The below essay was originally typed in the comments of an editorial called “Greeks Exclude By Class” by Laura Owsiany in the The Hoya. It has been edited for greater clarity.
The conversation about fraternity and sorority life at Georgetown rages on over the years, all while actual Greek life at Georgetown continues to grow. One thing that has remained consistent is the absence of black and Latino fraternal organizations from the discourse.
Students at Georgetown have been joining local chapters of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) since at least the 1970s, and Latino Greek Letter Organizations (LGLOs) since at least the 1990s. Whether through city-wide chapters (more recently) or at neighboring chapters (common in the 70s), marginalized students have found their homes away from home in spite of Georgetown.
I did not pledge a BGLO at Georgetown–I waited a few years and joined an alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha–but the influence of fraternal traditions is well-known to Georgetown. The GU Step Team (which I founded in 1998) practices the art of poly-rhythmic, percussive dance that was indeed popularized by black fraternities and sororities. The impact of BGLOs is greater than performance, however. Chapters of such organizations have been training grounds for leadership through social justice for over a century. Members may be found among the faculty and staff of the university.
Aside from the common, but expected erasure of black and Latino fraternal organizations from this discourse, there is also a misconception (or perhaps a deflection) about the nature of racism and classicism and how fraternity life plays a part in it.
Let’s start with this notion: “Georgetown’s prohibition of Greek life is essential to keeping students of all socioeconomic groups in our campus social scene.”
There is no singular campus social scene. Students have always separated themselves based on interests, race, class, and other tangible and intangible reasons. Class does not have to be a barrier to membership. Fraternities and sororities can be attainable for those of us who are resourceful. Surely it’s easier to pay your dues when you or your parents have the discretionary income to do so, but there are many hidden costs to many other campus organizations, whether you are a member of the Black Student Alliance and cannot afford the transportation and lodging to the Black Solidarity Conference, or if you want to perform in Rangila but cannot attend rehearsals because you work too many jobs.
I believe in the freedom of association, surely. I understand that there are those things which I cannot personally afford to partake in, such as the Black Alumni Summit, which was a $350 weekend of networking events for the big dogs–peons such as myself need not apply. But I know that just like Greek life, if I wanted to attend the BAS badly enough, I would have made it happen.
All in all, what annoys me most about this editorial, and many Georgetown policies generally, is that they presuppose that there is one Georgetown culture, one Georgetown way, one Georgetown life. Beyond the fact that Greek life has been present at Georgetown for many years, it wants us to believe that the absence of Greek life makes us whole.
Newsflash, Hoyas: Racism happens at Georgetown without Greek letters. Rape happens at Georgetown without Greek letters. Classicism thrives at Georgetown without Greek letters. Don’t pass off those ills of society on Greek life–they must be addressed whether Georgetown recognizes Greek life or not.