Penn’s only co-ed Greek institutions, St. Elmo’s and Alpha Delta Phi, are in a unique position to challenge traditional fraternity and sorority culture.
St. Elmo’s President and College Senior Camara Brown explained that co-ed Greek institutions offer an alternative and counterbalance to some of the ideals that pervade Greek life.
“Fraternities were founded on the idea that you can have a special relationship with a man that you can’t have with a woman, and the same goes for sororities,” Brown said. “We prove that’s not true.”
Alpha Delta Phi president and College junior Adam deLisle spoke specifically about how co-ed societies can combat what he sees as an endemic rape culture.
“I think that if you have a co-ed organization, that type of stuff gets shut down very quickly because you have so many different voices in the room,” he said. “Something like the OZ email could never come out of an institution like [Alpha Delta Phi],” he added, referring to a suggestive email inviting “ladies” to attend an event called “Wild Wednesdays” that was protested as “rape culture” earlier this semester.
Brown explained that co-ed institutions are by nature uniquely equipped to confront issues with Greek life.
“Because we are co-ed, because we are already fighting this grounded culture that fraternities are for men and sororities are for women, it creates a space that’s very open to challenging other aspects of what Greek culture is and means,” she said. “Could you just imagine if fraternities across the country had women in some of their meetings when they were making party themes? It makes a difference to have someone’s voice in the room who is directly affected or directly objectified.”
While both Brown and deLisle were critical of certain aspects of Greek culture, they both were quick to acknowledge the value of traditional single-gendered fraternities and sororities.
“Even though [Alpha Delta Phi] has dodged much of the criticism thrown at fraternities, I can see an increase in hostilities toward Greek institutions, which isn’t always very helpful,” deLisle said. “It’s creating a vicious cycle. It doesn’t address the issues. It can sometimes just make fraternities feel more alienated.”
Eddie Banks-Crosson, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, sees the value of co-ed Greek organizations when it came to offering an inclusive culture.
“I think it is a very progressive ideology around becoming co-ed,” he said. “I think you are able to offer a wider experience to both men and women and you’re tailoring your organization to meet the needs of both, which I think is very compelling.”
While Banks-Crosson recognizes the advantages of co-ed Greek organizations, he explained that the most important part of Greek life is simply finding a place where students feel comfortable.
“I think it’s important for students to have a space and I think it’s up to the student,” he said. “I think that what we need to do as a community and a system is to encourage students to go where they feel comfortable.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.