By Ryan Masaaki Yokota
Here at UCLA wild things are going on. Pro-Interfraternity Council members have flamed in Undergraduate Students' Association Council (USAC) meetings over the issue of responsorship. Having rallied their forces in the confusion of last year's surge of activism, IFC and Panhellenic Council forces have come into student government like a Trojan Horse laden with the seeds of disaster for any progressive student goals. With their ultra-conservative ideologies they have failed to address the possibilities that student government carries for curricular reform. Instead, by focusing on responsorship the pro-IFC forces have diverted attention from any positive issues and have instead focused on the destructive battles of accepting discriminatory, sexist, racist, classist, and homophobic organizations into a campus that propounds the ideals of equality and freedom from oppression that are supposed to define this nation. Responsorship must not occur, and all students must realize the history and political maneuvering surrounding this issue.
To begin with, the IFC carries a long history of breaking university regulations with regard to Student Activity Group (SAG) protocol under USAC bylaws. According to USAC bylaws, SAGs must not "at any time promote discrimination with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion." Through the repeated violation of these standards, the IFC merited desponsorship last year, once their activities became especially notorious. From reports of rape survivors, like one womyn in May 1992, who described her rape in a fraternity house, while frat members sang the "S & M Man" song outside the door, to the 1992 fraternity songbooks from Phi Psi or Sigma Pi, which carried such songs as "Gang Bang" or "Phi Kap Fags," the fraternities have demonstrated their sexist and homophobic behavior. Through their 1987 Phi Kappa "Hawaiian" party, their 1990 Sigma Alpha Mu "Kamikaze" party, and 1990 Beta Theta Pi "Tequila Sunrise" party, these fraternities have demonstrated their cultural insensitivity not only to Asian Pacific ethnic groups, but also to other ethnic groups on campus. Furthermore, through their extraction of exorbitant membership fees, they demonstrate the manner in which they cater to a specific economic class of students, one which requires a certain amount of extraneous wealth. Through these actions the fraternity system has demonstrated that the transgressions of the past do not merely represent a few actions by random individuals, but indicate a much greater problem demonstrative of the system as a whole, and representative of a long "tradition" of negative, racist, homophobic, classist, and sexist behavior since the initial fraternity formation in 1923.
Currently, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council maintain strong relations with the university despite their desponsorship last year. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Relations (OFSR) funds the IFC and Panhellenic Council with $170,000 in student registration fees, allocated by the administration to support their activities. These funds, instead of increasing the educational level of the student population, have rather been shuffled towards activities and institutions that have solely served to stultify and counter the educational goals of this university.
Now the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils want more. Currently, the IFC and Panhellenic Council wish to gain responsorship, and have petitioned USAC for this cause, stating that their negative behavior no longer exists. With their current desire for responsorship, not only would the IFC and Panhellenic Council have the capability to access student contingency funds (re: even more of our student registration fees), but they would also gain a symbolic victory, since it would appear that the university and the student population condone their behavior, both past and present.
Yet the question still remains as to whether the IFC and Panhellenic Council have really changed. In a letter put out by Chris Oprison and Karen Atkinson, Presidents of the IFC and Panhellenic Council, they cited activities that sought to counter negative beliefs about alcohol and relationships. However, when followed up on, these activities turned out to be facetious and hyped up. Their statements about "spearheading" the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, for example, had actually consisted in a flag football game where individual fraternity members showed, but no true IFC-sponsored involvement had occurred. Furthermore, during last year's Xicana/o Studies protests, where protesters (including many Native Americans) hunger fasted for curricular reform, Sigma Nu held a "Boston Tea Party," where frat members dressed up as "indians," in complete racist insensitivity to the hunger fasters. Despite this "progress," described by the IFC and Panhellenic Council, and the lack of any fundamental change in their policies, they still desire responsorship.
This year, IFC may get their wish. The USAC composition this year reflects a majority of IFC-backed candidates in office. Despite their campaign pledges of "openness," "unity," and "a desire to include everyone in the USAC process and not cater to special interests" on campus, certain council members, such as John Fitzpatrick and Melissa DeVita have openly stated that the main reason they ran for USAC last year was to bring about responsorship of IFC and Panhellenic Council. These statements almost sound unifying.
Recently, however, certain student organizations have stood up to oppose the IFC and Panhellenic Council and everything they stand for. Recently, Kate Anderson unilaterally decided to interpret the USAC bylaws to demonstrate that last year's desponsorship had only been for one year. Soon after, however, MEChA took the issue to the Judicial Board (J-Board) and won their case, finding that Kate had overstepped her boundaries in assuming the ability to pass her judgment.
Despite its failure in the J-Board, this issue will not lie down easily. The USAC board could very easily pass a resolution responsoring IFC and Panhellenic Council with a 2/3 vote. And considering the IFC composition of USAC this year, this may well occur.
For Asian Pacific Islander students on campus, this issue bears incredible relevance for economic, ideological, and political concerns. Facing the same obstacles of exclusion and racism from the fraternities, measures must be taken to remove these institutions. In terms of economics, IFC and Panhellenic Council existence at UCLA represents a significant drop in funding going towards ethnic group programming, such as the various cultural nights on campus. Furthermore, and most importantly, there exists the basic ideological issue of university affiliation and connection with USAC when they have historically forwarded and presently forward a racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic attitude and mentality. Even further, the existence of IFC within USAC diverts attention and resources from even greater goals such as curricular reform, retention and recruitment of people of color, and specific goals such as furthering more language and culture classes for the South and Southeast Asian populations. Asian Pacific groups such as the Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) and Concerned Asian Pacific Students for Action (CAPSA) have taken proactive stances against the IFC responsorship, in public statements of outrage and anger that hopefully, USAC will listen to. If not, however, options still exist, from gathering a progressive majority in USAC next year, to pushing a move for the placement of continued desponsorship into a public referendum, to be decided on once and for all by the student population. API students will not take this issue sitting down, and hopefully the momentum of our anger at IFC responsorship and the oppression we continue to suffer in the university will motivate us to push forward until the complete elimination of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia becomes a permanent and testimonial reality.
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