As part of an increased effort to bring the Greek community and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community together, members of the respective groups will meet Sunday to create a stronger support system on campus.

Officials from the Spectrum Center, the University office in charge of LGBT affairs, will lead a workshop designed to teach members of all four Greek councils about what it means to be both Greek and gay.

The Greek-LGBT workshop was developed through a collaborative effort between the Spectrum Center and the Lambda Alliance — a student organization serving as a supportive partnership between LGBT students and their allies in the Greek system.

Kristefer Stojanovski, co-chair of the Lambda Alliance, which was founded by members of the four Greek councils — the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Association, the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-hellenic Council — in the fall of 2007, said the idea for a Greek-LGBT workshop has been in the works for about a year.

Stojanovski said the workshop is going to address situations that arise in the Greek community involving LGBT members, like when a member of a fraternity or sorority comes out to his or her brothers or sisters.

“Primarily if you look on campuses, there are two primarily homophobic groups that aren’t really open, and it’s the athletics and the Greek system,” Stojanovski said.

Gabe Javier, the assistant director of the Spectrum Center, will be leading the workshop. He said he wants the workshop to be interactive and tailored to meet the questions and concerns of the attendees.

“We also want to talk about myths versus facts and perceptions, perceptions versus the real lives of people,” Javier said. “We want to create spaces all over campus where people feel comfortable being themselves.”

During the winter and fall of 2007, the Spectrum Center conducted a survey to gauge the feelings of the Greek community toward LGBT students. Stojanovski said that the survey’s results indicated that while many individuals in the Greek community were comfortable with LGBT students, they perceived that their houses were not.

“What came out of that survey was that, individually, people were OK with it, but as you got into bigger realms such as houses and chapters, it was a little more homophobic, and then as you got to the entire Greek system it was even more homophobic,” Stojanovski said.

Stojanovski said the aim of the workshop is to further the conversation and increase awareness about issues LGBT students face in the Greek community. The workshop, which Stojanovski said he hopes becomes an annual event, was also introduced to new members of the Greek community through a similar workshop during the Interfraterntiy Council’s New Member Day last semester.

“What we want to do is increase the awareness and make people realize that this isn’t so weird and it’s not so awkward and it shouldn’t be so difficult to deal with, because the entire concept of the Greek system is that they’re supposed to be brothers and sisters and support each other,” he said.

Stojanovski, LSA senior and former member of Chi Psi, said another goal of the workshop is to change people’s views of the relationship between the LGBT community and the Greek system.

“I’m a member of the Greek system and I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “So we want to change people’s perceptions from the outside looking in, and from the inside looking out.”

Javier also said the workshop is an important first step in bridging the gap between LGBT students and Greeks, who serve as central figures on campus.

“Greeks are really great leaders on campus, and their leading can also be a really good example for social justice,” Javier said. “I think that there are stereotypes about gay people and we want to debunk those and there are also stereotypes about people who are in fraternities and sororities and we want to debunk those too.

“We want to add depth to the experience of being Greek and giving people the opportunity to be allies and to learn more about different folks is part of that,” he said.

IFC President Ari Parritz said that while the workshop is not mandatory for fraternity members, it is strongly encouraged because increasing awareness of LGBT issues in the Greek community is a high priority for the IFC.

“We recognize that IFC in particular struggles with LGBT awareness, and we understand that the topic is uncomfortable for many of our members, but we are moving ahead as quickly, efficiently, and practically as we can,” Parritz said in an e-mail interview.

“Right now, there is little doubt that some of our members do not feel comfortable coming out within our system,” he said. “That is a reality we are doing all in our power to change.”

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