Don’t call Andrew DeMarco a frat guy.
The fourth-year computer engineering student and his fellow members of Fredericton’s newest fraternity would frankly prefer you refrain from using the term at all.
“There’s a stereotype perpetrated by Hollywood that fraternities are a bunch of people who just get together and drink and party all the time. That’s not really what we’re about at all,” said DeMarco, president of Psi Lambda Phi, adding that his new organization exclusively uses the terms “fraternity” or “brotherhood” to identify themselves.
DeMarco added that while being social is of course part of being a fraternity, “that’s not the primary focus.”
“If [new members] come in with the mindset of bettering themselves and helping the community, it’s better for everyone involved,” said DeMarco of Psi Lambda Phi, whose official charity group is Youth in Transition, part of the United Way group of charities.
DeMarco’s group is only the second new fraternity to cater to Fredericton’s post-secondary students in the last year, and not the first to try and champion this more Canadian-ized version of conventional “Greek-life.”
Theta Tau Nu was founded in January. They too strive to help shed some of those damaging fraternity stereotypes of partying hard with little regard for, well, pretty much anything else.
“When I email charities, they seem to be pretty enthused that a bunch of young men want to get together and do stuff for the community,” said Chris Cormier, philanthropy chair for Theta Tau Nu, which partners with such charities as Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Spectrum.
“We just want people to realize that yeah, it’s fun, we do party on the weekends … [but] we want to do things for the community.”
But these aren’t the only modern changes Lee Thomas, vice-president internal of the University of New Brunswick Student Union and former LGBTQ representative, would like to see implemented.
When Theta Tau Nu presented at council last December, Thomas questioned the group on whether their constitution contained language explicitly inclusive of trans men; the group was recognized by the UNBSU, but Thomas voted against it on the basis that their constitution was implicit with this language but not explicit.
“I thought it was important to have explicitly inclusive language because gender-divided organizations have traditionally not been safe spaces for trans people,” said Thomas, adding, however, that she thinks council made the right decision to recognize the club “because I think it will do good things for its members.”
“LGBTQ-inclusive language is not an explicit requirement for our clubs and societies, though, but with the increasing presence of Greek societies on campus maybe that is a conversation worth having.”
Members of Theta Tau Nu said it wasn’t even something that had crossed their minds when writing their constitution, as they are all personally open to accepting members of the LGBTQ community.
“Having LGBTQ [members] isn’t an issue; we are all human beings,” said Cormier, adding, however, that the group would consider implementing language in their constitution that would more clearly signify their acceptance of all groups.
This could in fact become a requirement in the future, indicated UNBSU president Greg Bailey.
“I’ve been talking to [these groups] and I know they’d like to bring up whether they can be ratified [meaning they can receive funding from the UNBSU] … Evidently with the number of fraternities and/or sororities operating on campus, it’s probably time for us to review our policies and decide where we want to go from here,” said Bailey.
“As for the inclusivity issue, we have no problem requiring groups to put something in their constitution in order to be recognized and/or ratified … we need to have this policy discussion.”
None of the four Greek life associations in Fredericton, including longstanding sororities Iota Beta Chi and Pi Alpha Gamma, have been ratified by the union.
DeMarco doesn’t anticipate such issues when they eventually approach the union to request ratification.
“It already says in our constitution our application process is open to ‘all male students (legally male or who are in the process of being legally identified as male).’ That includes male-identified LGBTQ members,” said DeMarco.
“I would be inclined to add an anti-discrimination clause so that it is explicit that no discrimination will be tolerated, including LGBTQ members with the exception that they must be male-identified, for legal reasons … We believe diversity makes a group stronger and discrimination will never be tolerated.”