Despite much progress in the protection of civil rights over the past century, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to be prime targets for discrimination. While the University is usually considered to be a tolerant place, there is always room for improvement. Whether or not its less-than-tolerant reputation is deserved, the University’s Greek system is one logical place to start. Thankfully, the Lambda Alliance, a new student organization that aims to make Greek organizations on campus more LGBT-friendly, is the pro-active effort needed to do just that this. The key to its success, though, will be sustaining the effort.

The Lambda Alliance, a joint effort between University’s four Greek Councils and the Michigan Student Assembly, became active this semester but was conceived almost a year ago. The effort stems from the idea that ignorance leads to misunderstanding. The group has made its primary purpose to educate others about what it’s like to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and has hosted a few small functions to get this message out. The group hopes to begin “ally training,” an educational program that teaches students how to be more aware and understanding of LGBT issues. One of the group’s first big efforts will be incorporating ally training into the Interfraternity Council’s upcoming New Member Day.

While the group explicitly isn’t countering a noticeable problem of intolerance in the University’s Greek system, it is countering an important one: perception. Whether based in reality or not, some view the Greek community as exclusive and intolerant. Some of this stems from problems on other campuses. But problems exist here, too. For example, when the Spectrum Center performed its Greek Climate Survey last year, it found that fraternity and sorority members were individually likely to accept a gay member. On a “house level,” when members are in large groups and more influenced by others’ discriminatory beliefs, tolerance levels drop.

Even a little intolerance is too much, and the Lambda Alliance is a good way to keep discrimination from worsening. When we increase people’s awareness of LGBT issues, we help decrease ignorance that leads to stereotyping, misconceptions and discrimination. Stopping ignorance before it grows is a way to be proactive and stop widespread homophobia before it starts.

This organization’s major hurdle will likely be the same thing that plagues most student start-ups: maintaining sustained effort. If the Lambda Alliance is going to be successful, it will need more than a few alley training events this year. Individual houses and Greeks will need to see to it that tolerance is a priority.

The same goes for all students on campus. Students shouldn’t leave it to someone else and someone else’s group. Whether it’s as simple as choosing more mindful language, change starts on an individual level.

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