OpinionWhy I Didn’t Join Greek life

Observations into Greek Life's problematic nature
Kayla PadillaMarch 28, 20191210402 min
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Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

I made it to third round of the only sorority I was rushing, and the entire time I felt conflicted about whether or not I wanted to join. A lot — if not most — of my friends were in sororities, so I figured it could be fun. Then I started noticing all the flaws in Greek life: not little annoyances but rather major systems that allowed Greek life to uphold white supremacy in implicit ways — such as telling a person of color their accent was “pretty good” — that would later manifest into explicit racism and microaggressions — such as having Mexican-themed rush events. Sororities who can’t keep their black members, fraternities who have a history of engaging in blackface — these are the people we are protecting?

What do I know about sorority life anyway? I’m not in it. I also don’t have to be a member to recognize the systems of oppression it upholds. Between inexperienced first-years and whitewashed people of color, sororities are always looking to recruit more people of color to prove they’re diverse enough or that — by having people of color — they are doing enough. I didn’t join Greek life because I’m tired of hearing from friends about sororities momentarily worshipping and exalting marginalized people only for there to not be infrastructure to support and integrate them long term after the excitement of bid day and orientation wears off.

Greek life even holds power outside of their members. Ty Tinker — the president of the Student Government Association — is a white frat boy, who, in my opinion, should not hold a position that has such a profound influence on how much funding cultural organizations get. The students of color and their mere want to express and share their identity at this overwhelmingly white school lies in the hands of more white people, more Greek life members.

Before releasing the article on Trinity Greek life and their history of blackface, President Danny Anderson held a quick and quiet breakfast comprised of Greek life and cultural organizations in order to protect and prepare fraternities from any backlash due to their history of blackface. It was mandatory for a lot of sorority members to attend Ijeoma Olou’s lecture on race, instead they took a picture in the beginning and left. Only two years ago did Phi Sigma Chi have a party where the theme was sombreros and ponchos. Or what about that time last year when an O-Phi member joked about white power? Just last semester, certain white members in Alpha Chi were defending the white girl who said the n-word at Ignite the Night. These are only a few of the countless instances of racism in Trinity Greek life.

I know very well who’s going to be upset with me — the sorority girls who have “Black Lives Matter” in their twitter bio and “No Ban No Wall” stickers on their water bottle. The ones who have supported me calling out other forms of racism but will now foam at the mouth when it’s their turn to be held accountable.

First-year members of color may dismiss what I’m saying because their sorority sisters express interest in conversations of diversity. To that I say that many conversations have been had on this campus without sufficient action taken, conversations had to make us feel heard when in reality these dialogues are just another check on their list. Let time pass, let yourself become closer to your ethnic identity in a place where white people have no interest in your culture unless it is to appropriate and exploit it, and gradually you’ll begin to realize that white feminism just isn’t good enough. Feminism and sisterhood must be intersectional.

Greek life must create and implement clauses in the constitution that protect people of color, clauses that prohibit non-black members from saying the n-word and prohibit the exploitation of cultural themes. We must institutionalize diversity training for all members and amplify, not attack marginalized members when they express their frustrations. We also need a person of color as the head of Greek life. It’s not easy to forget that Trinity students in the past have called for the decapitation of “Indian” or indigenous people like me. For past, present and future people of color, I hope we can place the healing of marginalized members above the discomfort of the white, complicit members.

Kayla Padilla

12 comments

  • Grace Warner

    March 28, 2019 at 11:17 am

    First, I would like to preface my comment to avoid misinterpretation or racial aggression by saying that above all, representation of minorities is extremely important and I respect your strong efforts to have your voice heard on campus.

    However, I would like to respectfully disagree with your comments about both Student Government and Greek Life. As president of SGA, Ty Tinker does not hold a voting position, and the voting Senate of student government is actually quite diverse in terms of race, gender, cultural background, and sexual orientation. With respect to your comments about Greek Life, I cannot speak for other organizations on campus, but I would like to speak on my personal experiences in these spaces. In the organization that I am a part of, we have done everything that we can think of doing to support our members of color, which make up a significant portion of our members– I say this not to exploit or tokenize them, but to respond to your conflation of Greek Life with white supremacist structures. The organization I am a part of has removed past event themes that could be seen as insensitive, we have constant discourse about social justice, provide due waivers for our members that may not otherwise be able to afford the club, and above all, we give a platform for our members of color to be heard. When issues regarding social justice are brought up in meetings, we listen with highest regard to our members who are actually affected by these injustices. Again, I cannot speak for other organizations, but it is disappointing to hear this as someone who has personally seen steps be taken for these systems of oppression to be dismantled internally and intersectionally.

    Reply

    • Linda

      March 28, 2019 at 4:18 pm

      If you feel so “attacked”, you would take action and actually doing something rather than writing garbage take articles for attention. It’s so easy to run for SGA— if you really wanted to make a difference you would take up a position or have any point of leadership. Instead you want to play the victim and whine about how hard it is to be latino in San Antonio. Pathetic people like you enable segregation

      Reply

    • -

      March 28, 2019 at 4:45 pm

      Sure those actions can help mend and dismantle the system little by little and it probably feels crappy for you to get your progressive actions go unrecognized, but I’m sure that it is even more disappointing for minorities on campus to experience this on a daily basis in terms of underrepresentation in the university and condescension from their peers.

      Reply

    • Jess

      March 28, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      Grace, you know that I respect you, but some of this is simply untrue or vastly exaggerated. Even if we are to limit the scope of Trinity’s Greek Life to just Alpha Chi, I think it is out of line for you to suggest that your sorority has done “everything it can think of” to support its POC members (which in fact do not make up a significant portion of your members). I know that Alpha Chi has taken certain measures to better represent inclusive, respectful values and promote diversity. However, if you’re saying that AX is beyond scrutiny, I think you’re either misinformed or being dishonest. Take a look at the demographics. Within the past year, AX has lost all of its black members (disregarding the NAC, which I believe has 1 black member). There are even black members who graduated as AXs and still speak out about racial issues in the club. I’m in possession of two racially derogatory AX jerseys, passed down to me because people didn’t know what else to do with them. I have had several current and past AXs meet conversations about my black experience with contempt, defensiveness, invalidation, or even blatant racism during my time in the club as well as my time after it. I’m not saying that AX promotes racism, but I’m saying that it’s inactivity and complicity in regards to the racist tendencies of both the club and the Greek Life institution are staggering enough to merit attention and change. You may be proud of your experience in this club, and I’m happy that you’ve enjoyed it. But before you enter conversations like these, remember that you are a white woman attempting to speak about racial injustice on behalf of racial minorities. Maybe first confer with some of the remaining woman of color in your club. They may not be as happy with it as you think they are.

      Reply

  • Brett M

    March 28, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Damn. Grace just wrecked you. Lmao

    Reply

  • Bob jones

    March 28, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    As an English student do you think I should get offended and report everything someone says my accent is good? Please I’m really insecure, I hate when people say my accent is good lol

    Reply

  • Jackson

    March 28, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    It is clear, after seeing you and your friends’ tweets, that you are not looking for open dialogue. You are not looking for change. When people come at you in a respectful manner, all you can do is bash instead of taking the time to have a discussion, where both sides learn something. Your lack of vision is extremely negative and disheartening; I honestly feel sorry for you.

    Reply

    • Yep

      March 29, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      This is so accurate

      Reply

  • Austin D

    March 28, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Holy crap white people are fragile. Thanks for writing this article Kayla. I hope that people who are commenting negative things actually take a moment to realize that you have tried many times to make change in many different ways. The same people who say why don’t you do something are the same people who don’t want you at the table.

    Reply

  • J

    March 29, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Lol ur the reason why I don’t like identifying as a “liberal”

    Reply

  • Susan

    March 31, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    I think most students, in Greek life and outside of it, would have a hard time disproving Kayla’s claims about racism (not to mention classism and sexism) in Greek life. However, I have to wonder if Greek life is really the problem or if it’s just a reflection of problems in campus culture in general. I feel like Greek life makes an easy scape goat for injustices on campus, but I find no reason to believe instances of racism are any higher in the Greek community than out of it. I agree that Greek life ought to examine the way it deals with issues of race and class and make amends when needed, but the key to making Trinity’s campus safer and more welcoming for marginalized groups is not by dismantling Greek life. I think continued criticism of Greek life pushes issues of inclusion to one group that only represents a small portion of Trinity students when in reality we all need to step up and do better in terms of diversity issues. Furthermore, administration and admissions needs to do a better job admitting and supporting diverse students to Trinity. Our campus community would be stronger if we stopped pushing blame to others and started asking what can we do to make campus more inclusive.

    Reply

  • Monique

    April 3, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    I couldn’t stand the greek life on this campus when I came here. So many excuses are made for these groups mostly composed of rich white bastards. Even when my uncle and aunt came here these groups were a problem. Unlike the inclusive clubs like tigers for tigers or the honor societies, what value do the social greek orgs add to this university other than money?

    Reply

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