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Take off the blinders, greek students

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Matt Epting

SGA President Matt Epting poses for a photo for the OU Daily. SGA and other groups on campus encourage students to register and vote on all levels of government.

Fellow greek students: we have to take off the blinders right now.
 
I know most of us have loved our experiences in a fraternity or sorority. I certainly have. It's something I'll treasure for the rest of my life.
 
I know we do a lot of good in our community. Trust me, I've been to your philanthropies and community service events.
 
I know most of us mean well. Of course, we enjoy friendships with people of different backgrounds.
 
But that doesn't mean we can't acknowledge a grave reality: in many ways, the structure of the greek system reinforces racism and other destructive attitudes like homophobia, sexism and classism.
 
Greek students, we cannot just shake our heads at the SAE incident and walk away, because it isn't just an incident. It's an example of a culture that exists, to some degree, in every one of our chapters. We've all heard examples of inappropriate party costumes, insensitive behavior with multicultural groups, offensive jokes, ignorant comments, insincere cultural interaction for the sake of "points" and discriminatory recruitment patterns — overt or subtle.
 
These behaviors have real consequences. They cause real pain to underrepresented members of the OU community. They're an obstacle to building a true "Sooner family." They make our fellow students feel utterly unwelcome, and that's a shame.
 
The inadequacies of our system require more than a broad, institutional response. We must acknowledge our failings and take specific actions to address them at the individual level and the chapter level.
 
Chapter presidents (and I say this having served as one): start the conversation now with your executive councils. Start taking concrete steps to affirm a culture of inclusion within your membership. And listen to the people outside your chapters who are hurting.
 
All greek students: don't be a bystander when you recognize insensitive words and actions in your chapters. Your silence perpetuates the problem.
 
I look forward to hearing about next steps taken by the Division of Student Affairs, the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association to ensure our greek system promotes respect for all people. And I'm happy to be a part of this conversation in the time I have left at OU.
 
Greek life can be a force for good, but I don't care how many community service hours or philanthropy events we do if we're complicit in a culture of injustice and pain on our campus.
 
Matt Epting

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