The status of Greek life at SFU has once again been called into question, as the SFSS board of directors recently brought the discussion to the table.
The issue concerns Grid Representation and Interest Development (GRID), the club through which fraternities and sororities are able to function on campus. While taking no official stance on Greek life as a society, the board moved last Tuesday to grant GRID temporary registration for one more year, during which they will assist GRID in approaching SFU for recognition.
While the group is a ‘friend’ of the SFSS, neither it nor its subsequent Greek societies have ever been recognized by the university.
GRID has expressed to the SFSS that they would like assistance in lifting the ban on fraternities and sororities.
The motion carried by board allows GRID to continue being registered until September 1, 2015, but only in accordance with a letter of agreement (LOA), which outlines some guidelines for operation. After this date, GRID will no longer operate as a club. The motion also tasked members of the board to assist the group in seeking recognition from the university.
SFSS president Chardaye Bueckert spoke to the purpose of the LOA, saying, “There were concerns about behaviours that the Greek societies were engaging in.” These behaviours could potentially pose a liability issue for the society.
In the past, fraternities and sororities on campus have violated various SFSS bylaws. At-large representative Rebecca Langmead explained, “Previously, our issues [have come up because] our bylaws clearly state that there should be no gender divisions [in clubs], that they’re all inclusive for all members, and this does not seem to be the way that these sororities and these fraternities are running.”
She continued, “[These policies ensure] that the SFSS is an LGBTQ+ space and our understanding is that GRID itself does not violate those concerns, but the fraternities and sororities that GRID represents do.”
Addressing the board, Bueckert said, “If we sign this, it’s a win-win-win with the understanding that the student society has not taken a position. We obviously can do so, if there is desire from the membership and from our board.”
“There were concerns about behaviours that the Greek societies were engaging in.”
Chardaye Bueckert, SFSS president
While the SFSS currently has no formal position on Greek life at SFU, the university administration has not changed its official stance since SFU opened its doors. The SFU council — a body whose activities now fall to senate — reported in 1966 that “fraternities and sororities are not desirable on this university campus. This is also the view of the majority of the Simon Fraser students who turned out to vote on a referendum concerning this issue on March 22, 1966.”
Since 1966, however, there has been a shift in attitude, with more student groups showing an interest in adopting Greek life at SFU. In 2008, the SFSS held a non-binding plebiscite purely to gauge student interest in having the ban on fraternities and sororities lifted. The SFSS reported that the referendum “passed in favour of fraternities and sororities by a narrow margin.”
SFU’s associate vice-president, students, Tim Rahilly, informed The Peak that, in recent years, SFU has not been approached by any Greek societies to form a formal relationship.
He expressed that if the university did receive such a request, it would warrant reopening the discussion: “[The year] 1966 was a long time ago, and I’d hazard to guess that there aren’t many people part of that dialogue today who were also part of it back then.”
He spoke to some of the potential merits of Greek societies, such as community building, though maintained that there are many alternate ways to achieve the same things: “Some of the goals that these organizations talk about in terms of student involvement are things that I personally agree with. I think that might be great.”
Nevertheless, Rahilly anticipates that there might be opposition to what some view as Greek life culture. “I think the concern that many people have is what comes along with this kind of traditional view of fraternities and sororities. There’s a lot of collateral damage that seems to come with it,” he said.
The SFSS will continue to work with GRID in pursuit of recognition from SFU, as long as they honour the statutes of the LOA. “We would like to work with the university to accomplish that,” stated Langmead.