Greek organizations, including those on the UAA campus, have publicly acknowledged that they are in a constant fight against stereotypes. Movies portray fraternity houses as pillared havens for beer-swilling, misogynistic, immature heathens who spend more time ogling boobs than reading books. Sororities are seen as glorified brothels filled with eager and willing dimwitted debutantes who will likely blow daddy’s money by dropping out of school due to an unexpected pregnancy.
Certainly most folks realize this is the Hollywood version of the Greek world on college campuses. But some actual incidents including deaths attributed to binge drinking and sexual assaults involving Greek organizations have contributed to the bad image.
At UAA, the Greek community is a small but growing, relatively tight knit group of students. Greek organizations started at UAA when the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity sprouted up in 1999. Now there are five different Greek organizations of varying sizes operating on campus that obviously do a lot of good for UAA and the community. None of the groups has a fraternity or sorority house.
In the Feb. 1 issue of The Northern Light, we published a front page news article titled “Greeks fight stereotypes.” The story highlighted the struggle for acceptance that fraternities and sororities face despite the amount of work they do to better the university through campus events and volunteer work. Subsequent letters to the editor called out the Greek community for not living up to their claims of public service and academic excellence. Letters fired back from the upset Greek members. For a month, Greek and non-Greek relations were a hot topic in the opinion section and in the hallways at UAA.
One issue that came up during the argument was the use of the Greek Life/Club Council office on the lower floor of the Student Union next to Subway. The space was originally intended to be a workspace shared by UAA’s Greek groups and the numerous clubs functioning on campus.
Critics of the Greeks said they had overrun the space and turned it into a place where other students wouldn’t feel welcome. Greek Life members said the space was open to everyone.
The Northern Light didn’t really care who felt welcome as long the office space was being put to good use because, heck, there could be a Taco Bell or a Moose’s Tooth in that spot with the right planning. We can dream.
But the space wasn’t being used for its intended purpose, which should be a Greek and Club Council office, not a lounge.
Then a little over two weeks ago some members of Greek Life marched in a giant poster of a female Abercrombie and Fitch model that they put in the window. Students came to our office and complained about the poster. They said it was offensive and stupid. We thought it was unprofessional and a poor addition to an already cluttered window front that should be used to draw students into the office.
But more than anything we thought it was hypocritical to complain about being stereotyped and then put up an advertisement for a company that is sometimes identified as the clothing du jour of the Greek set.
When we used our “Chide” space to question whether it should be up, we hoped that those responsible would realize it was doing more harm than good. A week went by, the giant ad remained and we decided that we should again chide the Greek Life office for the pointless ad. A student wrote a scathing paragraph that we chose to run in the “Blowing Steam” section of the classifieds.
This week the Greeks responded with a poem in the “Steam” section. And the Abercrombie ad has been turned around so that it’s blank white back faces out.
But why not take the ad down all together? Why not take the high road and admit it wasn’t a wise decision to hang it up?
The Abercrombie ad has no positive effect on the office, the reputations of those who use the space or for UAA period. It belongs in the very mall it came from.
Instead, whether facing in or out, it acts as wall separating the Greeks from the rest of campus. And when you are fighting stereotypes you should be trying to break down barriers not build them.