Junior don writes letter about fraternities, gender and equality on campus

Kappa Alpha, a fraternity made up of male King’s students, was discussed at council today after a letter was brought to the attention of KSU president Anna Dubinski.

Read our story about the campus and Greek community reaction here.

What do you think?

Gender and Equality at King's

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

64 replies on “Junior don writes letter about fraternities, gender and equality on campus”

I too think the author of this piece really hit the nail on the head.
The last thing we need on campus is a group of sexist, elitist (hell, why don’t we just say it), misogynistic males exercising freedom and making OUR Kings community less safe. It truly is unacceptable. Since my very first day on campus I have found the tensions created by this woman-hating group nearly impossible to avoid. Why should their desire to reside off-campus in the company of particular friends trump my needs to be accepted and loved by each individual within my Kings community?
What could possibly be going on inside the walls of that woman-hating house kilometres away from campus? I’ll tell you one thing: discussions on how to exclude, put down, and breach the safety of women on campus.
The hypermasculinity promoted by Kappa Alpha needs to go. We are Kings, we have needs, we need to be cohesive.
Lets all hold hands and sway
#KappaOut #Safetyfirst

Could the author of this post please re-post stating their real name? Of all things referred to on this page – the letter and the comments – this post is the most dangerous thing to the King’s community as a whole. If you want to keep your anonymity, that isn’t something anyone can change, but I’d feel much more comfortable if I knew whom these misinformed and derogatory remarks belong to.

Are you serious? Cannot believe what I just read. The amount of ignorance and hypocrisy in that post was ridiculous
must be some intense sarcasm written by a talented writer

I think perhaps you should see a professional. Your worldview is so distorted, so paranoid that I think it’s probably more accurate to classify it a delusion.

While I agree whole heartedly that the “tradition” of sororities and frats is antiquated in the worst way, I would really hate to see this turn into a witchhunt (warlockhunt?) against the KA boys. NOT. And I say again NOT to say that I read this letter as advocating such a thing, but some of the comments I’ve been seeing around social media today are heading in that direction. I think it would really discredit this movement, and draw attention AWAY from the BROADER ISSUE. That is, how do we keep moving forward away from past segregation, and the discomfort around the opposite/differently identifying sex that still seems to be ingrained in some people? (Personally, the LAST place I feel ‘safe’ is in a group of all-females, and I very much identify as one).
I work very closely with some of the Kappa Alpha gentlemen on campus, and I have to say that as individuals, they are absolutely THE LAST thing that comes to mind when I think of a misogynist. Some of the most thoughtful and heartening discussions I’ve had about this big, confusing gender issue have been with these individuals.
I cannot speak to their collective character, but this has been my personal experience with those who I see on a day-to-day basis.
Again. I want SO much to emphasize that I think frats and sororities have no place in the modern education community. I just implore you all to focus your energy on the big picture. This community is full of incredible people who have so much capacity to create positive change here in our little King’s home, but more importantly, in the great world beyond.
And yes, I am including my name. The day I post something on the internet that I am ashamed to attach my name to is a sad day for my conscience. If you have ish, I’d love to chat in person.

I agree with much of this. I hope that this discussion is about a big-picture vision of gender justice on our campus, and not about vilifying individual members of these societies. (And I hope that those who participate in Greek groups do keep weighing in. This does need to be a conversation with them, not just a conversation about them.)
With respect to specific, particular instances in which individuals are facing discrimination or personal threats associated with folks in these groups: I hope that in treating these cases, the conversation will land not just in the Watch or on social media (not always the best forums for sensitive matters), but also, when possible, in the office of of the equity officer (Kim Kierans).
My feeling about this conversation at King’s this weekend is one of overwhelming gratitude — along with massive appreciation for the councillors’ thoughtful responses to this yesterday morning. (Check out Karen Gross?’s live blog of council to see some of those.)

I’d really like to thank you for your comments. As one of the people who chose to sign this letter, I think it’s really important to emphasize the fact that this is not a discussion that started with the intent of vilifying individual people, but rather to consider the impact of the structure as a whole on the community. It is my hope that the conversation, especially in a public forum, never gets anecdotal.
That being said, it’s important to remember that we have Dr. Kim Kierans as a university resource for anyone who is made to feel unsafe on their campus for any reason.
Again, happy to talk any time (with anyone) in real life!

I REALLY thank Claire for her comments. I think understanding has to be made clear in the early stages of development of things like this, and other social media comments had given me cause to worry.
Something else that I believe must be vocalized in the early stages of developments such as these is that silence, if you have the opinion that fraternities and sororities should remain on campus, is not going to be helpful to the solution in the long run.
The brave people that have brought this issue forward very much see it as an important part of King’s Campus, and are very much concerned with how these societies and ideologies affect King’s Students. This does not mean that they are not willing to discuss this, they have all opened up their doors to be talked to, and have the courage to sign their names to their opinions. I believe the last thing they would want to do is create the feeling that anyone who’s opinion is contrary to theirs is not welcome. This is something that should very much be discussed, and all opinions are no doubt welcomed by everyone.
The letter’s intention is not to shame the Fraternities into silence, but to develop a forum for discussion where we can talk about some of the ways in which the Fraternity Sorority community may be damaging to King’s Students feelings of safety.
So, as I believe hiding behind words is useless, I would also like to publish my name, and put out some questions that to me seem like very much follow up questions that need to be asked.
Is there ANY room for Fraternities on King’s Campus?
What ,if any, role can the Student Union play in this?
and most importantly,
How can we make this any environment that leads to reaching an agreement rather than simply an opposition?
I am NOT part of Campus Fraternity, but,
I personally do believe, that there is room for discussion, and that although my Male Gender is very much a reason for bias, I would like to hope that there is also room for Fraternities and Sororities to discuss a place on the King’s Campus
Come Chat when you got the time!

I think this open letter goes too far. Whatever opinion the writers have about fraternities and their role in perpetuating harmful and exclusionary social dynamics, it’s inappropriate to suggest that Kappa Alpha directly endangers members of the campus community. Despite the strength of the writers’ opinion, it is far from proven that Kappa Alpha is “one of the sources of inequality at King’s”. To align members of the King’s community with economic, racial, sexual, and gender discriminatory practices because of their participation in this group is deeply misguided. I hope and believe that a morally obligated community such as King’s would stand up to the practices described in this letter, but I strongly disagree that Kappa Alpha endorses these practices. Not only does this letter incite hate for a number of members of the King’s community, but it provides no instance of wrong-doing by the members of the fraternity. That fraternities are implicitly patriarchal is not enough to condemn this association (there is no clear way in which this structure extends beyond it’s members), and I strongly hope that cooler heads will prevail “so that we can work and study together in a more equitable environment”. Full Disclosure: I am a male student at King’s, a feminist, and I find fraternities laughable.

On what basis are you confident that Kappa Alpha doesn’t endanger members of the community? In my opinion, to deepen certain culturally inscribed gender inequalities (e.g. financial inequalities) is to cause harm.
And it should be noted that the letter includes comments on KA, but its bulk is not concerned with KA exclusively. Many of the comments above — about harms associated with fraternity culture on university campuses — are about a bigger narrative; we want to look at common problems associated with the phenomenon of Greek life.
I’d love to hear more fraternity members speak openly about why they value their association, and what the benefits of such groups might be. I can’t speak for all of the signatories of the above letter, but I’m open to that conversation.

I find it interesting that this comment is offered up by a pseudonym when others have attached themselves, by name, to their opinions. I think such honesty is imperative if an effective, “cool headed” dialogue is to be achieved.

I find it interesting that this person raises many valid points and you feel the need to resort to an ad-hominem attack without addressing anything that he says.

I love the conversation that is happening. Both in addition to the articulate letter, both Claire and Cam bring up excellent points.
For me, what this stems back to is the issue of campus safety. Every student at King’s, and every King’s community member should feel completely comfortable and safe within the confines of our campus. The student government has done an excellent job branding, or defining, King’s a safe-zone, and has done it’s best to create a positive culture of tolerance and security.
That said, if one student feels unsafe, or disturbed in any regard while at King’s, that is a reason for concern, and examination. For everyone.
I believe that in order to fully address some of the issues that are brought up in this letter, we, as a community, are going to have to remove ourselves from the King’s mindset and look at our traditions with a critical eye. I don’t think that this is limited to a fraternities. While, as I’ve said, we’ve taken leaps and strides in the right direction, there are a few King’s traditions that I’m hinting towards.
In any case, the main point of this my comment is that campus safety and happiness should always take priority, and any one student (or groups of students) who is disturbed by any aspect of our culture should be encouraged to say so, and open up some positive discourse. If there’s one thing King’s is good at, it’s thinking. So let’s think about the safety of our school.
EDIT: I thought that this would post my full name, but it didn’t, so my name is Jonny Bolduc. Like everyone else, I’m totally open for some discussion!

okay i’ve read this through about four times and i think i get the argument being made: the existence of fraternities confers privilege onto members of the fraternities, privilege that non-male King’s students don’t have access to. the unequal conferring of privilege is inherently harmful to the King’s community, therefore structures that create that (i.e. frats) should be abolished.
i think that’s a very reasonable argument. but then i might be getting it wrong, so please correct me if i am.

That is a very reasonable argument. But arguments put forward by members about benefits they derive from any particular fraternity must be acknowledged as well. If I say that Kappa Alpha is constantly engaged in these conversations, and that we are trying in our own way, from within a fraternity, to re-envision and reinvent what it is to be a fraternity member, and that our own particular experiences don’t align with some of the very serious accusations leveled against fraternities in general, I would like to know that people see that as a reasonable argument as well. I would also like people to know that the privilege we are talking about is that we receive gas money to travel, and some 10 people across North America receive relatively small scholarships out of need. If we are to be abolished for that, so be it. I don’t consider that reprehensible.

I here reiterate that nobody (least of all myself) has suggested that KA or any other fraternity be abolished — and I don’t think the Union or the University have the power to do that anyway. But I am suggesting that it’s possible that, no matter how egalitarian the views of its members may be, KA is linked to a deeply troubling history, and that there are limits to the positive change (and we did try to acknowledge some of these changes in the above letter) that I’m willing to hope to see within a structure that appears to me to be sexist and elitist. I haven’t seen anyone explain this appearance away yet, but I am really trying to listen. Please keep talking with us.

My own friend group confers privilege onto the members. The abolishment of groups unaffiliated with the university are outside of the purview of the university.

Does your friend group have a website that uses the university name? Does it have discriminatory policies? — If yes, then while it may not be under the jurisdiction of the university, it would be pretty reasonable for groups within the university to treat it as a concern.
It also needs to be said that nobody is trying to abolish any fraternities or sororities here.

Bethany is right to ask that members of KA begin to express why we feel our organization is worth maintaining. So here goes. This is a long one….. Brevity is not my strong suit apparently.
The point about creating a safe space for men to express their feelings was pretty solidly scoffed at during the conversation at council (with on or two much appreciated exceptions). In general this was taken to mean that a space was being preserved for men to say things that would otherwise be criticized by women, that we would be free to express our misogyny in comfort and safety without fear of accountability. This is simply not what I experience, nor do I think that anyone that knows our members personally would have reason to suspect us of such a thing.
The Masculine trope of the strong silent type, of a masculinity that admits no vulnerability and bluntly barrels through life with unflinching self confidence can be as harmful to men as it can ultimately be to women. I was raised by a stay at home father who provided all the emotional accessibility that any child could want from their parents, but this is not the stereotype of what a man should be and this is not the sort of role model that many men have.
The safe space that I am proud to be a part of is one that allows for the sort of conversations about love, about fear, and about personal responsibility that have helped me to develop a strong enough sense of self that I can turn my back on stereotypes and exemplify the strength of character that is necessary for a man and a father in our time. A more versatile and humble sense of masculinity.
Safety is a word that is being thrown around quite a bit in this discussion. At council I tried my best to convey (what might not have come across in the transcripts) that the sort of fear being spread around campus about the threat we pose is hyperbolic. I was advised not to come to council because council was afraid the KA would come to intimidate members. Where such a notion would come from is beyond me, but it is a testament to what I think is a misguided perception of us as people. While I appreciate Bethany’s point that this is about structures not people, I feel like more care needs to be taken in the responsible expression of these concerns. It is not fair on the one hand to pick and choose all the evils of fraternities (and there are many) as they exist around the world, make reference to KA in the same breath, and then refuse to talk about us as people, in reality, claiming this isn’t about people. I think it is irresponsible because it is this sort of conflation that is helping to whip up a sense of fear that is simply unjustified.
Please don’t talk about “one of the sources of inequality at King’s that I believe is under-acknowledged and under-discussed on our campus: specifically the presence and activities of fraternities around the university (here I am thinking of Kappa Alpha)”, and then say
“most fraternities promote a vision of elitist hypermasculinity that has to be constantly proven through rituals that reinforce the exclusion of others, usually women, queer and trans people, and people of colour”. And when we respond defensively, please don’t say that you are talking about structures and therefore it’s okay. Talk about structures of racism, sexism, and homophobia, or talk about us. But DO NOT associate us with them. Do not suggest that these are inherent values of any fraternity as if we must exemplify such things, as if we are all racists, sexists, or homophobes whether we like it or not. We are people.
I am James Shields and I approve this message…

James’ definition of “safe space” is spot on. It reflects precisely what I mean when I describe KA in this way, and it certainly reflects my experience of them as a group.

James, thank you for this. I’m going to read your response and think carefully about it. (I’ll be stepping back from this conversation for a few days to recuperate give other people [and myself] some space to think to speak offline, with friends, but I plan to stay in the conversation over the long term.) I promise I will get back to you at greater length, either in person or in this thread.
For now, some quick thoughts about safety and emotion. Like Phil, I agree with the definition of safety you provide. But I don’t see why this kind of safety needs to be bounded by discriminatory policy. Surely literary and character-building goals are better served by inclusion than by sexism and elitism?
So far, the people who signed the above letter are seeking nothing other than an inclusive conversation about how we can make life at King’s more just. The letter is not punitive. It doesn’t seem to me as if anyone is out to demonize individuals, (In this respect, I find the reaction to these nonexistent accusations of ‘evil’ and ‘vilification’ quite telling.) My hope is that we all place our emphasis on building a healthier campus life and taking care of each other. Of course everyone should feel safe, including men — but the image of safety that appears to be presented by fraternity groups is not an image of true security or freedom. Rather, it is an image of safety-as-non-accountability. Frankly, this picture doesn’t look anything like my concept of safety. I want to suggest that these groups be transparent and accountable to those outside of themselves. Especially those who are marginalized. (Shouldn’t all organized power be accountable, in some degree, to that which is outside of it? A genuine question.) To me, that seems like a step in the direction of safety; that’s a step towards integrity; that’s where I hope to see us moving, by way of this conversation.
(On this note, I will say that I am discouraged by the extent to which some have responded to this letter and the subsequent council discussion as if it is entirely about the frat members, and their interests — rather than to listen and inquire further into the ways in which commitments to fraternities and the behaviour with them might be negatively impacting our female-identified, queer, and trans colleagues. I’m not sure that frat members are in a position to tell other people at the university whether or not their fear is justified. — I hope that you remain open to hearing from women and other folks on campus who don’t feel comfortable with what KA represents. Thanks again, so much, for all of your thinking and writing about this.)

Hi James,
I admire the way you have spoken about the importance of safe spaces where men can be vulnerable and talk about issues that might otherwise be difficult to talk about. I’d like to zero in on this part of the conversation. I agree that it is absolutely necessary that these sorts of spaces exist to help men to, in part, work through what masculinity means to them.
Here are my questions: is it possible non male identified people to be part of these spaces? Is it possible for men to be vulnerable in the presence of people of other genders?
On a personal note, I can tell you that I have heard this argument before, and each time I hear it I am dismayed to think that my male peers might not consider me and others like me to be suitable confidantes or to be capable of participating in these kinds of conversations. I understand that as someone who does not perform masculinity on a daily basis I might not be able to relate to some specific experiences, and there may be occasional situations where you really need to talk to someone who has been through the same thing you have. That being said, I am concerned about this idea you present that certain traits that need not be attached to gender (things like character, strength, and personal responsibility) are best developed in a male only space.
Looking forward to more conversation,

I have heard from close friends that when they have tried to create a discussion group about masculinity which was inclusive to everyone that many of the women that chose to attend did not participate to conversation in a positive way. In this scenario, the male members of the group found that they could not properly express their own opinions out of fear of being told that they had no right to feel the way they feel. This is a serious concern and if it was any other group would not be questioned.

This is definitely a valid concern, but I’m not quite convinced that the actions of a few individuals in one situation should justify excluding women entirely from these kinds of conversations.
That being said, I’m someone who tends to like hearing different (and even conflicting) perspectives in a conversation, and I know that not everyone is comfortable with that. I understand that there may be certain personal conversations that some would rather keep to members of their gender, and that’s not something I would speak against.
However (and Colleen, this isn’t directed at you, this is just a continuation of my train of thought), it seems to me that KA (and all fraternities and sororities) extend far beyond these few personal conversations. As James explained at council, KA’s mandate particularly is as a literary society. It doesn’t seem to me that they have any stated aims as a discussion group on masculinity (though that may be a happy side benefit- and I would be glad to be corrected if I am misinformed on this point).
I want to take this idea of “safe space” seriously because it is clear that this matters to members of KA and other greek societies. However, I think we also need to consider that KA particularly was established as a literary society at a time when women were excluded from academia. It seems to me (but correct me if I’m wrong) that the fraternity was not established as a male only group specifically to create a space where “guys could be guys”, but because at that time it went without saying that academic discussions happened among groups of men. I am uncomfortable with the way that this group continues to function as a male only space as it seems to go against our modern understanding that the ability to appreciate literature and academic discussion has nothing to do with gender.
To be clear, I wholeheartedly believe that individual members of KA respect women as their academic peers. I just worry that the history and structure of the organization they engage with contradicts this.

Our chapter was created 5 years ago so I think that invalidates some of your arguments about women being excluded from academia. Furthermore, I don’t think we can hold the 19th century to the same stands we have today. It’s very whiggish.
I think it’s exactly a reason in some circumstances. If a group is made to make people feel comfortable discussing their feelings and another group attends that threatens that, no matter what the circumstances or who it is, IT IS NOT OKAY (ex. you probably wouldn’t like it if an individual who was homophobic went to a pride meeting and proceeded to tell them how being gay was “wrong”. Just because we’re talking about men and women in this context doesn’t change the point that safe spaces for discussions need to actually be safe.) I find it unfortunate that everyone seems so focused on the exclusion on women that they aren’t able to see past that being wrong.
If we are so concerned with it’s history, why weren’t these concerns raised 5 years ago? Why is this the first time that the argument has been raised? Has it been okay? Was this the first year that the fact that KA exists has “threatened” our community? King’s is never afraid of conflict and discussion. It seems odd to say that, in this case, we were until now.

I’m not holding the 19th century to the same standards we hold today, nor am I suggesting that when this chapter was founded 5 years ago it was to aim to exclude women from academia. This is my question: If a group decided to get together 5 years ago to talk about books (and maybe also looking for a safe space) why was it decided that the structure of a fraternity (and KA particularly) was the best way to do so?
As for your second point, of course homophobic dialogue would not be welcome at a P.R.I.D.E. meeting, but as I mentioned in another comment, P.R.I.D.E. has not banned heterosexual and cisgendered people outright. I’m suggesting that it might be possible in some cases for people “not on the inside” to still offer valuable support and perspectives. Furthermore, I mentioned in my last post that I agree with you that some personal conversations might productively happen in single gender settings. As I said before, I respect the need for everyone to have safe spaces. My question is whether the model of a fraternity (or sorority) is the best model for a safe space, and what other implications come along with that kind of institution.
As for why this question is being raised now, I can only say that this is something I have been thinking about for as long as I’ve known about KA (maybe a year and a half or two years?). I know a lot of people have been having these conversations for a while. It came to council now because we received the letter of concern that is posted above.
Maybe it would help if I were to clarify that no one’s goal is to shut KA down. Bethany’s stated intent in opening the conversation was just that: to start a conversation.
I know that it may seem that it’s easy for those of us not in the fraternity to ask these seemingly theoretical questions. I understand that for individual members of the fraternity, KA is a important and valuable part of their lives. It may seem unfair to pose these questions about gender equity “at their expense”. However, I think we need to think about the very real negative consequences dealt out to women who have raised these issues. I know multiple women have faced threats for speaking out about this. I want to be clear that this is not something people are bringing up lightly, and that we are talking about it out of a genuine concern for equity in the King’s community.
Colleen: this conversation is getting long and it is starting to distract me from my schoolwork. Would you rather chat about this in person some time?

I am also someone who chose to sign this letter, when it was circulated to different members. I read and re-read it, and it summarized my concerns as a member of the community. King’s is a community that I am very proud to be apart of, one where I feel supported and listened to in. The whole point of this discussion was to begin a dialogue about something that has been weighing on the minds of many. King’s, by its very nature, calls for these types of conversations, one’s that are not always the easiest to have, but are so vitally important to the culture of our school. As said by so many people, I am available to hear everyone’s opinion and continue an ongoing dialogue on the matter. Each student at our school has a right to safety and having their voice heard and respected.
-Charlotte Bell

As a member of the Greek community I strongly suggest that you go and speak to members of the Greek community and take the time to read the public constitutions that they have. Greek communities are very much about being open and changing with the times. You will find gay and bisexual members in both types of organizations. You will also find that that the organizations don’t care if your CIS or trans because we know gender isn’t defined by what’s between your legs, but by what’s in your head. So again, before you make these assumptions and claims take the time to get to know your Greek Community. E-mail or message any of the two sororities, one female fraternity, or six male fraternities and get to know them.

Your claims — that the writers of this letter do not know members of sororities or fraternities, and that they have not investigated the organizations — is not based in fact. The King’s community is small, and many signatories represented above are good friends with people who are deeply embedded in Greek communities. Please read more closely.

I did read closely. In the letter it is not mentioned that the writers are good friends with people in the Greek community. If they are, in fact, good friends with members in the Greek community then I apologize. As it stands, I don’t see if in this letter and I again encourage people to get in touch with local Greeks or read their constitutions.

I’d like to know what ‘our community’ means. Which area do you specifically cover? Kings? Dal? Halifax? Nova Scotia?

I agree with greeksister. There is a lot more to fraternity life than you seem to understand. I don’t entirely know how you came to feel this way about the Greek system, but before writing accounts about a system that you aren’t personally familiar with, you should take some time and learn about what it is that you are so blatantly tongue lashing.

I don’t have time right now for the full response that I would like to write, but I am a member of a doubly-discriminative Jewish Fraternity. I essentially see it as a group of friends that happen to have a mission and a title. Very quickly, here are a few things that members of our organization have done that we likely wouldn’t have without the structure of the organization
-Go door to door raising money and goods for Phoenix House, a local charity for at-risk and homeless youth
-Set up a table at SMU selling fake moustaches to raise money for Movember, as well as go to Pacifico during a Movember-themed party and raise money there
-Create a basketball team to play in a weekly rec league
-Create a trivia team to play once a week at the Grawood
-Attend events with Hillel, a Jewish organization that is open to everyone and promotes the inclusive aspects of Jewish culture
-Host a party, which I believe a fair amount of King’s students attended, and will in turn help us with some events we are planning, such as:
-Superbowl party
-Basketball tournament to raise money for Phoenix House
-Party that will (hopefully) raise thousands of dollars for cancer research
And these are just off the top of my head for a fraternity that has existed for only a few months
Hopefully you can see how being in a fraternity can be positive for both the members and the community at large. When I have time I will give a more in depth response to the criticisms listed above (although James Shields has pretty much covered it), but for now this is all I have to say. Thank you for opening up the conversation. No matter what the conclusion, this kind of transparency and back-and-forth can only help our understanding. Hopefully we end up discovering that there is still a place for fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations on campus, but if not then we will still be better off for recognizing these organizations as negative.

First, I would like to commend Bethany, Michal, Meghan, Katie and Charlotte for seeking to eliminate exclusionary and potentially discriminatory behaviours on campus, defend women, queer and trans people who may feel particularly targeted by male-only groups and promote student safety. However, this particular attempt to address these issues is misguided and unfortunately under-researched.
To my knowledge, Kappa Alpha is the only male fraternity based at King’s that recruits only King’s men. There are four other male fraternities, one female fraternity and two sororities based at Dalhousie that recruit members primarily from Dalhousie, King’s, SMU and the Mount. The male fraternities are Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Chi, Phi Kappa Pi and Zeta Psi. The female fraternity is Alpha Gamma Delta and the two sororities are Omega Pi and Iota Beta Chi. All of the Dalhousie-based organizations belong to Greek Council, a ratified Dalhousie society that exists to promote communication between the groups and to facilitate communal enterprise. I encourage you to visit the websites and Facebook pages of each organization to learn more about their particular values and ideals, and to contact a member of Greek Council to learn more about their initiatives.
To simplify things slightly, this letter argues essentially that harmful patriarchial norms, sexism and elitism are reinforced by fraternities whose “hypermasculinity” disadvantages women and decreases their safety. Moreover, the authors argue that the benefits of belonging to a sorority are not even comparable to the privileges awarded to members of fraternities. I would like to address each of these issues in turn (apologies in advance: like James, brevity is not my strong suit).
Fraternities and sororities are exclusionary based on gender. The authors are right to draw our attention to this point and to discuss whether harmful gender norms are subtly or overtly reinforced by these exclusionary practices. However, to my mind, such a discussion would also necessarily involve any organization that unites members based on something shared between them, be it gender, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and even likes or dislikes. There are experiences, advice, discussions, questions and answers that are more meaningful when shared with people who have something in common with you than with those who do not. Sharing “coming out” stories with other LGBT members can give one a sense of solidarity and inclusion, for example; Bible study with other members of the Christian faith can reinforce one’s own beliefs; comparing experiences with the “glass ceiling” and discussing strategies for overcoming it as a woman in the corporate world can be more pertinent when talking with other women, rather than men. I do not support discrimination or exclusion, but I do understand that sometimes sub-communities give people the support they need in
order to contribute to the larger one they live and work within.
Perhaps I misunderstood the “elitist hypermasculinity” argument, but the authors seem to have conflated masculinity with gender. They write that they are skeptical that Kappa Alpha (and presumably other fraternities) will be able to eliminate “rituals associated with aggressive masculinity”, homophobia and sexism since they are gender-segregated (frankly, I don’t really see how being gender-segregated affects one’s capacity for meaningful change, but I digress). Further, they write that “you can’t maintain segregation without policing the masculinity of some participants.” As I’ve already mentioned, fraternities are exclusionary based on gender. However, one is allowed admittance into a fraternity whether one is hypermasculine, moderately masculine, a little bit masculine or not at all masculine. Certainly, some fraternities attract one “type” more than others, but there are enough differences between and even among the ones I know that the statement “Most fraternities promote a vision of elitist hypermasculinity” is not only a gross overgeneralization, but perpetuates a pernicious stereotype many fraternities work hard to overcome. Yes, the typical “frat boy” still exists, but he is no longer the rule.
Finally, there is the question of benefits. In this regard, the authors’ statements are patently false. Sororities offer a number of benefits to members that rival those offered to men in fraternities. These benefits may be tangible, such as scholarships, employment or travel opportunities, or less tangible, such as preparation for life after graduation, study skills, or community partnerships. Alpha Gamma Delta, the organization to which I belong, runs monthly philanthropy initiatives, hosts weekly study sessions, sponsors frequent events where students and alumnae get together to discuss a range of topics, encourages communication and involvement with members at other universities/colleges, offers opportunities for leadership experience, participates in Dalhousie intramurals, and the list goes on. On a personal note, Alpha Gamma Delta also was a “safe space” for me when I needed it most, and when the King’s community couldn’t provide what I needed alone.
As I said, I commend the authors of this letter for taking the time to voice their concerns to the King’s community and for promoting equality on campus and in our society. However, I do not think that exclusive sub-communities undermine the effectiveness of the larger or are harmfully inequitable. What is needed is more communication between all members of the community in order to eliminate the misrepresentation, misinformation and misunderstandings that perpetuate negative stereotypes and prevent all students from feeling safe and comfortable at King’s.

Hi Addy,
I don’t think I’ll be able to address all the thoughtful ideas you’ve brought up, but there’s one point you made that I would particularly like to explore.
I appreciate your comparison to other kinds of sub communities that meet to share common interests or experiences. You allude to religious and LGBT groups. I immediately thought of the two most visible groups of these kinds on the King’s campus: the King’s Chapel and P.R.I.D.E. Though both of these groups are organized based on something specifically shared, neither are exclusionary. Though I identify as an atheist, I plan to attend the chapel’s upcoming retreat, and I am happy to feel welcome there. Similarly, P.R.I.D.E. does not exclude individuals who identify as heterosexual (in fact, I think they have even had straight people help out on the executive).
My question, then, is whether these kinds of sub communities that gather around specific concerns need to be exclusionary to function. Or, if it isn’t strictly necessary, why might exclusionary groups be formed and maintained?

Hi Karen,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You pose a very interesting question. Before I get to it, I just want to clarify that it wasn’t my intention to argue that religious or LGBT groups, for example, need to be exclusive in order to function. My point was only to illustrate that there are certain situations where talking with another member of a common sub-community can provide more meaningful interaction than other discussions. A heterosexual person in a gay-straight alliance can be supportive, compassionate, understanding and a friend. But, they simply don’t have the same personal experience with coming out that a homosexual person does. In some areas, therefore, and for some people, someone who is not personally involved in the sub-community may provide less guidance and help than someone who is. The same is true of fraternities and sororities, to my mind.
I was also trying to gently distance ourselves from the argument that just because a group may be exclusive it is necessarily bad, harmful or dangerous. (Some, those that do promote hate, discrimination or prejudice are, but it is not the sole fact of their exclusivity that makes them damaging to society.) One is not permitted into closed Alcoholics Anonymous meetings without having a drinking problem, allowed to enroll in a single-sex school without identifying as female or male, accepted into university without attaining certain grades in high school. Yet, these groups are not, at least to my knowledge, widely viewed as discriminatory on the basis of their membership requirement alone. I would also like to add that there are opportunities to be included in Greek life without joining a particular organization. Many fraternities and sororities have open events, particularly those aimed to be philanthropic, social or community building. Further, I know that one can attend the majority of Alpha Gamma Delta meetings, at least, without being an initiated member. Greek Council meetings are not only open to the public, but they have a specific executive position written into their constitution for non-Greek representatives.
So, to your question. I don’t think I have the authority to say why exclusionary groups are formed or maintained when they are not strictly necessary. I can tell you that I have experienced first-hand the benefits to be found in an all-female environment, both at a single-sex high school and as a fraternity member, that I don’t know if I would have experienced otherwise. I can only imagine that these same benefits can also be found in all-male environments, and I am hesitant to argue that just because a group is exclusive that it is wrong. There are alternatives available for people who do not like the single-sex environment – there even exist co-ed fraternities, at least in the United States. Perhaps exclusionary groups are formed and maintained simply to provide an option to those who seek a community, support and friendship that they cannot find in other places.

Hey Addy,
Just to clarify, KA is comprised of students from both Dalhousie and King’s. Though admittedly the majority of the members are from King’s.

Hi Gabriel, Thanks for your correction. I’ve added your edit to my original comment.

I believe Addy described everything better than I could. I’d like to include that at least two (but I believe all three) sororities on campus do not discriminate against sexual preference or orientation. So long as you identify primarily as a women. Hazing is also illegal in Canada. This article appears to be based off of a very different culture that does not reflect Canadian Greek Life.

I’m not putting my name or the name of anyone else on this post only because I don’t want to draw anyone into a conversation with out their permission. If this was offline I’d speak ver openly about my experience with a local fraternity.
As a woman who is close friends with several members of a local fraternity. I support them and am glad they exist. I recognize their bond and think they are an excellent support system for each other. They come from a wife variety of social, racial, and political backgrounds. And while I’m not privy to their all of their sexual orientations I know more than one who is gay. I know they’ve been an excellent friend to me, a woman outside of the Greek community. I’ve slept in their living room after parties, I’ve participated in their fundraisers for various local charities, and while I am not a member of their group I have never felt excluded. I appreciate that they have their own particular relationship- much like the members of any organization. And my experience has lead me to believe that most of them have become more thoughtful and aware of the world, as well as encouraged them to give to those around them- members or not.
I am not unaware of the issues individual fraternities and fraternity chapters have had, but I do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water.
I support fraternities.

To whom this may concern. The writer of this article couldn’t be more wrong with there statements. In order to to publish an article like this you need to go out and properly get your facts correct. You hear don’t have the accurate accurate information that you need. All you are doing is bashing greek organiztions. You will never know the true meanings and ideas of fraternities unless you join one your self. These comments you make are inaccurate and inappropriate. To get an idea of all the good things that that do shy dont you go and talk to some of the leaders of phi delta theta and sigma chi. This is a direct knock on me and a lot of others. Joining one of these organizations has made me what I am today and i am grateful for it.

as a self-identified queer and trans person who is apart of a Greek Letter Organization I find your argument interesting. I do agree with points on the perpetuation of elitism and hypermasculinity to an extent, however I find your arguments suspect to bias.
I think that before you fall victim to relaying information about fraternities that I assume you received from popular media, you should investigate actual lived experiences of fraternities, specifically on this campus (because let’s face it, GLO culture is NOT at all the same in Canada as it is in the USA).Overall, if you get a large group of *mostly* cis-het males, there will be problematic shit, I mean mob mentality is vapid. however I think there is a much more mutually beneficial way to address.
I think you need to address the positive aspects that fraternity life can have – such as a positive outlet for volunteerism and community work, a source of skills-gaining possibilities, lifelong friends, and more.I would love to see you re-write this article with a less biased stance and have you consider what you are saying about a large group of people who I am not quite certain you personally or organizationally know.
Also I’m interested to know if you talked to any queer and trans* people about GLO’s as a whole or you just spoke out and over them to get a point across?

I want to dispel a few of the assumptions here:
1) The above letter isn’t an article. It’s a letter to the KSU that The Watch took and published. None of the signatories expected it to be published in this way, or that it would ignite discussion in a forum like this (including attracting opinions from so many people outside of King’s). At least one of the writers has received threats of violence as a result of this letter becoming public.
2) At least one of the signatories of the letter identifies as queer, and others are involved in pride groups, South House, and other orgs at King’s and around Halifax. The letter was given to a trans person to read before it was sent to the KSU. Many people who supported this letter did not choose to sign it publicly for fear of retribution. This fear was, unfortunately, founded (see #1).
3) Writers and signatories have spent time with KA members and read texts and constitutions from other (Canadian) Greek groups. Some of the writers had several meetings with KA members, seeking information and perspective, before this letter was written. But even in the absence of this kind of research, the letter would be valuable. As I see it, the ‘bias’ from which the writers speak is mostly their ‘lived experience’ of being OUTSIDE this culture that you appreciate so much; of seeing how this culture impacts the lives of those on the margins of it. Surely this experience is worthy of attention, too?
4) I take your point that Greek orgs provide opportunities to do great community work, social justice work, charity work, and bond-building. But aren’t these goals to some degree undermined rather than served by the parochial organizing principles undergirding them?

In response to your fourth point, even if I believed they were undermined (which I do not), I am sure you will agree that it is still better that these things happen through GLOs than not at all.

First of all, thank you for responding.
the only thing I have to say about the first point is that that is actually atrocious and despicable. While it doesn’t make me regret defending the greek community it does make me feel a bit shameful in doing so. as that is simply never the answer.
you make a great point with 3 in that both sides of the experiences of greek life are important to consider (especially considering you cannot change or determine how others will perceive you). As well as this I will say that I do not personally know any of the KA folk, and speak more to my experiences within the GLO community as a whole.
I think I have similar feelings about your 2nd and 4th point. like I 100% get why organizations like this can be perceived as hostile to queer and trans people but I also think you need to talk to queer and trans people who are in these organizations.
In terms of perpetuating patriarchal organizing, this is a tricky issue. I mean, a space that is inclusive of male identified people seems at the core problematic, especially when the group’s unifying trait is one based in historical and systemic power. I’m not sure how to or if I can argue that point but I dont think that the positive work these GLO’s must be undermined by this. Do I think every fraternity person is a womanizing mygoynist classist asshole? no. do I think organizations such as these could seek to benefit from anti-oppressive training, workshops, maybe even audits? absolutely!
All of this is starting to feel a bit repetitive though so I guess I shall leave it at that

This letter is grossly misinformed, and to be blunt borders on defamation not only of a particular organization but of the many fraternities and sororities of Halifax.

This is some of the dumbest shit I have ever read. Why is it that people from King’s are so insistent on creating problems that don’t exist?

Reben Hood.
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