Mock fraternity seeks to fight bullying on campus


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Two University of Iowa freshmen are launching an effort to "create unity" and combat bullying on campus.

"BRO: It's chill," said Pete Sarelas, who started Beta Rho Omega — a mock fraternity — in June 2011.
Before Sarelas came to the UI, he planned to join a fraternity in college.

"But after coming here, I realized it wasn't for me," he said. "There are too many labels within the greek community. That should stop."

Though bullying isn't prevalent on this campus, some UI officials said, it can still can occur.

"Normally, one thinks bullying only occurs under the age of 18," said Linda Kroon, the director of the Women's Resource and Action Center. "It looks a little different in college, but the problem of harassment still continues."

Though UI Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said the Office of the Ombudsperson would theoretically oversee complaints of student bullying on campus, she hasn't received any complaints this academic year. Most complaints, she said, are from faculty and staff.

In 2011, the office had 501 visitors. Roughly 25 percent complained of disrespectful behavior, which included bullying among students, faculty, and staff.

"But if there is bullying going on, then I think having students to talk to other students is something that we can't provide and would be good," Joyce said.

Sarelas, along with freshman Rachel Robianes, is seeking to establish Beta Rho Omega as an official UI student organization.

"You don't have to be a part of a social group to be accepted," said Robianes, a member of Delta Delta Delta. "Even in social groups, there are informal conflicts. We want to get rid of those, whether you are greek and feel attacked or vice versa, it needs to stop."

If approved, the organization would be the first with the direct message of fighting bullying on campus, said Kristi Finger, the UI coordinator for student organizations. She said she doesn't see any reason the group wouldn't be granted organization status.

Sarelas and Robianes also have created a clothing line associated with the group. They hope to donate the proceeds from the sales to Pacer — a national organization against bullying.

Robianes said they hope to host a fashion show at the OnIowa program in August to show incoming freshmen that the UI is unified and accepting of all students, whether greek or non-greek.

UI freshman Susan Ryan said that as a student involved in the greek community, she sees the group as possibly being beneficial to connecting students.

"I've seen the stickers for 'BRO: It's chill' around campus — I just didn't know what it was," she said. "I think it is a great idea, though. I think that a lot of people think that greeks bully non-greeks, but greeks feel attacked, too. I think it goes hand-in-hand."

Robianes said they hope to bring together students in and outside of the greek community.

"When you think of a 'bro,' you think of a buddy, a friend …" she said. "That is what we hope to create through this organization … unity."

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