Page 16 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 1988
GREEKS Are turning over a new leaf
BY DONNA IADIPAOLO
Many people tend to associate the Greek sys-
tem with toga parties instead of political parties.
But through the efforts of Greeks for Peace, a
group of politically-active fraternity and sorority
members, the war in El Salvador last year reached
the steps of the oldest sorority in America,
Kappa Alpha Theta.
THE UNIVERSITY'S Theta house last
year hosted a medical student from the University
of San Salvador, who described how in 1980 the
military took control of his campus, killed the
priest and 50 students, and held him and other
students with guns to their backs.
The horrors of the medical student were de-
scribed to the sorority sisters in the comfort of
their blossomy Theta living room. In a room
where the drapes matched the upholstery, the
medical student described how most of his friends
ended up missing or dead.
Greeks for Peace was organized in January
1987 by Jean Besanceney, an LSA junior, and
Matt Greene, an LSA senior. Last year the group
totaled 60 members.
Besanceney said she entered Kappa Alpha
Theta for the same reasons many incoming stu-
dents choose the Greek system: the social func-
tions, friends, and, reluctantly admitted, the
LIKE MANY first-year students at the Uni-
versity, Besanceney voted Republican her first
time at the polls. But she began to expand her
political views, eventually changing majors from
engineering and business to history and philoso-
Instead of flaunting her Theta sweatshirt dur-
ing "Greek Week," she wore it while being ar-
rested for protesting contra aid.
"Charities that the Greek system were helping
were merely a band-aid, which wasn't addressing
the root of the problem," Besanceney said.
"Although helping the American Cancer
Foundation was nice, education and action around
political and social issues was really needed
within the system."
Besanceney and Greene met at a Michigan
Democratic convention in 1986, where they
shared views on how Greeks are faced with the
prejudice of being stereotyped as "conservatives,"
while at the same time many of their "brothers"
and "sisters" had categorized them as "leftist-ac-
THE GREEK system is growing in num-
bers, both here at the University and nationally,
and could therefore become a powerful force be-
hind political and social issues, Greene said.
"By taking advantage of the Greek structure
and getting Greeks more actively involved we
would be breaking down some of the barriers of
activism," Greene said.
Greene said his first couple of years at the
University were enlightening ones as far as world
affairs were concerned. As friends introduced
Greene to new words such as "El Salvador" and
"apartheid," he began to pursue their meanings,
become aware of the injustices in the world, and
find out what action needs to be taken, he said.
Chris Keane, an LSA senior and Sigma Nu
member who has been active in Greeks for Peace
since it formed, will help lead the organization
this fall, along with LSA junior Jennifer Jensen.
Greene and Besanceney graduated last spring.
KEANE, who in high school was concerned
with playing basketball and getting into an Ivy
League school, is now devoted to getting Greeks
to help the homeless.
"We're sitting in these big houses while the
homeless sleep in the streets," Keane said. Keane
added he would like to get homeless people to
start sleeping in the fraternities and sororities
"People need to be slapped in the face," Keane
said "I would love for some of the guys (in the
fraternity house) to wake up in the morning with
15 homeless people there," Keane said. He added
that confronting Greeks with such problems
would be one method for getting them to fight
against social and political injustice.
Although he generally doesn't like to portray
Greeks* as being apathetic and ignorant toward
politics, Keane said the stereotype has a lot of
truth to it.
"INSTEAD OF worrying about your next
little formal, or your chemistry grade," Keane
said, Greeks need to worry about what is
happening in their community, to "read the front
page along with the sports section."
Keane plans to contact friends at Stanford and
Dartmouth to nationalize the organization.
Greeks for Peace this year plans to tackle is-
sues including racism, aid to the contras, the
IRA, and safer sex. Keane stressed that the stands
people take on issues don't matter; he just want
Greeks to come out, discuss them, and eventually
form coalitions with other student organizations,
Margie Stern, an LSA junior and member of
the Homeless Action Committee of Ann Arbor,
looks forward to working with Greeks for Peace
in increasing student awareness about the city's
"They can reach out to a lot of people," Stern
said. "They're not all as conservative as they
have a reputation as being."
No, the Tigers didn't win the World Series;
eBash, an annual Homecoming contest where
their demolition skills against each other.
it's just the Car
frat members pit
As their houses fa
BY DONNA IADIPAOLO
"Delta Gamma 'till I die!" and
"Gamma Phi Beta Forever!" are
some lines from campus sororities'
songs of allegiance.
But despite their pledges to re-
main "sisters" f er, members of
some University sororities have no-
ticed an increase in "deactivation" -
members dropping out of the soror-
I ity - within the past few years.
"IT'S A TREND when people
become a senior... It's not so much
deactivation but dropping out of
things," said Beverly Day, an LSA
junior and Alpha Phi member.
Day said deactivation is more a
result of housing problems than
problems with the sorority itself.
Unlike fraternities, sorority members
must live in their houses until they
are filled to finance the upkeep.
But some sorority members want
to explore other housing opportuni-
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may explain higher deactivation
rates. Twenty years ago, in contrast,
University rules did not allow
women to live in apartments.
Deactivation is an emotional ex-
perience for the entire sorority,
"For any house that goes through
it (members deactivating), it's a bad
situation." Chappel said. "It tears
people apart, but it's inevitable."
LSA SENIOR Meriel Meehan
deactivated Kappa Alpha Theta last
"Through everything, I saw what
Kappa Alpha Theta really stood for,"
Meehan said. "Their mask was ex-
posed, and I could and would not
support something so extremely
Chappel said the number of "de-
activates" each year changes. For
example, "last year we had to draw a
lottery because so many people
wanted to live in," she said.
Vikki Miller, college district
president of five chapters of the
Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority House
- including the University's - said
there is no such thing as
"deactivating." She said the seven
women made their own decision to
"I like the dorm. I wouldn't want
to live there for four years. I like my
apartment, but I wouldn't want to
live there for four years. Everyone
wants to try different things," said
Jennifer Chappel, an LSA junior
who pledged Kappa Alpha Theta last
LAST MARCH, seven mem-
bers of Chappel's sorority decided to
"deactivate," she said, and deactiva-
tion has been on the increase in sor-
orities over the past three or four
Some sorority alumni have sug-
gested freedom to live off campus
"resign" from Kappa Alpha Theta.
"I REALIZED when they told
me I had to live in without a deci-
sion all they really cared about was
my money," Meehan said. "I said to
(Miller), 'So you are throwing us
out of the house?' She said 'Yes,
you have a week-and-a-half to va-
Theta house bylaws - like
those of many sororities around
campus - say if the house is not
filled by the incoming pledge class,
the other members must live there.
Members of the sorority who
have planned on going abroad, how-
ever, cannot be forced to live in the
Miller said Meehan's account was
false and added that the seven mem-
bers who left may have felt restricted
by rules forbidding alcohol or over-
night male guests.
MILLER ALSO said the girls
have not yet completely resigned
from the house, which is a "long
process" including a series of meet-
ings with advisory boards to de-
termine if "it is the right thing."
Some say the deactivating trend
goes deeper than the housing bylaws
within the sororities.
At the University, where about
25 percent of the students are
"Greek," many non-Greeks criticize
fraternities and sororities as elitist
and superficial. But the same crit-
icisms can come from within the
"It wasn't so much the rules -
too many just didn't want to live in
the house," said Amy Sinnot, a
member of Theta and recent graduate.
"If people really enjoyed the house,
they would want to live in it."
SINNOT SAID some women
don't want to live in their houses
because of animosity between sor-
"It's because the school is so
large people join the sorority for the
name, but they don't even take the
time to know the girl they're sitting
next to at dinner," Sinnot said.
Although Sinnot described the
entire Greek system as "elitist," she
decided she "didn't feel like taking
the time out to deactivate" from the
sorority house because she was
"Just because they are resigning
from the sorority... they'll still
maintain their friends." Miller said.
"It's not an excommunication -it
was a decision they had to make."
MILLER SAID many of the
girls who were "resigning" were anA
gry and represented "very much the
minority" in their house, adding that
the Theta pledge.class increases ev.
"I joined (Theta house) because it
was my home away from home,'"
Miller said of her past college asso*
ciation. "It was a place to hang m'
hat - friendship was the main foi
Karra Hartig, an LSA junior an4
member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, sai4
she hasn't noticed a trend toward$
deactivation. She thinks members
merely feel more comfortable mak
ing the decision to leave.
"There's a better attitude toward
someone who does it (deactivates),"
HARTIG SAID sororities are
more "lax" about deactivation now
than 20 years ago, when sororities
were one of the few campus organi-
zations open to women. With so
many other campus activities to
participate in, Hartig said, some
women want to devote less time to
She said campus deactivation has
consisted of "isolated incidents,
adding that the number of students
who rush increases each fall.
Last year about half of entering
first-year students rushed fraternities
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