It might not have seemed like your typical party crashing, but these aren’t your typical frat guys and sorority girls — at least, that’s what the members of Fredericton’s newly-formed Greek Council are trying to prove.
Kaley Etheridge, vice-president of Fredericton’s Psi Lambda Phi fraternity and secretary of the Greek Council, showed up to Friday’s Clubs and Societies Fair in the Student Union Building atrium despite a refusal from university administration to let them participate.
Etheridge handed out fliers detailing the “big five myths about fraternities and sororities” and a letter to the student body that informed about an “archaic” university bylaw that prohibits them from promoting or recruiting on campus.
“As it currently stands the UNBSU has us recognized as a society … [but] earlier this week, the University of New Brunswick came forward and said they have a bylaw on the books that states … we could not be here,” said Etheridge, adding that this news came after the organization had already been invited to participate by the UNB Student Union.
“We are presuming it’s based on the common depiction of fraternities and sororities, that Greek letter organizations have a bit of a bad reputation as being drinking clubs where questionable activity happens and hazing is common, but most of that simply isn’t true.”
Etheridge said that while such negative practices may have been common in Greek life organizations of the past, all four of Fredericton’s fraternities and sororities — three of which are members of the Greek Council — have “very strict anti-hazing policies, very strict sexual assault policies and very strict inclusivity policies.”
The formation of a Greek Council, partly motivated by the UNBSU’s refusal to ratify individual Greek life groups based on their gender requirements, has provided added oversight to such potential problems, added Etheridge.
“Greek life is starting to grow to a level where there needs to be some kind of oversight and instead of working with us to create a safe Greek system for the university, the university would rather dig into its archives and find a rule that says we can’t be here,” said Etheridge.
In an emailed statement, UNB defended the decision not to allow Greek life organizations to promote or recruit on campus.
“UNB does not currently allocate resources towards fraternities or sororities on its campuses. This means that university resources and facilities cannot be used to support or promote these groups,” said Kelsey Seymour of UNB communications, adding that this decision was recently reaffirmed by the University Management Committee.
“The university’s decision is based on a substantive body of research in higher education that identifies significant negative impacts associated with Greek Life on university communities.”
Seymour added that while the university supports groups “formed around the principles of camaraderie, philanthropy and community” and recognizes the capacity of Greek Life traditions to evolve over time, it has chosen not to allocate university resources to support these groups.
But Etheridge and his fellow Greek Council members feel university administration simply isn’t giving them the chance they deserve, an effort that spread to the outside of the Student Union Building on Friday afternoon, where member organizations donned their letters and waved banners.
“Fraternities and sororities are social groups, but they are also academic groups and charitable groups. Periodically we get together as a group and we party [because] we’re students and it’s what we do, but the idea that Greek life is all about partying is an unsubstantiated myth,” said Etheridge.
“Between the three [organizations] we’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity, provided likely thousands of hours of manpower for charitable organizations and guided hundreds of students through university … we feel those are the sorts of things our organization should be known for and not the things the university is under the impression that we do.”
Will MacMackin, vice-president of finance and operations for the UNBSU, said it’s an issue he feels should be re-examined.
“I just think it’s general perception. When you look at movies such as Animal House, the paradigms are there,” said MacMackin.
“I just think it’s time for the conversation to be opened again.”