The Launch Pad

Ster·e·o·type: noun.

1. A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

The WSU campus saw an ugly example of this human phenomenon on Feb. 21, when a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity told a guest of color to “Get the fuck out, nigger bitch.” The hate speech launched a discussion about race and gender marginalization at WSU, inspiring the hashtag #WakeUpWSU and landing a list of grievances from different minority groups on President Elson S. Floyd’s desk.

But we also saw a very different kind of stereotyping last week, when ASWSU President Jared Powell responded to the incident by announcing a proposal that would require all Greeks to attend cultural sensitivity training. ASWSU‘s solution to stereotyping involved lumping a fifth of the student population into the same group as a single bigoted member.

The irony abounds.

No, it’s not fair, especially since campus racism isn’t relegated to Greek Row. But while members of the Greek community may be insulted by Powell’s proposal, I’d encourage them to keep an open mind.

It may be an insulting solution, but it’s a first step. And that first step might be exactly what this campus needs.

Upon reading the proposal, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it. I was unsure if I was even allowed to feel anything about it, especially because I’m neither a member of a racial minority nor a Greek organization. As a non-affiliated white girl from suburbia, I Literally Can’t Even imagine what members of affected groups might think about the sensitivity training.

I sat down with Powell on Tuesday to gain a little more insight into what this proposal would mean. He emphasized that the training isn’t targeting Greeks because of any inherent racism within the community. It targets Greeks because the group has the ideal elements of a launching pad for a larger movement: influential, united and (most importantly) captive.

“It’s the only real captive audience that there is on campus,” Powell said. “It’s the largest collective group of students you can gather in one place.”

Powell said he hopes to start with the Greek community and extend the cultural sensitivity training out to the entire campus, eventually creating a one-credit freshman class that covers the topic more comprehensively.

The university is a bureaucracy, and as such these policies are slow and cumbersome to implement. The Greek training represents something we can do right now, as well as a foot in the door to the rest of the students, a guinea pig of sorts.

A lot of students think it represents something else.

Powell said he’s received emails from fraternity and sorority members who are less than overjoyed about his announcement, who resent the implication that racism is a Greek issue. Upon reporting on his announcement, The Daily Evergreen Facebook page received comments in a similar vein.

“Greeks did not create racism.”

“Educate the Greek community about different cultural communities (minority populations) by marginalizing them and making only their specific community take this cultural sensitivity program? Not so sure that will work.”

“Singling out one group won’t fix anything, it will only cause resentment and backlash.”

Well, yeah. You’re all right. But this proposal isn’t the final solution. It’s part of something much bigger, and it needs cooperation from Greek students in order to gain some momentum.

The Greek community likes to tout itself as the leader of the WSU campus, and the events of the past few weeks have made it pretty clear that when it comes to racial equality, Cougars both on and off Greek Row are far from their final destination. So to every fraternity and sorority member who has expressed doubts about the training: it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Lead.