IFC exec completes safe space training
Council acknowledges homophobic group mentality in fraternity system
The Inter-Fraternity Council completed Safe Space training at the LGBTQ Center Tuesday night in an effort to bridge the gap between the two communities. LGBTQ Center Coordinator Scott Rheinheimer and intern Carrie Myatt, a second-year College student, led the training.
Dean of Students Allen Groves attended the session and acknowledged the University’s fraternity system can be intimidating for members of the LGBTQ community.
“The fraternity system has been slow to embrace diversity … if we’re being honest,” Groves said.
Groves relayed his own experience as a gay fraternity member. “I was absolutely petrified that my brothers would know I was a gay man,” he said.
Training consisted of a general presentation on the LGBTQ population and techniques for being an ally within the fraternity system specifically. Myatt said the Center gives six or seven training sessions per semester.
“There are so few openly gay members in fraternities,” IFC President Tommy Reid, a third-year College student, said. “The group mentality scares a lot of people … in a group, people who are supportive are less vocal.”
Reid said this trend was especially evident in new members, who mistakenly saw homophobia as a way to assimilate into the system.
“The younger guys … think expressing repulsion [towards the LGBTQ community] is an expression of coolness and an acceptance into the fraternity system that is associated with tradition … and masculinity,” Reid said.
Groves said this behavior is rooted in the traditional image of fraternities as strongholds of masculinity.
“The fraternities are seen as the bastion of tradition and masculinity, and those things have historically felt at odds with the concept of a young man who is gay,” Groves said.
IFC members acknowledged a homophobic group mentality existing within the fraternity system.
“It’s something that on an individual basis, a lot of guys are very OK with, but … in the group mentality, the fraternity system is a little more homophobic and that’s a stigma we’re trying to fight,” said Diversity and Outreach Chair Brian Head, a third-year Commerce student.
The training included discussion of tolerance and positive attitudes, as well as issues of gender identity and coming out.
Despite the existing stigma, mindsets are changing, Head said. The IFC training marked what Head called an important “first step in creating an accepting and safe community.”
“The more educated people are, the more likely they are to speak up,” he said. “My fraternity took our first openly gay pledge this year.”
Looking forward, the IFC hopes to continue open dialogue and action within the fraternity system.
“If we put ourselves out there as a figure who cares … as an ally to the LGBTQ community … first years coming in will feel like this will be an open community to them,” Reid said.
Vice President of Administration Ben Gorman, a second-year College student, recognized the movement is a gradual process.
“It’s just about changing the culture on step at a time … one person at a time,” he said.