A new University student organization aims to make campus a place where students can feel comfortable being both gay and Greek.
Ashley Schwedt, who served last year as one of co-chairs of the group, called Lambda Alliance, said she hopes it will help make students feel more comfortable being a part of both communities.
“I want there to be more acceptance in Greek houses. I want LGBT people to feel more comfortable being Greek,” she said. “I just want it to be equal both ways.”
The Lambda Alliance is made up of representatives from the Interfraternity Council, The Michigan Student Assembly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Commission and the Multicultural Greek Council, among others. All four Greek councils are involved.
LSA senior Alissa Renz, also a group co-chair, said the Lambda Alliance will target discrimination issues seen in the Greek community, as well as throughout the University.
“You come face to face with issues as simple as use of language that is completely inappropriate,” she said. “(There is) subconscious hatred towards a group of people that most people don’t readily think about when they’re acting a certain way.”
Interfraternity Council President Jose Nunez, a member of the Lambda Alliance, said he met with then-LGBT commission chair Jen Hsu last year to come up with a way to address the distance between the Greek and LGBT communities.
Renz said one of the group’s main goals is to create a modified form of “ally training” — a practice that gives students the tools they need to support members of the LGBT community.
“These people are supposed to be your family and if they cannot be who they really are around you because they don’t feel comfortable enough or feel as though you won’t accept them, that’s a sad state of affairs,” Renz said in an e-mail.
The Spectrum Center, along with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhallenic Association sent out a survey to Greek organizations two years ago to gauge their attitudes towards the LGBT community. The survey found that most members of the Greek community were apprehensive about their houses’ abilities to act tolerant toward a gay Greek member.
Nunez cited a specific experience when asked what inspired him to creat the group: one of his fraternity brothers came out to the rest of the fraternity. Though there was some initial shock, he said, nothing really changed between the brother and the rest of the fraternity.
Nunez said he thinks the Lambda Alliance will help create an environment where members of the Greek system don’t perceive their house as a place that is indifferent to LGBT issues.
“It turned out to be a nonissue for my house,” he said. “If I were responding to the survey, I probably would have said the same thing: ‘I’m fine with it but my house probably wouldn’t have been.’ I think that perception is wrong, and I think this group could probably aim to take care of that,” he said.
The group is working with all four Greek councils. Nunez said he wants to incorporate the Greek ally training into IFC’s New Member Day, a day where new fraternity members are introduced to the programs that fraternities have to offer.
“I’m trying to make this New Member Day really successful, because if we replicate it from year to year, in four years everyone will have had that Greek Ally Training and they would have had that same exposure,” he said. “Then, whatever the perceptions now, in a couple years it’s just going to be a much more open community if we keep doing this every year.”