Greeks: Falling Behind the Times

Greeks: Falling Behind the Times

Sam Spitz

“Those guys are so ghetto,” a friend said last year as two black men walked past his porch. “They’re out of place.”

He’s right. They were not wearing Sperry Topsiders with a J. Crew button down. Colgate’s culture is as homogenous as the fraternities that define it. Dr. King’s dream never ac­tualized here. Our diversity’s a sham, a frivolous numbers game played by corporate administrators.

Equal opportunity should not end with admissions quo­tas; it should extend to the college experience.

According to the 2009 Colgate Campus Life Survey, affiliated, affluent white males averaged a 5.7/7 in a mea­surement of overall satisfaction with the university. The measurement covered Colgate’s academic, social and racial climate. Unaffiliated white and black males averaged a 3.4 and 3.1, respectively.

At Colgate University, Greek affiliation is di­rectly correlated with happiness, yet our minority students find themselves largely excluded.

In a February 2011 interview, Delta Up­silon president senior Mateo Ramos-Mucci said, “There might be one black kid, one to­ken black kid in each fraternity pledge class. That’s pretty much about it.”

His fraternity, he boasted, had nine African American students. “I think that’s a record for Greek life right now,” Ramos-Mucci said with a chuckle. “I don’t think any other frat has those numbers.”

He’s also right.

But African Americans are not the only un­derrepresented minority. Of Delta Upsilon’s seventy-eight members, only thirteen were non-white. I asked Ramos-Mucci if that num­ber is on par with other Greek organizations. He responded, “Oh no, that’s astronomically more than any other frat…by far.”

Delta Upsilon gives an “almost auto­matic bid” to football players. According to Ramos-Mucci, seven of the fraternity’s nine African American members at the time played on the team.

The problem, Ramos-Mucci explained, is that “in many fra­ternities, the minority voice isn’t there, so the idea that ‘diversity recruits more diversity’ is just a mask for ‘we’re only going to invite kids that we know.’ And we’re from backgrounds that only know white kids, so we’re only going to let white kids in.”

Junior Andrea Finley, the Vice President of the Black Student Union and an active member of the LGBTQ community, has experienced being the “token black kid.” In the fall of 2010, Andrea attended a Colgate sorority’s social event hosted at the sorority’s house.

“I was invited by a friend to a social last year. I was the only person of color. It was very uncomfortable for me. As soon as I walked in the door, I could feel the eyes on me. It was literally a look of ‘why are you here?’ I was taken aback.”

Andrea says she stuck around as a personal challenge to herself. “I wanted to see if I could have a conversation with some of the girls.”

Not a single sister would approach her.

“I could hear the whispers. I’d look out of my peripheral vision and see girls staring at me only to look away quickly when I made eye contact. I saw girls pointing. I could feel the tension in the room.”

Colgate has a history of falling behind the times. This university, unlike colleges such as Oberlin and Middle­bury, was very late to admit Jews, blacks and women. Presi­dents of Colgate once openly denigrated these gender and ethnic groups. George Cutten’s famous quote still rests on a plaque at Ellis Island:

“The melting pot is destructive to our race…we must build up from our resources and conserve our race pow­er, or else we must admit only such immigrants as shall strengthen and not weaken our race, or both. The danger the melting pot brings to the na­tion is the breeding out of the higher division of the white race and the breeding in of the lower divisions.”

Though we’ve come a long ways since the days of George Cutten, there is still a powerful block of alumni who defend an elitist system marked by segregation and discrimination – they sit on the board of trustees and have their names inscribed on our buildings.

They act as dead weight on those who advocate reform and equality. They keep Colgate decades behind liberal arts schools like Amherst and Williams who did away with Greek Life decades ago. It is time that we put an end to institutionalized racism at Colgate.

It’s time that we do away with a caste sys­tem that assures the well-heeled need to only fraternize with one another. It’s time that we tear down these bastions of white privilege. It’s time we banish the Greeks.