Include LGBT community in UI greek life


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The University of Iowa campus has recently been recognized as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-friendly community. But if the UI continues to lack an LGBT presence in its greek life, the community put its LGBT-friendly designation at risk.

It is evident that the university wants to make LGBT students feel at home in Iowa City. Several clubs with the goal of LGBT awareness and outreach have been a place of haven for students who feel may feel victimized or prejudiced on campus. There is an LGBT resource center that organizes programs and activities that make LGBT students feel as comfortable as possible while on campus. The UI's Safe Zone Project offers educational workshops to help ensure an inclusive and compassionate community. Next fall, the UI is planning to organize a LGBT Living-Learning Community in the residence halls.

While these are applaudable steps to make our campus a safe, affirmative place, there is one thing we are missing that would draw more LGBT students and make them feel even more welcome: an LGBT sorority or fraternity.

Currently, the university is considering starting a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity with the mission of recruiting progressive young men, mainly bisexual, gay, or allies of the LGBT community. Following through with this idea is crucial for a friendly, unbiased living space that is imperative to students' success and comfort.

While it is not commonly reported or guaranteed, it is possible that joining a fraternity or sorority that is not centered on diversity, enrichment, or LGBT-friendliness can create a hostile living environment for students who are gay or lesbian. Because everyone in the house is of the same sex, men and women sometimes claim that their LGBT brothers and sisters are "hitting" on them. While this is usually not the case and is more an issue of proximity, this can cause LGBT students to feel uncomfortable in their living situation and make them victims to the discrimination and mockery of their roommates. In an LGBT sorority or fraternity, the likelihood of this happening is greatly decreased, if not completely eliminated. It is important that LGBT students have a place to live where they feel completely at home, unafraid of stigma and hate.

Fraternities and sororities are commonly designed for students who share common morals, values, or identities — such as community service, heritage, or religion. The UI has many of these.

At present, the UI boasts 39 fraternities and sororities, encompassing Greek-letter organizations for nearly every minority group, and UI greek life continues to grow following the 21-ordinance. Similarly, Texas A&M has a diverse range of almost 60 greek chapters, but none of which are LGBT-centric. Texas A&M was listed among the Princeton Review's top-10 "LGBT-unfriendly" colleges.

In the Midwest, where there is stereotypically more hostility toward the LGBT community, students might not have the same resources or outlets as they would attending college on the West or East Coast. LGBT fraternities and sororities don't solely have to be for LGBT students. Allies, or people dedicated to education and equality, would be welcome to housing in these chapters.

Shane Windmeyer, staff member of Campus Pride and author of Out on Fraternity Row, said an inclusive LGBT community is important.

"Every fraternity and sorority attracts certain types of people," he said. "It's important for LGBT members to have access to things like these for friendship, leadership, and social opportunities. Oftentimes, LGBT students cannot join a traditional fraternity or sorority because they feel intimidated or they wouldn't be accepted if they rushed openly gay.

"Having a gay men fraternity is a way to allow openly gay men and straight men who are allies to not have to worry about their sexual orientation in joining a progressive gay men's fraternity."

LGBT-centered fraternities and sororities can give students a place where they can congregate and perhaps even design programs, educational and social, to raise awareness about the LGBT scene on campus. LGBT sororities and fraternities can also serve as safe zones for students, even if they aren't members, and can be a communal center for LGBT students to learn about programs they can become a part of in the community.

Hopefully, we will see a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, which can serve as a home base for equality and acceptance.

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