then I have to account for the fact that I may not be going out as much as I thought or I may not, like, have the friends I thought I would have.” Yeah, I like just understanding the social aspect I think was the biggest- is is one of the biggest things that colleges don't really want to acknowledge but should because it affects everyone.
GOLDBERG: Obviously it sounds like to you it's pretty clear that Greek life plays a major role in the social landscape. Maybe if you could just touch upon, you already kind of went over Greek life. But obviously there's other groups on campus besides frats and sororities. There's different clubs, sports teams. Could you maybe just kind of talk about the various groups of people that make up the social landscape, where these different groups, you know, what they're doing, where they're hanging out, whether it’s a lodge or a party who they're hanging out with, those factors.
HUMPHREY: Yeah. And when I say that Greek life is kind of the dominant social influence on campus, I don't mean that groups on campus aren't going out and aren't doing their own thing. I'm just unaware of that because, like my experience has been so grounded in Greek life, like everyone I- most people I know are in Greek life. So that's kind of the people that I'm interacting with. But I don't know. Say what? Like, I don't know the golf team or whatever other team I'm not a part of is doing on their weekends. Like, I don't know what they're up to, but like I'm in a cappella with a bunch of kids who aren't in Greek life and are happy. Like, there was a kid in my- there was a junior when I got here, Charles Simmonds, who's not in Greek life at all, but had plenty of friends in a couple of fraternities, and he made it work. And he the example that I was looking to, if it didn't work out for me, how could I still go out and have this fun life that he seemed to be living in college and make that work.
But I know plenty of other groups on campus that have been doing stuff. I know ultimate frisbee is a huge draw for kids that don't go into Greek life. And I was a part of ultimate frisbee my freshman year and I, I had a blast like it was fun. But I mean, I got sick, I left the team and that was kind of my ultimate frisbee career. But I don't regret the time I spent on team. I had a lot of fun. I was able to meet some guys I'm still friends with today. Octaves even too like, Octaves is a pretty small group, like we don't really throw wild parties and stuff like that, but we're pretty tight with the other a cappella groups on campus and it's fun every now and again to get together and throw like a a group party or a joint like merger or like a sing off type of like a Pitch Perfect-type of party, stuff like that, even though parties like that don't exist. But there are plenty of other things going on on campus, it's just, I don't necessarily know when and where they're happening and if they don't run within like my like zone, I don't know what I don't see them happening. So I'm not like- I can't really comment on how they're happening if that makes sense.
GOLDBERG: While Quinn wasn't entirely sure of what Greek life's role would be prior to coming to campus, he ultimately did decide to pledge Lambda Chi. I talked with him about that decision and maybe try to gain some insight into why so many students are attracted to these organizations.
You know, you said you weren't really sure on maybe what role was coming in, but obviously, you got there and it’s something that you did decide to join. You know, what kind of went into that decision for you when you were freshman about, you know, did you want to join right away? Did you have to think about it? You know, kind of how to do end up making that decision?
HUMPHREY: Well, I didn't really think about it that much, I kind of realized as soon as I got to campus, like I think a fraternity is where I want to be, and it also helped that my dad was a fraternity guy in college. And throughout my childhood, I would always tell me a story here and there about something he and his buddies that I have met got into in like crazy stuff they did. So I always looked up to that like 30 years out of college, like the stories you can tell people or the stories you can last out with old friends. Like I'll remember when we did this or I remember when this happened, like things along those nature and. It just seemed like fun to me, it just seemed like a worthwhile venture to pursue. I mean, like I didn't join a fraternity just so I could tell stories 30 years down the line, I joined because I want to, like, find a group of people, a group of guys that I really clicked with. And I'm happy I did. But when I got to campus, I didn't have to think about it much. I knew I wanted to join a fraternity pretty quickly, but I thought I knew what fraternity I wanted to join. But that didn't work out. And I'm lucky that I found a group of guys that were willing to kind of look overlook that and see that I still had stuff to offer. You know, you said part of it, too, is obviously, you know, finding a group that you clicked with.
GOLDBERG: And that's pretty much the case for why anyone joins a group. It's, you know, people that you have shared interest with and things, you know, what kinds of people would you say are I'm not going to say Greek life, I will just say in your fraternity. Are there a lot of people that are from your home community like Westchester, are there a lot of maybe in-state Virginia students, athletes?
HUMPHREY: Yeah, well, it's all over, it's I mean, like when I got your freshman year, I thought everyone was from Westchester because everyone I was meeting was like literally a 20-minute drive from my hometown.
GOLDBERG: It feels like that sometimes.
HUMPHREY: It really feels like that. Upper East Coast is where the school is from. Yeah, but yeah. So there's people from all over in Lambda Chi specifically, like we have brothers from California. We had brothers from like the Massachusetts area, we have brothers from Florida. We've had we've had some international brothers in the past. Yeah, and it's not it's not just like your stereotypical fraternity like douche, so to speak, when you think of a fraternity, I think of like a lazy schmuck sitting on like a lawn chair, drinking a beer on like a darty kind of thing. But Lambda Chi isn't that like the people in this fraternity are people that are driven and they're people that are smart, they know what they want or they're figuring that out in their time here and they're involved in all sorts of things. Like we had a brother who went through Marine Corps training this summer and is just he's just someone I look up to. He's very disciplined. He's adamant in what he believes. Chester, who disaffiliated during the Abolish Greek Life movement was- is is the president of the Octaves and is also involved in a bunch and is also part of ultimate frisbee. I was sad to see him go, but I was happy that he figured out what he wanted to do. But yeah, brothers in the fraternity aren't just like stagnant. They aren't twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the next party to happen. We're actively involved in different clubs, groups, organizations. It's it's a very diverse group of guys.
GOLDBERG: With some background from Stephon on his relationship with Greek life as a football player, I wanted to get Quinn's perspective on how he saw that relationship from the other side of it.
HUMPHREY: Yeah. So it's it's tricky because when I first joined a fraternity, like when you first joined fraternity, like you, that's all you care about. Like you're like there's a brotherhood of guys. Like, I would like take a bullet for these guys. I love this brotherhood. Like I love everyone. Your show, fraternity proud, your so into, like any way you're so invested and you're like, looking forward to the next your next few years.
But and my dad told me that as you get older, your investment and your dedication of the group kind of wanes by the time you're a senior. Doesn't matter what fraternity you're in, you're all kind of in the same boat. You're all seniors looking for jobs. It's just you ran in different circles and now everyone's kind of coming together. And I've noticed that a lot this year. Like, I live with three seniors and we've had brothers from all the fraternities come over like cook dinner, have a barbecue, just chill. You know, guys, I wouldn't have hung out with a lot of freshman or sophomore year. I'm getting to know a lot now.
I'm thankful for that because, I mean, I think I think being friends with other fraternities, especially if someone is in a fraternity, being friends with other fraternities, is important, because I don't think that limiting yourself to just your brotherhood is is a wise choice because you don't know what they might do in twenty years if you want to or what your situation is going to be. But like we we've we've tried branching out to different fraternities before. In the past, we've run crawfish boil with KA. That was kind of like our joint fraternity party that happened like once a year. That was our big like hurrah, showing that we're friends, but it pretty much dwindled down to like the guys hanging on their group and the KA guys hanging out in their group and the Lambda Chi guys hanging out in theirs, and intermingling here and there. But yeah, we haven't had much experience like doing like interfraternity relations and stuff like that. But that's that's going to I think that's going to change in the future just because, like, our younger guys are sophomores especially and like my class are pretty good friends with a handful of guys and a bunch of different fraternities. So we're looking to change that, looking to get more involved. Definitely together, we think. I mean, I've I've thought for a while that it's better to be friends than constantly bickering over who's throwing what party on this weekend rather than just saying, like, "Oh, hey, like, you guys can come to this party like we're throwing or whatever. It's not a big deal." Like if we're friends with each other, we shouldn't be fighting about stuff that small.
But in terms of sports teams and our relationships with them, like. I know, I know, I know the lacrosse team has been does a lot of stuff with like other fraternities likes to Sig Chi, or former Sig Chi, or SAE, or whatever their titles are now, but like, they've they've done stuff in the past. Like they're they they usually do intermingling with fraternities just because like they're so busy with their schedule, they don't really have time to run like an actual fraternity stuff. But again, I don't really know because I’m not on the lacrosse team, but this is just kind of stuff I've heard and seen throughout the years. But in terms of Lambda Chi, like, we haven't really done much with sports teams, like we’d love to do stuff with sports teams. We think that sports teams at Richmond are great. And it's it's. It's sad, I mean, like we I feel like we could totally do some fun stuff with them and like really like show that we value that we value the effort they put into the their team and stuff like that. But things are definitely changing because like COVID, I didn’t know how it would affect this semester. And it's actually- some good things that have come out of it. Some of our sophomores are really close now with a bunch of basketball players because they live on the same floor. So they've gotten to know them really well. A couple of our members started a spikeball club last year. That's really blown up. It's got a lot of attention from freshmen especially. And I mean, even what Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden were playing a couple of rounds with a few of our guys, which was fun because they were just talking smack at each other like old buddies. But it's it's good to see that, like, the people that we've given bids you in this fraternity are making the most of it and really trying to branch out and make their circles besides just the fraternity. Yeah, I do think that the relationship between returns and sports teams are changing, I think for the better, because I do I think that this kind of exclusion-istic is like “you're not part of a fraternity, like you can't party with us mentality sort of fading out.”
GOLDBERG: Stephon mentioned he spent a lot of time downtown and by VCU, a sentiment that will be echoed from two more Black football players following this conversation. But Quinn's perspective also gave some insight into it as an alternative for other students besides just minorities and just student athletes. For many of these students, it still wasn't enough.
HUMPHREY: I think the like the downtown life and going downtown, it's a natural response to Greek life because of this exclusive social factor that it draws in. And I can see I can relate especially like to people that don't join Greek life or get cut from Greek life, like. Once you get a taste of that world, like once you see yourself in that and once you visualize yourself in the network for the next three years, being part of that culture like. It's really hard to find something else like, I remember my freshman year, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I think I thought I knew who my friends were. I thought I knew all this stuff. And then I just had the door shut in my face and everyone I knew kind of just like turned their back on me and didn't really associate with me anymore. And it was like the worst feeling, I remember, I was just so depressed for a couple of days. I just I because I had no idea what the next three years would hold.
It's it's really depressing to think about. But a lot of a pretty common thing that happens with a bunch of people that get cut from Greek life, like guys that are so invested in trying to get a bid, guys that can't see themselves doing anything else. If they get cut from a fraternity they really want to join and they don't see any alternative they'll transfer and leave the school because they know that Greek life dominates their social life that they're interested in pursuing and, if they don't want to join a fraternity or if they don't really see themselves fitting in anywhere else, they'll leave the school because they know that their future social life will be so inhibited by it.
GOLDBERG: I wanted to go back to Quinn on some of the changes and improvements he'd seen in relationships on campus, especially with how COVID has changed the community. Expanding on his earlier points, he also gave an introspective take on the Abolish Greek Life movement on campus.
Well, I think that was a big factor in a lot of the changes that we're seeing now. I do think that the Abolish Richmond Greek Life movement, although I may not agree with some of the points they've made, has been necessary and helpful for pointing out the flaws of Greek life overall. The account I remember I remember seeing the first post who was like, "OK, this is going to go one of two ways." It's either going to actually be productive and make change or just going to spark a riot and fizzle out, and I was worried that it would just turn into a witch hunt and at a time for part of it, I thought it did. I thought some of the things that were being posted on that were just. They couldn't be vetted and it was just a he said she said kind of deal and that I don't think that was the intention that the create- that the original creators of the account had.
But I think COVID was the main driving force for a lot of this change that we're seeing now, a lot of the acknowledgment of the flaws of Greek life and a lot of the reason why people are so adamant about coming forward now and wanting to change. And I don't blame them, like there are problems in Greek life. I'm not denying that at all. Like there are. There's so many things you could say wrong with Greek life and. Like the social exclusivity factor, although it's like a main draw and that's the reason why people want to join Greek life, I do think it could be eased just to make it so that even if you're not in a fraternity, you're still welcome to partake in events and be friendly. As long as you are like a normal person, you're not causing problems for the fraternity, not being a liability. But I think that with everyone kind of being restricted, and I think another huge point for a lot of the like- reevaluating social scene is lodges not happening this year. Lodges were a huge thing for fraternities and like it was the weekly thing where everyone was like, “All right, we're going to lodges. Like, let's get ready. Like, what are we wearing? Like what we like, what we do before? Like, what lodge are we going to go to? Like, oh, my friends in this lodge! This one is like not that good. This one's pretty good.” It's good, it's fun. And it was just a huge, like preparation in the middle of the week. Like everyone's saying that like, "Oh, what's going like what's the lodge going to be like, oh, what music are going to play?" Like so many things going into it. And it was just kind of this influx of just like, you get in or you don't. And and it was it was a huge problem for us because when the Abolish Greek Life page started, like a lot of the complaints were about fraternities, like deliberately excluding people based off like their sexuality, their race, their gender.
And in my experience, at least, that's just not been the case because like, yes, from where someone on the outside is sitting. I can totally see why they would say that and why they would think that, like, oh, a generic looking white dude is saying, "I can't come in because I'm Black" or oh, I'm in or "Oh, I have different political affiliations than him." But those restrictions were put on us by the school. Like we didn't have a choice when it came to that. And that's in large part to the lodge system. I know that's a common defense of Greek life and people that say lodges were a huge thing. But I mean, from from where I've been sitting and where I've been behind the scenes, that's exactly what it was like. I remember when lodge list system was announced, we were freshmen. People were worried about all these different things happening, like sexual favors, things like that. And what ended up happening was the school, we would either face backlash from the school or backlash from people. And backlash from the school with fines, with restrictions, lodges getting taken away, stuff like that. And the process of swiping people in the school could keep tabs on what we were doing. And look, we made exceptions and we did what we can to get as many people in the lodge as possible. That being said, there were police officers sitting outside every night that would keep tabs on us and make sure that we were following the rules and if we broke them, we got in more trouble with the school than we did with the people. So by turning people away, it was it was it was us guaranteeing that we could have another party next week and maybe maybe let those people in, like we didn't know. So. I think with lodges being abolished or canceled for now, that kind of made people realize, like, OK, we don't have this massive build up coming at the end of the week. We don't have this social pressure to go out and try and get in and probably get rejected. Mm hmm. What do we do now? What are we going to do on Fridays? Like what is our big thing on Fridays to do? And I think that is kind of forced people to adapt and find their own like inner groups that they can have fun with on Friday without needing to go get hammered at the lodge and get probably hurt or rejected. I think that has been a big change and flux for people.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, it's maybe you want to expand on this, but but as you mentioned, you know, and they're certainly are fair criticisms of lodge in both Greek life’s role and the like you said, that was a big factor is the lodge list. And some of the interviews I've done in with past minorities and athletes is that, you know, in situations that they saw as racially kind of contentious, all of those situations, regardless of whether they would blame the school or whether they blame the frat, all the situations were situations that happened because they needed to be on the list to get into the lodge. There weren't really a lot of stories of people going to a house party or something like that where there were these issues. It was really all centered around lodges. What do you think that, you know, could that be a do you see realistically, you know, having this fall where you're kind of getting a semester without lodges and experimenting with it, do you think realistically that there could be a major change brought about to the lodge system by the school or potentially even, whether getting rid of it or replacing it? Could you see something happening with that look?
HUMPHREY: Yeah, I think lodges, there needs to be reformed to it because the system they had before weren't working and it was just it was just slowly stirring this pot of frustration, anger that I think a lot of students have spoken out about and talk about now. And I knew that was coming. I knew that I was going to come at some point because I've learned I've worked lodge risk multiple times. I've worked the table. I've swiped people in. And I felt like a dick every time. I felt like such an asshole turning away these people because they would show up with all their friends and they'd ask they were if they swipe, their name wouldn't come up. And my obligation as a risk person is to make sure everyone is safe and that we are following rules. And I'd be like, look, I can't let you in. I'm sorry. Like, you're not on the list. The problem with that then is, if if a group of people want to go to a lodge and have never been, who want to see what it's like, they don't know anyone in the fraternity and they're looking to meet people, they can't do that because they don't know anyone in the fraternity that will let them in. So I think the lodge list system originally had good intention of keeping tabs on how many people were in a lodge or what was going on, stuff like that. I think it has devolved into just a general restriction that doesn't need to be there and is causing more problems than it is doing good on.
I mean, I'm sure you've heard stories from seniors or people, alums, that have graduated, about how fun lodges were before the restrictions came in. How there were no kind of lists or regulations. I mean, regulation is a strong word, but just kind of inhibitors on how people can move about the old the parking lots, row, basically. And from where I was sitting as a freshman who never experienced that, that sounded great because you could you could spend an hour in one lodge, get to know the guys in the fraternity, like make connections and go to another and have a completely different experience and see a different environment entirely and. I think we should go back to a system like that where people are not restricted based on who they know in a fraternity, and if or if not, they're on a list because like most people didn't like- people didn't really want to follow the list at all because it was just bad, because people wanting to come into our lodge when there was space inside, like we couldn't make that happen. And I get it. There are like there's a capacity that has to be followed. There's stuff like that. But I don't think that should be an inhibitor for or a catalyst for all this stuff that's happening. I think just the simple solution of just like, oh, I'm going to this lodge let me swipe, oh that lodge now. Oh, when I leave I’ll swipe out so they know I left, like, a simple system like that just to keep track of people makes sense. But a system that in essence, is the main cause of this exclusionary view of Greek life, I think is the main reason why lodges were so toxic in terms of social integration.
GOLDBERG: Quinn speaks on the divisiveness of the lodge system, where fraternities are required to have students swipe their I.D. cards to get into the lodges so that the school can keep track of who enters. Quinn also found that campus this past fall, when leaders were not active because of the COVID pandemic, was significantly less exclusive, at least in his eyes.
Our next conversation features a familiar voice, Jamal Bevels, who you heard in part one. As I mentioned, Jarmal is a former football player at the University of Richmond who, like Stephon, also graduated in 2018.
BEVELS: OK, so how about this. I grew up an hour north of Richmond. Yeah, I lived right outside D.C. and then I grew up in a small town called Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is it's a it's a it's a city that is 10 square miles, has a lot of old money. George Washington grew up there. There’s a university called Mary Washington. There's a lot of old money there. I went to a public high school. About a thousand kids total that. And it was about as black and white as it is. I mean, like it was with like, you know, a lot- for some odd reason, a lot of the whiter crowd would go to like Fredericksburg Academy, or Fredericksburg Christian School. These private schools, as soon as high school hit, they would come to me, you know, my school, James Monroe for like sports are just like it was a pretty popular high school. Yeah, no, I mean, it kind of like the show Riverdale, like we had like everyone's involved in the school and like, you know the school like is the town, like high school football and all that good stuff. All the football players there, but all me growing up seeing black and white, so like my dad’s side majority Black, mom’s side is all white. I got to see like and be exposed to like, you know, basically like America and whole, if you like, dumbed down to a small sample size, like my family for example.
GOLDBERG: I'm sorry. Did you say your mom side is white and your dad's side was Black?
BEVELS: Yeah, exactly. And I mean about as white as it can get. Like, you know my mom’s side, the majority of them were basically racist, racist bigots. My mom's aunts, like and my grandma was pretty accepting though. And my dad and my dad side of the family. I mean, like, I never had any problems. A lot of my cousins and stuff have, like, interracial relationships. They were about as Black as it gets too man. Like, Section 8, you know all that stuff was in that side of the family.
And then it was kind of the same idea in high school was like, you know, I mean, like we got like the richer white kids, the inner city poorer Black kids. But me, I dated this girl in high school. Her name was --. She was a freshman. I was a sophomore when we started dating. But she told me, you know, like a lot of the other girls, that she wasn’t allowed to date me because I was Black. So we kind of dated under the table. Her parents found out one day, and like threatened to send her back to private school. And, you know, all that stuff. And like her family basically called the principal, say, “Hey, we don’t approve of this relationship" and he didn’t give a reason, but they said they don't approve of it. We weren’t allowed to see each other at school. And all that stuff was a big drama around the town. And I kind of like we dated honestly all through school. And you know, I wasn’t allowed to take her to prom, I wasn’t allowed to take her to homecoming. Yeah I know dude, crazy.
And I was like my first, it was like my first encounter with like racism, it’s like at me, yeah, directly before me. You know, we eventually broke up because of it, you know, like it was just like I mean, it just, that was that was kind of like my town. She wasn't the only girl that wasn't allowed to date like a Black dude. Like like like that wasn't such an outlandish thing to hear about. No it was not an outlandish thing. That was kind of like the norm. Like now that I'm older, and I was like, I think about that stuff, it’s just like kind of ridiculous like that. It doesn’t surprise me with stuff that goes on today, like, you know, the fact that it happened when I was in high school, so it was like 2010-2014.
GOLDBERG: So and I'm sure that's had a lasting effect on you like I can’t even- That's got to be something you think about all the time.
BEVELS: Yeah, you know, like my girlfriend now she's from the same hometown, and her parents are kind of like so I guess the black sheep families of our small town in that they are extremely liberal. She at the time I mean, we date now, but at the time she was like kind of like my best friend, where she kind of helped me through that stuff, and so did her family and luckily having like a you know, I mean, at one point I thought everybody was who was white was racist, I won’t lie to you, unfortunately. But I mean, not anymore.
GOLDBERG: Was that, growing up with that and in dealing with those things in that community, did that then when you were looking at colleges and getting out, was that a thing where it's like, I need to get away from an environment like this, like this is fucked up? Or was it more did you almost kind of just learn to cope and and become desensitized? Because because Richmond like as a school, it sounds kind of similar to that.
BEVELS: No, not even it is. It is. It is actually. I wish I would have had that mentality. I kind of thought it was just like, this is America.
GOLDBERG: The contrast of the presence of race in Stephon’s description of his home community versus Jarmal’s of Fredericksburg was quite stark. I decided to then ask Jarmal, as I had with everyone, what some of his expectations would be of the social scene, and he pretty quickly dove into some difficulties he faced once he actually arrived on campus.
BEVELS: You know parties and all that good stuff in my freshman year, like we weren't able to get into frats or anything because they were frustrated and all that good. So it was really difficult. So we spent a lot of time at VCU.
GOLDBERG: Like even from your freshman year?
BEVELS: Freshman year, yeah. So I got like in the city of Richmond in and we kinds, me being an hour north, a lot of my friends from the area who are still in D.C. So I kind of like lived a double life in a sense there. And looking back, I didn't even like like put that into consideration like it was kind of like, if you want to escape or you have to look like an HBCU like whether you name a school, Alabama, Auburn, Temple, you know what I'm saying. You maybe Old Dominion, maybe Old Dominion would be a little different, JMU, all that stuff, you know all these, it's kind of there regardless. Unless you like specifically think of HBCUs.
GOLDBERG: What do you think that did you find that a lot of your teammates were kind of like you said, that you almost had to live like this double life where you were pretty much socializing down at VCU? I'm not really even part of this, like Richmond frat social scene. Do you find that a lot of your other teammates were also kind of experiencing the same thing?
BEVELS: Yeah, I mean, without a doubt we would say things, like “Oh it’s wack here, it’s wack here," just because it like we didn’t really fit in. It was a kind of bubble and things that I guess the non-athlete kids enjoy. We couldn’t be a part of it, you know, say what it's like if it's a party off campus, it was like a frat or a social party. And if it's something like a club, it's more likely like a social or, you know what I mean. So we all have our own feelings. A lot of people would just like disassociate with the University of Richmond, which it's like, “Oh, I hate it here. Like, why can't we be more like other schools.”
GOLDBERG: So do you have a specific experience with Greek life or anywhere else in the Richmond social scene that stands out to you that was memorable for good or bad?
BEVELS: Yeah, I’ll never forget it man...It was my junior year and me and my boys on the football team were heading to a lodge. It was the uh, I’m sorry I forget which fraternity it was, but we got prepped and planned to go to this lodge. And we knew how lodges work. So we would just, you know go in small groups, get there super early on, we won’t be as fucked up when we get there. I mean, that's kind of how me and my small group of friends did. Some other group of football players didn’t give a damn, obviously it was too big a team to control everybody. But we’d get there and like one of my hallmates my freshman year, I lived in Marsh Hall, his name is --, my boy, like, we were really like we had this we were in the same orientation group, two doors down the hall. We’d party and hangout. My junior year, I want to say he was not president but treasurer or something high up where he had control of this lodge that night. And we get there, me and -- were boys, because we had some classes together, and we get there and he's not out there yet.
But we get to the front desk and we have to swipe in and they're just like, “You guys aren’t allowed in, you guys are football players.” And we’re like “Aw, like come on man.” At that point, it was kind of like, not a big deal. We're like aw shit. And then like --, some other white football players are walking in and we’re like damn you ain’t stop them. They're they're football players too. And they're like, “Oh, wait, we didn't know” and they were white, and they assumed that we were football players. I was like, it makes sense.
GOLDBERG: So you think you think they may have honestly mistaken and just assumed that they just saw they were white and probably didn't think they were football. They just like. You don't think they were consciously saying white football players can come but Black guys aren’t. But they were assuming that you were a football player because of it.
BEVELS: Exactly yeah, yeah. I definitely give them that. We gave them the benefit of the doubt. Yeah. But it was just like, “like come on man, you clearly just racially profile us at least.” And I'm saying like yes for all you know, we could have not been- I was like what if a Black kid came up here and he wasn’t a football player. And they still let them in. Like -- was let in, you know, he’s the starting quarterback, blah blah blah. And then you know the police showed up and all that stuff. It was just a huge, big ordeal where you know we were just like, I mean they made some other comments too, like "Look, you guys are big dudes, you guys have your shirt off, you guys about to take all the women like we just can't let you in." Like, trying to be nice. Yeah. But like, “Bro, that's not helping your case” like.
So, I mean, it was definitely a situation that got pretty heated, even though the white football players came out of the lodge. It was like a little over 11 or 12 of them you know what I mean, like they’re already in there, like do you see this, it's like he's on the team, he’s on the team. He didn’t stop this, I was like you guys are just looking for the Black dudes. If it was like he was really looking for football players, he wouldn’t have let these guys in, but like you see Black dudes on the football team, and automatically think they’re trouble. So even the police officers came up and were like, you know, you know, "We don't- we know this is the problem, but there's nothing we can do about it. They lease them from them from the school or something along the lines of that. They have control." Then they're like, we’re like "We don't want to go anymore. We're just trying to make a point." Then -- came out and I was like, "-- we been boys for a long time." And I was like, "Oh yeah we can't come in?" And he was like "I’m sorry fellas but we can't allow football players in." And you know he was kinda like uh... And it was just like a moment where you can be friends with somebody, but like in reality, I mean, it's not like it’s not going to change anything."
GOLDBERG: So so obviously, you said the police showed up, so what followed this this kind of event, both how to as a team, I'm sure this must have been something you guys talked about after? Did the school get involved? What happened after?
BEVELS: The school got involved, like they did a little semi-investigation because, the coach kind of a talked about it with the team. It was like, you know, "Just don't go there anymore. Like, you know, you won't have any problems.” And it was kind of what we always did like that's lodges. If we were going to show up to one that was going to be the one. But, you know, they did the investigation. A lot of the Collegian reporters came and interviewed a lot of guys, some guys said no, some guys said yes, you know. It was a thing but like think about all the times that University of Richmond -- these things happen, like even bigger things, even worse things, like someone writing n****r on the door, you know what I mean.
GOLDBERG: This happened last year, last semester.
BEVELS: Exactly and it blows over. You know, the police officer told me like, "this happens year after year after year after year and nothing changes," you know what I mean?
BEVELS: So and then that was just like, the thing was like this just this guy's like it's got going on with your life. Like nothing's going to change. Nothing you can do all the protests, even bringing in a Black president to the campus isn’t going to change like the culture like that.
GOLDBERG: How how would you describe your relationship with Greek life when you were a student at Richmond?
BEVELS: Oh, man, it was it was tough, dude. Like, you know, I had some friends in sororities, you know sororities were a little bit different, obviously, because they were they were girls and they didn't seem as much more as a-and don’t get me wrong. Was definitely a lot of girls going all the way to --. But, you know, there's clearly like a dynamic that goes along just like you want to call it, alpha males, the beta males. So fraternities in itself dealing with football. You know, a lot of people see us as we used to consider ourselves a fraternity, and, you know in quotations, we were a group of guys, you know, they go through a recruiting process like we go through one, whether it’s the coach selecting us, or so on.
But it's like fraternities man, we were just like, well, you know, when I was going, there you go. We have orientation with the players, not even coaches, not the school. The older players would tell us like, you know, stay away from this fraternity. This fraternity is all right. But for me to just, like, be careful, you know, we've gotten in brawls and fights with them in the past, you know, just stay away from it. So, like, even going there, we kind of just like were you want to call it, indoctrinated into this, just like we we we necessarily don't like the frats and they don't like us. So like try to stay away.
But like, you know, like I said, freshman year my friend --, he was you know, we all get there as freshmen and nobody's in a fraternity, at least like the you know, the kids there. And we become friends. Like as you grow older, they get more into their friend groups and. Well, you know, you you will literally see a lot of them, like walk past you, like they don't even know you anymore, you know, so them stay cool like you, you will see like you this friendship that you have with them, just like start to distance itself from each other. So like, it was you know, it was just I'm not sure what it's like at other campuses but the University of Richmond, which is, you know, it's a small bubble. You are down there and it's like small town, small community where it's, you know, that's really it. Yeah, it's fraternities and athletics. And again and, you know, there's a bunch of, you know, maybe other clubs and other kids. The majority of the fraternity and sorority life out there, if you aren’t in one, you know it doesn't seem like they like anybody else outside of it. But yeah, that could just be my experience. That's kind of what it was like for me.
GOLDBERG: For obvious reasons, it's a lot less likely that an athlete is going to join a Greek organization than a non-athlete. I mean, they have, you know, significantly less time. They've got to be part of the team. They have really serious commitments. There were exceptions, however. There are multiple guys on the football team that were whether it was fully affiliated or as a social member, were affiliated in some capacity with Greek organizations. But it certainly wasn't the majority. Stephon had mentioned to me a teammate named --, who was also a Black student who had, as Jarmal described, joined a traditionally white fraternity. While -- declined to comment for this story, I asked Jarmal a little bit about how --, being in a fraternity like that, affected Jarmal's and the team's relationship with Greek life.
How did you guys how did you guys as a football team feel at the time about him being in SAE, both as a as a team where he's joining a different group and then also as a as a Black man at school?
BEVELS: Yeah, without a doubt dude. I'll keep that as blunt as possible. We would give him so much shit about it, like I mean, we would like go out of our way, I mean, purposely, because he knew- he would never fight back against it. But especially when he was rushing or whatever it is for the frats, you know he kind of ostracized himself, which he had to. I know you have to go through this whole process. You know, I know you guys spent a lot of time with your brothers and stuff like, you know, like so like when we would have, like, IM games specifically, you know, basketball would always have- I mean football would always have a basketball team, we had two or three teams. -- would always play with his frat. -- would never play with basketball [with us]. You know, we’d give him shit for that. “Oh, you always picking them over us, but like, you know, we’ll tell him, “You know, you know, you Black at the end of the day, man, like they not going to really pick you over us" and like so and looking back it’s kind of messed up but like it's a hard time, especially with all the stuff just going on now in like, especially because his fraternity in general at other universities like Georgia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, you know, kind of like their even their chance that they got exposed for on Twitter and he would stay in that same chapter. And again, not chapter, but, or fraternity. So we’d definitely give him shit about it.
But I can only imagine how difficult it was to be a Black man in a predominantly white fraternity, which has historic racist roots on how it was built and whatnot. But, you know, I mean, it’s his decision at the end of the day. I mean, -- comes from a predominantly white school, high school. He hung out with, like predominantly white kids when -- got to the team, his culture seem to be, you know, not much of like, of the Black culture, which it doesn't have to be like, you know, myself, you know what I’m saying, you know, there’s a lot of stuff I like that a lot of Black people wouldn’t even consider Black. You know, “Oh that’s white people stuff.” Which is unfortunate, but like it is a reality. So we kind of understand why he would like, I don't know, I guess felt comfortable with them. He kind of grew or whatever you want to call it. He was attracted to that lifestyle.
GOLDBERG: Did you feel at any point like he could have been an opportunity to kind of bridge that that gap between your team and Greek life?
BEVELS: Oh, yeah, without a doubt. When he first joined the fraternity we were like “oh yeah,” we’ll be walking in the parties like -- will vouch for us, like we’ll be good like messing around. Like, I honestly supported him like yeah bro that’s awesome, but also because we had some other guys on the team that were in like fraternities, like I think -- were, you know, these were all white guys. So it wasn't really unheard of to like be, but like --’s situation, obviously, like, you know, he was an outlier compared to everybody else. You know, we were we were like, oh, yeah, he’s going to bridge that gap. But like he kind of just like hung out with them more. I mean, me and --, we're cool to this day. We were cool then. We didn't really party together. He’s a different year than me. So it was a really big deal to me. You know, we thought he was going to bridge that gap, definitely like vouch for us. And, but that was not the case at all. I’m pretty sure they had a talk with him, then, you know things aren't changing. Yeah, things aren’t changing. Even though you're on the football team you’re cool. It's kind of like, you know, "I have a Black friend" and you know what I’m saying, that saying like, “Oh I got a Black friend but he’s a- he’s cool with me but it doesn’t mean I’m cool with all Black people.”
JOE MANCUSO: Hello?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, what's up, Joe?
MANCUSO: Hey, what’s good Noah.
GOLDBERG: I appreciate you taking my call, man.
MANCUSO: For sure bro.
GOLDBERG: I spoke with Joe Mancuso, who is entering his final season as the starting quarterback at U of R. He's originally from New Orleans and moved after Hurricane Katrina to Blairsville, Georgia, a small rural town with a population of only 620 people. He mainly came to the University of Richmond to play football, as well as its rigorous academics. He didn't have many expectations of what the social scene would look like before attending.
And so once you actually got there, what did the social like- How would you describe the social scene for, for instance, what kinds of, obviously you mentioned your teammates you know, what kinds of people and groups were you hanging out with? Where were you and your friends going? Like, where were you guys hanging out? What where did it seem that other groups, maybe groups you weren't a part of that seemed like they were hanging out with certain people and places?
MANCUSO: Yeah, yeah. So my freshman year coming into it was obviously we were hanging out with other football players. Well, players like basketball with basketball, we were kind of intermingled like the sports and athletic part of it. And we never really started to hang out, we never really hung out with, like regular students. It was kind of like the Greek life and regular students were kind of separated from the athletes. And so it wasn't, and so everybody was obviously, the first few weeks of school nobody knows anybody but it wasn’t until everybody started to like intermingle, that we would start to, I guess, hang out with, like the Greek life and hang out with other regular students and kind of get to know each other. So I guess the social life started at that point was intermingling with other, I guess, other people on campus.
GOLDBERG: Sorry when did you say that that started happening, that you guys were hanging out?
MANCUSO: After like a couple of weeks that people started to get to know each other. It it's always those first two or three weeks, where you just kind of like figuring out everybody and like nobody knows anyone as a freshman. And so you kind of have those conversations I like hi, nice to meet you or whatever, and you become friends. And so it's kind of like those athletes, you to say that to someone in Greek life or someone who's trying to be in a fraternity or sorority or whatever. And so you kind of become friends like that. And now it help you in the social scene like they would invite you to different events like parties or whatever they were doing. So fraternities. And then while also being on a team and doing like the group stuff that you do as a team, like whether it's going to get like Jack Brown’s or something, you have that social life as a football player, as an athlete or whatever. And, yeah, as an athlete like basketball. Yeah. And then you have that social life as a regular student and or life because you can definitely tell like the divisions in the social life at Richmond and so like but you can also see like where these students are trying to like intermingle with other groups of people, you know.
GOLDBERG: So like what kinds of places do you think you mentioned, like going out to eat at Jack Brown’s and stuff like on like a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, where like what kinds of places and things did you and your friends find yourself doing, whether that's lodges, off-campus parties, going down towards VCU to the bars, any of that stuff?
MANCUSO: Yeah, definitely. Like my freshman, sophomore year is more the lodges because that's that was the fraternities do a lot of parties on the weekends. So, like, that was what we were doing coming into college. That was just going to party on the weekends, but after that we were just I think different areas like we would go to is like VMFA sometimes on Fridays. That would be like a certain area, something like most people would go to. And that would just kind of be a cool place like, yeah and like going to eat. It was like different. Like obviously I was eating with my football team, but I would always see, like, fraternity groups and their, I guess friend group or whatever at that same restaurant or something or that social life would be kind of similar with some of the guys in there. But like with lodges and like that kind of stuff. Yeah, I was just definitely a freshman, sophomore thing. And then after that, it's kind of just more of like a downtown-type scene I’d say for social, you know, I'm saying it's just like, OK, it's really younger people, like you're older. It's kind of just weird for you to do that. OK, let's go downtown instead, you know, that kind of thing.
GOLDBERG: Do you think so? Was that true for most football players or just more for you and your friends, that kind of progression of junior year?
MANCUSO: Yeah, I mean, obviously, right. Since like all this recent racial stuff that's been going on here at Richmond has definitely opened up my eyes to like reflect on my experiences at Richmond and like my social scene and like dealing with like or identifying the race, like the hidden racism and in or at the parties that we would go to. And so, like looking back on those freshman and sophomore years, you see, like we go to these lodges, you get let in and some of your buddies don't get let it in. And like you're in there and then you just see that they're gone. Obviously, you leave, but like, why didn't they get in the first place? And like, I just thought about it and they were like, obviously sometimes, so football players didn’t have the best, like, the best, I guess, upstanding with the Greek life. Like they weren’t on the best terms sometimes with some of the fraternities. And so like some of the most of the times, when they wouldn’t get let in, it’s like “Oh it’s because we’re football players, like they obviously don't like us because we’re football players. But like as of recent, I had to reflect back on my experiences. And it's just like, oh, wait, like were all these guys Black that, like, got rejected from these, from these parties and it's like looking back, it's like, yeah, that was definitely what was happening. They say it was because like the football players, and it might have been, but there's definitely some type of hidden racism that I experienced but didn't recognize then at the time, though I definitely saw that, especially with the lodges and the parties, like early on in my freshman and sophomore year.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, definitely.
I think I don't know, maybe you probably remember I don't know if you were there or not, but I was talking to actually just talked to Jarmal Bevels last night on the phone, and he was telling me, I think there's a Collegian article about it, but it must have been 2017 or 2018 where there was that incident at the lodge where some football players, I think him and -- and some other guys didn't get let into a lodge. And he said, like -- into -- and about 10 or 11 other other guys that were white on the team had gotten in and they weren't let. It was a whole altercation. And then obviously, you know, --, -- come out and say, you know, “we're getting out of here”. I don't know if you recall that that incident at all or if you might have been at that lodge.
MANCUSO: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, you hear that. And you're like, these guys either are racist or are they just for some reason don't like Black athletes? Like, you know, it was just definitely a weird situation to hear about. And I'm not sure-- we experienced firsthand, just like, oh, wow. Like they’re literally separating us by race to get into this party. I guess it's a party like a party thrown pretty much by the school, honestly, like a lodge is pretty much funded by a school. Right. And so they are rejecting these students because they're Black and they think that they're just going to be like rowdy.
GOLDBERG: I found Joe's self reflection incredibly powerful. I hadn't asked him about race, but in just describing the different groups and dynamics on campus, he went to his recent self reflection, realizing he'd witnessed what he called hidden racism without realizing it at the time. Once again, he said he was witnessing this mostly at lodges and parties. Joe also made the interesting point about the school's direct oversight of these lodge events, so I asked him to elaborate on that.
So I think that's interesting. You mentioned particularly with the lodge, how that's sanctioned by the school and in somewhat the way even directly who gets into the lodges is directly regulated by the school. So I think a lot of that can trace back to them. How, how, whether you want to say it's accountable or their role, but how much does an instance like this fall on the school relative to maybe these fraternities and should they be doing things about it?
MANCUSO: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it falls on the school, like as I think they recently stopped the lodges just because of all this stuff that was going on. It was probably two years ago they stopped that. But that now is probably one of the reasons that people started to see, like the racism that these fraternities are showing, these Black students and Black athletes. And it's just like that definitely falls on a school and like educating the students about like racial trauma and like how Black people go through all these racist hidden racism and how they pretty much have to like this double conscious all the way through their college experience. And so, like, I think a lot of a lot of it falls on the school and like, educating the school and having the resources for Black students to go to because they experience a different type of reality than white people, you know. And so, yeah, I think a lot it, like a lot of it falls on the school, just being able to show these Black students that they are important and they are wanted at the school. And so just kind of like, oh, I’m going to sanction this event and like, oh, these people aren't even going to be able to get in because the people that are holding the event won't let them get in. You know what I'm saying.
GOLDBERG: You obviously talked a little bit about how football in particular that that team's standing with with Greek life was not not the best at times. You know, how would you, you know, and there were guys obviously on the team, you know, not a lot, but there have been guys that have played football that have been involved with Greek life in some capacity. What does that relationship with football and Greek life look like, in particular like the guys on the team that might have been in frats or social members?
MANCUSO: Yeah, and these fraternities that we're like we're talking about, like it's not all these guys are like racist, you know, like it's not every frat is, a fraternity is racist. Not every guy in that fraternity is racist. It just may be that point in time they did something they did and they might not have thought it was racist. And but it was, I guess, the hidden racism. But in regards to the guys on the team that have been in Greek life is like I think athletes and Greek life have a great relationship on campus. Like, I'm friends with some of the some of the fraternity, some of those frat guys on campus and some of the sorority girls on campus and it’s like, oh, these people are literally the same people, they’re just going to for school, just instead of to do athletic stuff. There’s definitely a good upstanding between athletes and fraternities, but it's different for me because I'm white. But if I was Black, how would they be treating me, you know, it’s something you question yourself. But like, I never I never would say that's one of my friends, my fraternity friends. You know, I'm saying it's never some conversation you'd have like, "Oh, would you be my friend if I was Black?" But like it’s something we have to talk about and something you have to, like, develop to make sure that, like, these people aren't racist and like they are, they want the betterment for all people, you know?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, definitely. So do you think that or would you describe football in particular relationships with Greek life? And I guess I'll say the greater social community, but particularly Greek life. Would you say that relationship is different than between different athletic teams in Greek life, such as whether it's baseball, track and field, lacrosse or any of those?
MANCUSO: Yeah, I mean, like there are guys, our team is such a big team compared to other teams on campus, so there's a lot of guys, a lot of different groups of friends that do different things on and on our team. You know, we're also like one team, but they definitely have their own groups of friends on the team that they hangout with outside of football. Right. And so, like some of these guys are are rushing and they're in a frat. And so, like, the standing with some of these guys are good because like we're friends with the guy who's in the frat, let’s go hang out with some of the fraternity guys and we've become friends like that. And so, like the the relationship, I guess, is different from other teams because there's just more players we have, and like sometimes that has been bad instances where football players haven't done, been doing something that's like rowdy. Like getting in trouble in school, like there's a stereotype about football players, like there’s a stereotype about everybody, but like there’s a stereotype about football players being rowdy and reckless. And sometimes that's shown in the past.
And so I guess like sometimes with Greek life, it's just in particular with Greek life is just different because they have a stereotype in their head with football players. And it is mostly football players like these big guys, rough and rowdy, whereas like that's just stereotypical to do, like it's not right to do. But it's like we have a great I think I think currently we have a good, upstanding most of the fraternities on campus just because with all the guys in the past that have been fraternities, you develop those relationships and obviously they see like you're not- like you are a normal person too.
GOLDBERG: So Joe describes what is clearly a complex relationship between the football team in Greek life at U of R. He acknowledges his personal relationship with Greek life could be certainly different than that of Black players and that football's reputation in particular can heighten the tensions. But he also believes most of the athlete community does have a good relationship with Greek life and that certain individuals actions don't necessarily embody that of the entire group which they belong to, both among Greek organizations and athletic teams.
Do you think in order to thrive in that kind of have a thriving social life at Richmond, that you need to join a fraternity or sorority if you're not on a sports team?
MANCUSO: No, absolutely not. I think fraternities and sororities are for certain people. I think if you if you're not an athlete, it's obviously like it's a personal choice if you wanted to do this. You don't want to do that and focus on a school night like it's different in that. It's like fraternities and sororities are like their own teams and like the other students are like separate from them because you'll see them in the cafeteria, like three class athletes, regular students. Right. You know, you always hear that coming through. It's like there's three separate, pretty much groups. And so I guess looking at that like, the other students, like you don't need to be in a fraternity or sorority to have like a good social life, because I think Richmond does a good job providing different things to do.
And and regions like Richmond, the city is just a great place to have like, be in college. You know, it's just a lot of things to experience outside of the school. And so you don't have to be in a fraternity or sorority experience those types of things.
GOLDBERG: Our penultimate conversation of this episode is with Dale Matthews, another Black football player who graduated in 2018 alongside Stephon and Jarmal. Dale was also at the lodge incident from their junior year that Jarmal had described. We begin our conversation with Dale establishing what his home community was like before coming to the University of Richmond.
DALE MATTHEWS: So I’m from PG County, Maryland, and it's probably about like 90, 95% people of color.
GOLDBERG: What do you say the name of the county is?
MATTHEWS: Prince George's County.
MATTHEWS: Yup. And so I- and so, yeah, obviously, like, well, growing up most of the people that I hung around with and went to school with were Black or someone of color. But I'd say around like middle school, I started playing lacrosse and I started to meet a lot of people that just didn't come from PG County but were from Maryland but just came from kind of different backgrounds. And it was really cool, like I love that. And I think it, without me knowing, it prepared me a lot for Richmond. I think it's more like, a lot of people at Richmond were somewhat similarity to the community of the people I had met playing lacrosse. I think there certainly can be differences. But they were somewhat the same and so I think that kind of prepared me for what I was going to be in Richmond and so I got- I played lacrosse in high school also with football. And so I think that helped me assimilate a little bit more when I got to Richmond. So obviously it's a big change because of where I come from, Prince George’s county, being predominantly a Black county. But I think yeah, I mean, I think it helped bringing, it kind of helped me out. But like especially with the sports I played.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. So so I'm, I don't want to put words in your mouth but I'm assuming you mean in meeting those kids at lax and preparing you for Richmond, basically by being around more white people.
MATTHEWS: Right. Yeah.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. So, so when you say you said that it kind of helped you assimilate to Richmond, and particularly obviously Richmond is much more white than probably Prince George County, and you say assimilate. So in like in what ways would you say that you were assimilating that Richmond kind of changes you were making?
MATTHEWS: Right, well, I mean, this gets to your point, it you know, it’s really more about assimilating to that style of social life. Like, I think you so, you know, people go to college to get educated, obviously. But I think a big part of why people make that four year commitment is for, you know, the atmosphere and to, you know, enjoy yourself and have a good time. So I think part of the assimilation process, that kind of took place with the social life specifically, like when it came to parties and stuff like that, you know, at Richmond, for example, like the way people dress way is way different than where I come from. And so just not wanting to like stick out like a sore thumb, you know, you kind of just think to yourself, “What are some ways where I can, you know, change my wardrobe a little bit so that, like, you know, this this whole process goes a little smoother,” and like, I seem like I kind of fit in a little bit more to the, you know, to the atmosphere that surround me.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. So once you saw once you did get to Richmond, you know, we started kind of you talked about assimilating and how you mentioned a few of the differences such as clothing and stuff. You know, once you got there as a freshman where, you know, whether it's first semester, maybe just the first freshman year, you know, what was the social scene looking like for you? Like what kinds of things were you and your friends doing when you were going out? Who were you hanging out with? Were you pretty much just hanging out with your teammates? Were there, you know, especially freshman year, first semester, people haven't rushed. There's a little bit more kind of mixing and stuff, you know, where did you find yourself and who were you with?
MATTHEWS: Right. Yeah. So, yeah, me, I mostly I hung out with my teammates and, you know, we we we tried, I guess, to go back to the where we had been and like we try to assimilate, but I guess, you know, you know, to I guess, you know, I don't necessarily think we tried hard enough, but I think it was just, you know, being that age and then having those expectations of what college was, like, supposed to be like that, you know, it forced us to like just say, OK, well, that's not going to work out. So we spent a lot of time at VCU-
GOLDBERG: Okay. From your freshman year?
MATTHEWS: Yeah, yeah like starting our freshman year.
MATTHEWS: Just like meeting people from there and just trying to get in different circles there because we felt that that was just a more inclusive community.
GOLDBERG: Dale’s experience of spending a lot of time down by VCU and away from Richmond's campus while he was in college is eerily similar to what Jarmal and Stephon said. He also described that downtown VCU community as more inclusive, much like Stephon and Jarmal also did.
It was starting to seem that Black football players in particular had a unique relationship with the on campus social scene at Richmond. I asked Dale if in his time in college, if he had noticed that there were certain types of athletes that were associating or spending more time around the Greek community or any other parts of the on campus community, than maybe some other athletes.
MATTHEWS: I think it was just like I think the best way to I guess, you know, this is me like minima- minimizing the situation, but and it might not be like a perfect analogy, but I think it was more of like if so, we’ll say that the lodges were a country concert. And so if if you didn't like country music, most likely you're not going to be there. So I think it was just like a concentrated group of athletes that, you know, really like, you know, that type of atmosphere and everything. But outside of that, yeah, it wasn't really like something that kind of we all gravitated towards just because it wasn't like it was, you know. Yeah. It wasn't really fun? I hate to use that word, because it's so subjective. But yeah, it just wasn't, it wasn't really that fun.
GOLDBERG: This process that Dale is describing of, you know, students with shared interests and who are similar to each other kind of gravitating together. And, you know, the kids in these Greek events and organizations being really similar to each other, you know, that's not a bad thing or a surprising thing. I think it's pretty natural in human nature for us to float toward people we can relate to more and share similar interests with. The issue I wanted to look at with U of R wasn't at all factionalism in and of itself. The issue I was trying to look at was more whether you want to call it factionalism or this apparently cliquey or exclusive community. You know, is that environment pushing particular students off of UR’s campus and UR’s community?
For you, obviously, that wasn't something that you guys could relate to really well, weren't super comfortable with. It was for other guys. So you ended up going downtown to VCU, hanging out off campus, outside of the kind of the Richmond kind of scene. Do you think that- so for someone like you and maybe people like you where the lodges aren't really your thing, are there alternatives for students who don't feel like they fit in or feel comfortable with the lodges in these parties? Is there an alternative to have this thriving social experience within the Richmond community, meaning the University of Richmond? Or do you feel like going to VCU and getting out to the city’s kind of the only alternative?
MATTHEWS: Right yeah, unfortunately, I do think it's I think that's like the only alternative. I don't you know, I think, you know, I don't know who it is, I think like the student government and you now, BSA. And, you know, it is a bunch of different organizations that have tried to, you know, create other avenues for people to, you know, have fun on campus. And it'd be like a Richmond event. But I don’t- it’s not, it's not- the majority of the students are are are kinda enjoying the way things are out there. So there's not really any incentive for them to kind of switch it up, you know, and when that's the case, it's just like you're not really going to have- it’s is already a small school. So if there's only a little bit of people who don't like that type of party or event and they want to know another one of those numbers is already going to be like, you know, only a few people. So I think the problem with those events is that it's just it's too difficult to get a good amount of the student body there and enjoying them.
GOLDBERG: I then decided to ask Dale about the confrontation at the lodge from their junior year that we heard Jarmal talk about. I figured maybe Dale could provide some different context or different perspective on how the whole situation unraveled that day.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, it was it was a weird situation because the players who got in got in after we had already, like after they told us football players wouldn't get in and I think actually like, OK, that situation a little bit more like blatant because like we clearly saw, like, some people walk in after us and they were on the team.
GOLDBERG: Do- do you feel like that was a more of a case of kind of just like overt, you know, just straight up saying Black football players get in and white don't? Or did it feel maybe more like a racial profiling where maybe they just, you know, the guys were white and just didn't even assume they were on the team or you're not really sure?
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I would say that there was, so like the way they did it, from my recollection, it was like it was they said that you had to know somebody in the frat in order to get in, which was, you know, I think that's not like an uncommon thing.
GOLDBERG: Because Bevels did say he was pretty close with --, who was in that frat, too.
MATTHEWS: Right, exactly. And so, like, that was the thing we knew, we told the people the guy, the people we knew and I do remember there was- one of our other teammates who was also a linebacker like, said, he got there maybe like a few seconds before. And he told them the person he knew the person and like, they let him in. But, like, he turned around when he saw they weren’t letting us in. And so I think it was more of probably more of a race thing rather than like a football team, because, I mean, -- is really like and I don't know, you know, a lot of people don't pay attention to football on the campus. So it’s easy to to to say that they might may not have known them.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. But you'd think you'd think Richmond's, even at a school where football is not super popular, when you have a guy that's at Richmond, that's a future fourth round draft pick, probably a noticeable figure on on campus.
MATTHEWS: Yes, exactly. Right. And he wasn’t like it wasn't like he like he had burst on the scene that year. He had been there, he had played in some big games before that, so yeah.
GOLDBERG: While Jarmal had liked to give the guys in the fraternity at that lodge the benefit of the doubt and at least hope it was, you know, I don't even know if this is any better, but at least say it was racial profiling versus outright banning Black football players, Dale made a pretty interesting point that one of those white football players who was let in after they were rejected was --, the white quarterback who went on to be a fourth round draft pick in the NFL. And as Dale described and you can imagine, that's a pretty hard face to mistake.
I then wanted to ask Dale a little bit about -- to see if he agreed with some of Jarmal's observations. Dale preferred not to comment on broadcast, but he told me he didn't recall -- being in the fraternity as causing any issues within their football team, although some players were a little bit shocked when they found out that -- was going to pledge that fraternity. And in regards to -- being an opportunity to bridge that Greek life football gap, as Jarmal had expanded on, he said that -- was in a tough spot. He could only change things as much as the rest of the fraternity wanted to change.
In all three of these conversations, you've probably heard us use the term lodge quite a bit. Let me explain very quickly what that is. A lodge is simply an on campus building. So on the campus of the University of Richmond that is assigned to a specific fraternity. And it is a space where on campus they are allowed by the school to party and have people over and things of that nature. And essentially it's regulated by the school on campus partying.
I asked Dale what he thought the school's role was in the social scene and campus culture, especially considering their oversight of these lodges. His answer was eerily similar to what Jarmal had said back in part one.
When you look at lodges specifically like a lodge is an on campus, you know, school sanctioned and regulated event, so lodges specifically are even more condoned and more tied directly to the administration. What do you think the school's role is in terms of the culture in the social scene at Richmond? And is- are they doing something wrong about it? Do they need to be doing more to change it?
MATTHEWS: I think, yeah. I mean, I think those are great points. You know, the lodges are like school sanctioned events, so a lot of the responsibility does fall on them. I think, though, and then if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I think it's something that is like above administration members’ heads. I mean, I know it could be crazy conspiracy type thing, but like, I just feel like, you know, there was a group of, not even a specific group, but just various alumni that, you know, had that situation. They had the lodges and they had the lodges dedicated to those specific frats, and they were allowed to be the gatekeepers of who could come and who could go.
GOLDBERG: My final conversation was with Maggie Larkin, who had been a member of the Kappa Delta sorority but had made the decision to disaffiliate. Maggie was featured in a Collegian article recently discussing her disaffiliation.
MAGGIE LARKIN: OK, so I'm Maggie Larkin. I'm a junior. So graduating in 2022. I am Caucasian. I identify as female.
GOLDBERG: Maggie described Lancaster [Pennsylvania] as very diverse and that her school was majority racial minority students. Before coming to U of R, like Quinn, she didn't realize how dominant Greek life was going to be in the social landscape.
So once you decided to come to U of R from there, what were your expectations of Richmond in terms of the social scene and the kind of like the dynamics of how you thought it would work or if you didn't have any at all?
LARKIN: I did not know that Greek life was so dominating on campus and originally I didn't really want to be a part of it. But then when I got to campus and realized how much it really just dominates pretty much everything, I was like, well, I kind of have to be part of it because otherwise I'm not going to I'm going I kind of this is an assumption, but was like I'm not going to have friends, like I'm not going to be involved in anything. But I was just kind of hoping it was going to be inclusive and you know, chill, I guess.
GOLDBERG: So what I mean, you already mentioned it but you joined Greek life, but like, what other kinds of people did you notice? Did seem like certain groups of people on campus were joining Greek life and maybe other groups of people weren't.
LARKIN: Well it’s quite obvious from the very beginning that people, most people that joined Greek life came to school like to be in Greek life, not to be just for that but you know, they’ve grown up knowing they were going to be a part of Greek life. And some of them even knew which one they wanted to be in originally. But it was definitely, like, huge majority white, huge majority rich, a lot of people from affluent towns and communities.
GOLDBERG: So what- can you just take me through your decision to disaffiliate? Because I know obviously you mentioned in The Collegian article that you did enjoy your time in Greek life. And for you personally, it actually was beneficial in a lot of ways.
LARKIN: So initially I was kind of like, what the heck? At first, I was very defensive of the fact that people were like coming at my social identity. And I was like, you know, that's crazy. And then we had this chapter like meeting where everyone just kind of discussed it and like hearing it through other people's perspectives, I was kind of like, "Oh, my gosh. Like, I've really been thinking about this very selfishly. I haven't been really understanding the whole picture.” So when I was, I was at home and I was talking about it with my mom and I was just kind of like, why- I have really bad social anxiety and like, I feel left out a lot of the time. Even if I'm not, I just kind of feel constantly like stressed about social scene stuff, so I was like, I'm like aiding in other people feeling that way, which just like really upsetting me because that was like constantly plaguing me. And it was just kind of like. I don't even know how I was just like, you know, my empathy just exploded and I was like, oh, shoot, so.
GOLDBERG: So in what ways do you think maybe I guess more specifically in terms of how Greek life is set up and maybe kind of its role in the social scene, in what ways do you think? You mentioned you said in the article it was kind of segregating and excluding certain people. In what ways or how it was set up, like, why do you think that it excludes certain people?
LARKIN: Well, it's very obvious that the girls that every like you sort of goes for are like, you know, there's a pattern there, like there are certain races, appearances or whatever that people, that the sororities go for. So it was very obvious initially that, you know, if you were a minority or if you didn't like dress, act or look like the other girls in the sorority that you were not going to get in. And then for the girls that maybe didn't look like the rest of sorority, they most of the time felt left out where they were because like, there's such a strong pattern of looks and wealth and stuff.
GOLDBERGL How big of a factor for you was- because a lot of frats and sororities will kind of tout to potential pledges and rushes that it's this network of the alumni. It's a great networking opportunity, like you mentioned, philanthropy. Was that an appeal to you and kind of the beyond college appeal of Greek life. Was that a factor for you at all?
LARKIN: I know that some people definitely are very into that, but that was one hundred percent not a factor in my decision at all. Zero.
GOLDBERG: Maggie told me that her and her friends had hung out with a lot of different people at a lot and a lot of different places, but that there was definitely a selective few groups of fraternities specifically that sorority girls tended to go to. When I asked her if her social life was totally encompassed within the Greek scene, she said:
LARKIN: Mmhm. Definitely.
GOLDBERG: We spoke a bit about her and KD’s relationship with student athletes on campus, and she also noticed an ongoing segregation, like many others have.
LARKIN: I think that student athletes are also kind of segregated from Greek life, at least I know some of them are involved in it, but for the most part, there's not a lot of athletes. I think we only had one athlete in my sorority and I don't think that even the rest of her team, most of them were in college. And I would say that in Greek life is definitely very separate from athletes, at least in my opinion. The athletes have their own parties and like do their own thing, stay together. I don't know if that's because they're not involved in Greek life or if that's like they don't want to get involved because they have their own friend groups.
GOLDBERG: Do you think that Greek life’s relationship with the student athlete community differs, I guess first would be between frats and sororities. And then also, would you say that a male student athlete may have a different relationship than a female athlete with some of these Greek life [groups]?
LARKIN: I think it honestly varies by the sport I really heard much about, but I know, like there are certain sports where, like, the guys will not be like let in the parties and stuff. And there are other sports where they're pretty involved, I guess. And then sororities, again, I think it varies by the sport, like I know a lot of like basketball girls and guys and football guys are not really like as into the Greek system and tend to not be let in to much stuff. So maybe not the girls so much, but the guys at least.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, OK. So a lot of the past people have interviewed, a lot of athletes, particularly football players, who have said that kind of like you mentioned, similar things to you, that they felt excluded as athletes couldn't really be a part of Greek life and also, like you said, Greek life kind of dominated the Richmond social scene. So they kind of told me that. And I asked him, I said, did you find like there was any kind of alternative to Greek life on campus in terms of having, like a thriving social life? I mean you could stay in the Richmond community and most of them said, "No, I went down to the VCU area, went to bars downtown and from there freshman year," spent most of their time there. They all pretty much said that those weren't really realistic and viable. Would you agree that there isn't really much of an alternative to Greek life on campus if you want to have this fun, thriving college experience?
LARKIN: Oh, definitely. There's nothing that compares. And they try to have the Spider Fest events and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, for people that are trying to get the partying out of their system in college, that's just not, like, people to go there, you know? You know, the student athletes like there, not a lot of them aren’t able to join a fraternity or sorority, and yet they're still like excluded.
GOLDBERG: One of the most poignant words that had come up in my past interviews, specifically with Dale and Aaron, was they described this process of, quote, “assimilation.” They describe this process that they had undergone as minority students of having to change their behavior, such as the way they spoke and the clothes they wore to fit in and make the process of coming to U of R easier. I asked Maggie if she felt a similar process, you know, because she's obviously a white student who went into a sorority, but she also said that Lancaster was a lot different from U of R.
LARKIN: I personally did just because my like, I didn't come from an area where brands and styles were really a thing. Like, I kind of I'd go to class in high school in like sweatshirt and leggings and Birkenstocks. And that was like my outfit. So coming to school, I really had to step up my brand and clothing game because I felt like I was slacking a little bit in that department. I think that a lot of people do, already, come to school already like dressing how like, with norms on campus already, because they come from communities that are kind of similar to Richmond, I guess. They know what styles are and what brands are and stuff like that. And then there's people like me who had no idea and have to come to campus and completely change everything.
GOLDBERG: Lastly, we spoke about what elements need to change at U of R, and she said that the number one focus needs to be on making socialization groups and events as inclusive as possible. Unlike our previous three interviewees on this episode, though, she believed in more drastic steps.
Do you think the best way to get there is through action by the school and the administration? Do you think it needs to come from the students? Maybe some mixture of both?
LARKIN: Definitely, mostly students, maybe a little administration. Like maybe we need to work on abolishing Greek life in my opinion, because I don't think it's helping anything on this campus, on any campus. But I know that's hard to say because I was a part of it five months ago, but minds change. And I think that students mainly need to just realize that it's so stupid to exclude other people based on like, superficial factors.
GOLDBERG: So for a lot -and we talked about this before, for people staying in Greek life for you, even if they're not who support it. There were benefits for you. It wasn't all bad for you. Is probably more good than bad in a lot of people will will say, well, this should be a reformed system so we can make a change. I want to stay in my organization and change it. What do you say to those people who think that reform is the answer rather than abolition?
LARKIN: I mean, I say good for you, but good luck. You know, there's not really much you can change in a system that's based on traditional values. Like devout- the foundation of Greek life is so cemented, like they're really not willing to change a lot of their ways because Greek life is so based on these values from however many years ago. So I just personally don't really think it's possible. And I don't think that they’re suddenly going to change overnight and accept a bunch of people that don't look like them and don't act like them, whatever. I just don’t think that's feasible.
GOLDBERG: Thank you for listening to the final installment of Campus Culture: Exploring the Social Landscape at U of R.
No, I'm not making a complete judgment on the social landscape, and as I've said repeatedly, there are far too many perspectives left out of this story. But I do hope that these various accounts and experiences and different opinions that you did hear, from current and former students, can maybe enlighten you to a view that you weren't able to share before or that you couldn't empathize before.
Maybe it will change how you think. Maybe it will reaffirm how you think. All I ask is to remember one thing we're all Spiders.
Contact contributor Noah Goldberg at email@example.com.
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