Robin Jones Kerr: Think about gender diversity before going Greek

At the start of every semester, when I first walk into my classes, I’m almost always disappointed by the lack of diversity I see. As a journalism major and women’s studies minor, I’ve become used to seeing a disproportionate number of women.

Especially in small, discussion-based classes, I worry this lack of gender diversity will mean a lack of difference in opinions.

For the same reason, I’m concerned about Greek life, particularly single-sex fraternities and sororities.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Robin Jones Kerr

If you’re thinking about joining Greek life this semester, I ask that you take a moment to consider whether a single-sex organization is the place for you and what it might mean for preserving the variety of people in your life. Keep in mind the many disadvantages of dividing your GW experience along gender lines.

“Diversity” is one of those principles we all hold dear and to which we frequently reaffirm our commitment. GW devotes an office to improving it, and we support organizations like the Black Student Union, the Feminist Student Union and Allied in Pride, all to strengthen our campus diversity.

It’s strange, then, that we have a blind spot over 30 percent of the student population – Greek organizations that exclude members based on gender. It’s here, with this enormous section of the student body, that we somehow forget our dedication to diversity.

We don’t often think of gender as an important aspect of diversity – race or sexual orientation are more likely to come to mind – but an even spread of genders is just as crucial as the variance of any other demographic. It’s the reason we encourage women and girls to get involved in fields like science and math, the reason we celebrate women who make it to the upper echelons of the corporate world and the reason we track how many women are elected to office. We celebrate gender parity throughout the rest of society, so we should strive for it in our student organizations as well.

The benefits of Greek life are numerous: You have the chance to perform community service, develop long-term friendships and gain access to a vast network of job connections.

But students shouldn’t have to confine themselves to single-sex, and therefore non-diverse, organizations to enjoy these benefits.

Obviously, I recognize that members of Greek life don’t live in a bubble and they have lives outside of their organizations. Sorority sisters meet men in other student groups, in classes and at their workplaces, and the same goes for fraternity brothers.

They’re able to develop friendships with people of the opposite sex, sure. But Greek life teaches you to form deep, long-lasting relationships with members of your chapter – to form a “sisterhood” or “brotherhood.” You should be able to make these same types of meaningful connections with people of a different sex.

I also agree that by joining any organization, you’ll be exposed to people of different backgrounds because of the sheer number of new people you’ll meet. But in that case, join a group that doesn’t make your gender a prerequisite, like one of our many theater groups or Alternative Breaks. Members will have similar interests, certainly, but at least there isn’t a pass/fail test for joining based on gender.

Our families, high school teachers and guidance counselors told us that we would come to college to meet people different from ourselves. If you grew up in a small town, for example, going to college in D.C. is meant to be a life-altering experience: You’re supposed to encounter new types of people and graduate a more socially conscious person. It doesn’t make sense for freshmen, who have only been on campus a few weeks, to insulate themselves from people with different ways of thinking.

As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to join Girl Scouts, and my brother couldn’t be a Boy Scout. In fact, neither of us participated in any single-sex organization during grade school because my parents refused to support groups that discriminated based on sex.

It might date my parents as ‘90s feminist hippies, but that mindset is why I had no interest in joining a sorority when I came to GW. I’ve stuck to a principle that I grew up with, and despite being exposed to Greek life for three years now, I still haven’t changed my mind.

Robin Jones Kerr, a senior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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