If you ask any student, they’re likely to tell you that sororities and fraternities don’t exist at Queen’s. Very few would say otherwise, unless directly involved.
Greek Life is just not a part of Queen’s life.
For the past 80 years, sororities and fraternities operating in the Kingston area haven’t been able to associate with their school. Though the ban that once restricted AMS members from even being a part of Greek Life, even outside their role as a Queen’s student has in recent years been lifted, the rules regarding Greek affiliation haven’t changed.
Neither has the stigma.
The ban of Greek Life, and the subsequent disregard for its members is long-held. Queen’s is a place of tradition, but is this tradition going stale?
In contacting the AMS directly to get some insight into the reasoning behind these attitudes I received an email from Carolyn Thompson, Vice President (University Affairs), directing me to AMS Policy Manual 3, section 27 which specifies the rules regarding sororities and fraternities on campus.
The section states that sororities and fraternities were exclusive and “contrary to the spirit and letter of the AMS Operating Statement, specifically Section #1” which outlines the AMS’ commitment to being “non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic, and otherwise inclusive and non-discriminatory.”
Along with being anti-discriminatory, it states that the Society desires the student body to be a single community and makes the claim that the values of Greek Life “risk bringing a significant reputational damage to the University, fragmenting the student community.” Their existence would also risk ruining ties with the city of Kingston.
It’s hard to accept that my school has such a negative outlook on sororities, especially since I happen to be a member of one. I’ve been a sister of the only sorority in Kingston for over a year and have never understood why there are such strict rules against Greek Life since I’ve seen first-hand the benefits sororities can provide and the lack of harm they pose.
It’s especially difficult since sororities and fraternities are often discussed in official spaces without the presence of Greek Life members. Our future with the school is decided without us having the chance to defend and advocate for ourselves and place within the university setting.
I sat down with some of my sorority members, including our president, to get a better sense of the history our Greek Life has with the AMS. I also spoke with members of our sorority from different chapters across Canada, at schools that do allow affiliation.
My sorority’s president shared with me the many accomplishments of Kingston’s Greek Life over the years: the sorority has been the top fundraiser for Walk for Memories for the last two years, one of the city’s two fraternities has been a top fundraiser for Relay for Life, and both this fraternity and the sorority have completed safe space training to create an inclusive environment within Greek Life.
One of the concerns of the AMS regarding Greek Life is the detachment members might have from campus life. I’ve personally seen that the women of our organization are fully integrated in university life. The image of Greek members being concerned only with Greek Life simply isn’t true.
As for the AMS’ claims about discrimination and exclusivity, disappointment seemed to be the chief feeling expressed by the sorority president. She made it clear that these allegations aren’t accurate, and I’ve seen for myself that she’s right. Our members come from all different backgrounds, interests and lifestyles.
The AMS unfortunately doesn’t have the correct facts and is giving Greek Life a bad name without fully understanding it first.
My sisters and I feel that, instead of erasing Greek Life, the AMS is merely making it go underground, which is actually hindering a great deal of help that could be going to the community.
As young women who stand for female leadership, academic excellence, sisterhood, and philanthropy, there’s a large amount of potential for some good to be done. We’re women who are looking to be the leading minds of tomorrow.
Refusing to recognize us doesn’t take away from our ability and desire to work hard towards these goals — it just places unnecessary hurdles in the way of real change being made. Since sororities and fraternities aren’t allowed to be recognized as a club we can’t make use of Queen’s facilities for any Greek-related events — including fundraising — making it harder to accomplish philanthropic goals.
Though we understand the potential that exists for things to go wrong with Greek Life, we’re firm in the belief that we’re a worthy organization. Hazing, as well as consumption of illegal substances, or even excessive drinking, are all absolutely prohibited within our sorority. We’re expected to act responsibly and with class, as role models to those around us.
As for the women who are members of sororities outside of Kingston, they’re shocked by the harsh rulings against sororities, especially considering how old the rules are.
Perhaps it would be more beneficial to both members of Greek Life and the AMS to review organizations on a case-by-case basis, to get a better sense of what each group stands for before doling out the ultimate rejection. Painting any set of groups with one brush is never effective, and rarely is fair.
The Greek associations that exist in Kingston have been here for some time and they’ve proven themselves worthy, if not of the AMS’s approval, at least of their consideration.
Lena Gilmour is second-year English major.
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