Emerson fraternities and sororities pledge institutional reimagining

Kappa+Gamma+Chi+spring+2021+new+member+education+class.

Photo: Courtesy Lindsey Broder

Kappa Gamma Chi spring 2021 new member education class.

By Frankie Rowley, Assistant News Editor

Emerson’s Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations are facing an internal reckoning as they seek to “reimagine” themselves to make recruitment processes more inclusive, hold themselves accountable for past misconduct, and foster a more equitable environment for members. 

All presidents, vice presidents, new member educators, social chairs, recruitment chairs, and philanthropy chairs of Emerson’s nine chapters attended an annual summit on Jan. 23. At the summit, they addressed a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, power-based interpersonal violence, Title IX sexual discrimination policy, and unprofessional conduct. The event resulted in some organizations implementing a slew of alterations to their structures, such as payment plans for dues and the creation of a “diversity chapter.”

Jenna Coviello, Student Engagement and Leadership program coordinator, said conversations about PBIV, accessibility, and inclusivity along with other issues discussed during the summit, have happened in past semesterly “expectation” meetings, in which guidelines in regards to the hazing policy, recruitment week, and selection are set. However, she said the summit intensified the need to address institutional issues. 

“Fraternity and Sorority Life was very much founded by straight white men, who were coming from a certain background,” Coviello said. “It’s very elitist, very exclusive. We really wanted to understand the system that we’re working within and how we can start dismantling that system.” 

Coviello highlighted the reevaluation of the recruitment process discussed during the summit. 

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“Why do you select members this way? How are you reaching members? What are some barriers that could be in place that are preventing potential members from being able to join your organization?” she said. “Looking at the bare bones of FSL and how we might be representing ourselves more exclusively than inclusively.” 

The changes follow several incidents within specific chapters. Last summer, the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity faced a slew of backlash surrounding accusations of sexual misconduct made against former member Jackson C. Davis. Davis, who was an active member of Tau during his time at Emerson, was accused of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, with a known history of violent and inappropriate sexual behavior. Davis was suspended and later fired from his job at NowThis following the accusations. 

Lindsey Broder, a sophomore visual and media arts production major and president of Kappa Gamma Chi, said her sorority found new ways to acknowledge their past following the conversations held at the summit. Kappa Gamma Chi and Phi Alpha Tau terminated their long-standing alliance in 2018. 

“We had our history night during recruitment week,” Broder said. ”For Kappa, [we participated and maintained] a structure where Kappas were not only harmed as individuals, but Kappa as an organization was harmed. The structure we maintained with [Tau], trying to separate from FSL and continue to participate in hazing under the radar, just ended up hurting Kappas.”

The history night “served as a disclaimer” to potential members during recruitment week, Broder said. Among the changes to the sorority is the institution of a “safety sister,” filled by sophomore VMA major Therese Labordo, who will act as a liaison between Kappa and the Healing and Advocacy Collective. Labordo serves as a confidential source for sisters and will work with sisters individually on issues if they do not want to formally report them. 

Broder said an emphasis was also put on reevaluating the organization’s approach to finances. They have begun allowing sisters to pay dues through a newly created Kappa Gamma Chi cash app account instead of just cash or check. Broder added that treasurer Macy Martinez set up payment plans for sisters as well. 

“By creating those opportunities for financial assistance, we’re definitely living up to [the] inclusivity standard that we’re setting for ourselves,” Broder said.  

Kappa also looked at its approach to professionalism and altered the scope of “professional dress” to be more inclusive, said Broder. 

”Professionalism, as a concept, was created by white men who did not want to see anyone else in the workplace; women and people of color are expected to funnel themselves through this idea of professionalism that was only designed for white straight men,” she said. “Everything from clothing to how you speak in an office or professional setting, all of these expectations come with a history, a prejudice that we don’t really know or are educated about.”

The summit also inspired changes in other chapters, like Sigma Pi Theta. Sigma President Clarah Grossman, a senior creative writing major, said the sorority is looking into implementing a bias training program. She also pointed to a “sisterhood agreement,” which will lay out the ethical standards of the sorority and promote accountability. 

“We’re … just laying out more ethical, basic things we don’t have written down,” Grossman said. “We’re doing that to help keep sisters accountable for their actions.” 

Grossman also said the sorority held a “diversity chapter” meeting with SEAL Director Jason Meier. 

“[Meier] has us examine our own traditions and presentation to see ways in which we might be portraying ourselves in one light rather than a diverse one,” Grossman wrote in an emailed statement. “It really gave everyone the chance to break down what diversity meant to them, and it really gave POC sisters the space to speak up about their experiences in Sigma and at Emerson. From there, we worked together as a sorority to come up with an agreement as well as basic steps we are implementing to further represent diversity in Sigma and FSL.”

Coviello said the new image of FSL at Emerson is still in its infancy, but she is confident it will have a place for everyone who wants to participate. 

“No matter what socio-economic background you’re coming from, what race you are, or sexuality or anything, you [should] feel you can have a place in a chapter and you can find friendships and community within that chapter,” Coviello said. “[We should ensure] we’re not running into instances where we are excluding people, and someone feels excluded they’re not welcomed in an FSL space.” 

 

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