Out in the Brownstones

Out in the Brownstones

Finding a space for LGBTQ students in Greek life

Published on March 21, 2017

Marie Sgouros never thought she would join a sorority.

A sophomore at Barnard, Sgouros identifies as a queer woman of color. In high school, she could hardly see herself partaking in the stereotypical Greek life she saw in movies or TV.

“Sororities—what they’re based upon is not only heteronormative, but also very gender binary normative as well,” Sgouros says. “Everyone calls each other ‘sisters,’ and it’s interesting seeing that from the perspective of an LGBTQ person that mostly identifies as a woman.”

But when Sgouros was walking around SoHo in June, she was approached at random by an alumna—Sally Phillips, a 2015 Barnard graduate—who had noticed her Barnard bag. The two struck up a conversation, initially chatting about their plans for LGBTQ Pride Month.

“She mentioned she was in a sorority in college and how there were other queer people like her there—how everyone was so accepting,” Sgouros says. “I think that that made me realize I should just go through the process and see what happens.”

From there, the story Sgouros tells is not so unfamiliar: She met other members of sororities who spoke highly of their own chapters. The idea of coming together to support a philanthropic cause seemed increasingly appealing.

And even as Sgouros began to question her gender identity and take on an elected position in the Columbia Queer Alliance, she signed up in December to go through formal sorority recruitment. After a January weekend of mingling in formal wear, she accepted a bid to join Gamma Phi Beta.


True to what Phillips told Sgouros over the summer, there’s no shortage of queer people involved in Columbia Greek life. Many members of fraternities and sororities have found groups of people who embraced their sexuality openly, or communities that even helped them come to terms with their sexual orientation.

But by undergoing sorority recruitment while not entirely identifying as a cis woman, Sgouros has entered into more uncharted territory. Historically, fraternities and sororities were founded as gendered spaces for cis college men and women to find their future spouses—even if that purpose no longer holds.

Greek life was made for people who comfortably live in the gender binary, and with anyone who deviates from that, it gets really hard,” Lauren Malotra-Gaudet, who graduated Barnard in 2015 and identifies as butch, says. “We’re looking at a really arcane system because it’s so ingrained in gender stereotyping.”

Some organizations—like Alpha Chi Omega, Malotra-Gaudet’s former sorority—have taken measures to open themselves up to students outside the heterosexual and cisgender norm they initially catered to. In February, AXO announced that it would accept “all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth. But the organization has still struggled in carrying out its mission in an inclusive way.

Earlier this month, following concerns of transphobia, Columbia’s chapter of AXO announced that it would be cancelling its annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser, in which participants strut down College Walk in heels in order to raise money and awareness to fight domestic violence.

Indeed, even as members of Greek life have found support from the other people in their chapters, Greek life as an institution still faces obstacles to fully welcome LGBTQ people. This challenge is particularly difficult for trans and gender nonconforming students, who face a confusing lack of policies regarding their place on Frat Row.

For Malotra-Gaudet, navigating the gendered spaces offered by Greek life proved to be difficult.  

“I definitely felt like I had a really rough time in that space, but I feel like the purpose of that organization [AXO] is a great one,” Malotra-Gaudet says.“Even though there were a lot of really great people there, the stereotypes aren’t wrong because people police each other about their bodies, gender and presentation all the time.”

Malotra-Gaudet’s story is one I’ve come across multiple times over the course of my reporting: The people in Greek life can be inclusive, but the system of Greek life isn’t—at least, not entirely.

A Community To Come Out To

A Sigma Nu brother—who requested anonymity because he has not yet come out to his family—was hanging out one afternoon at the fraternity’s brownstone with his pledge class when he mentioned in passing that he had hooked up with a guy the night before. His brothers initially asked for clarification. “They were like, ‘A guy?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I hook up with guys and girls.’”

And the conversation then carried on as usual.

“I had never come out to anyone before that, so I didn’t really have any expectations for a reaction,” the fraternity member says. “Their reaction was really positive and accepting, and they didn’t seem to make a big deal out of it, which is what I was hoping for.”

While his friend group outside the brownstone was “less accepting” and “more awkward” once hearing the same news, his pledge class—the group of brothers he says he is closest to in the fraternity—gave him the open and accepting space he needed to address his sexual orientation.

“We talk about everything that’s going on in our lives, and why would I not talk about such a big part of my daily life?” he says. “Why not open up to them and tell them? It was a good way to test the turf at Columbia, see how people would feel about it.”

Like the Sigma Nu brother, many of the cis Greek life members I interviewed for this article—queer, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, from first-years to alumni—emphasized the degree of support they received from their Greek organization in coming to terms with their sexuality.

A Barnard sophomore in AXO, who requested anonymity because she has not come out to her extended family, tells me that she was able to come to terms with her identity in college after confiding in her big, an initiated member in the sorority she was paired with upon entering.

“I always had this idea in the back of my head that I could date girls, but I didn’t feel like I could go up and start flirting with a girl,” the AXO sophomore says. “That terrified me.”

The sophomore’s only previous attempt at queer dating resulted in rejection from her best friend in high school. But at the suggestion of her big, who is also bisexual, she signed up for the mobile dating app Tinder and chatted with other women—one of whom she eventually started dating.

When a fellow member of AXO approached her after finding out about the relationship through a mutual friend, it wasn’t because she was uncomfortable with the sophomore dating another woman.

“It really clicked that of course the people in my sorority would be just like all of my other friends, in actively being interested in who I’m dating no matter their gender,” the AXO sophomore says. “The point of a sorority is to have a system of support and a community.”

What a fraternity or sorority inherently provides is a kind of unconditional support that sometimes—perhaps often—can be difficult to find at Columbia. On a campus that’s frequently  criticized for its lack of community, a chapter gives you the tools you need to overcome isolation: a big to mentor you, a space to spend your free time, a social network of new friends to tap for going out.

For many of the people I interviewed, the comfort and acceptance that comes from being in a Greek organization is tied to the comfort and acceptance they feel at a school like Columbia and in a city like New York.

When Morgan Maccherone, a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and her girlfriend told the rest of their North Carolina high school they were dating, the couple experienced pushback from nearly everyone in the community—from the school administration to their friend group, to Maccherone’s own grandparents, who remain uncomfortable having her in their home.

But during her first semester in Delta Gamma, Maccherone was swiping through potential matches on Tinder as she showed her phone to her new sisters. There was no reaction from them at all.

“In New York, it’s just a thing—I just date a girl,” Maccherone said. “I’ve never felt tokenized, like ‘Oh, Morgan’s a lesbian in DG, look at how diverse we are.’ It’s ‘Morgan’s a great member of the chapter,’ and that’s exactly how it should be, in my opinion.”

Morgan Maccherone, a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a member of Delta Gamma (Trinity Lester / Staff Photographer)

And the support from Columbia’s Greek life community doesn’t stop once members are out of the closet.

The RA for Sigma Nu, a Columbia College junior who also requested anonymity for safety reasons, found that the fraternity is so gay-friendly that his straight brothers follow gay culture and even make the occasional trip to Suite, the red walled gay bar on Amsterdam and 109th Street.

“They bounce in and out of Suite every once in awhile—straight guys, gay guys, guys who don’t even care about it,” the Sigma Nu RA says, who had already come out before coming to Columbia.

“They know all of the jokes. They enjoy it,” he adds. “Anything ranging from general jokes and jests to questions about how someone came out, to what’s currently going on in the gay scene at Columbia, who someone is dating, what’s going on with someone’s boyfriend, stuff like that.”

It’s that kind of community that ultimately made the AXO sophomore and others I interviewed for this piece feel comfortable coming to terms with their sexual orientation. But to some, Greek life as an institution, for all intents and purposes, rests on traditions that were designed for straight people.

A Heteronormative System

In the process of coming out, the anonymous AXO sophomore struggled to balance her bisexual identity with the ideas in her head that sorority girls must all be straight.

“It was like these ingrained stereotypes that,” the AXO sophomore pauses before continuing, “I’ve always known you can fall anywhere you want on the spectrum, but actually confronting that was a big process.”

And those “ingrained stereotypes” are not unfounded—many of the core traditions at the heart of Greek life are structured in a way that gives little space for people who deviate from traditional expectations of sexual orientation.

Students initiated into Greek organizations must contend with institutional activities—like mixers and even some philanthropic events—that are designed with straight people in mind.

Mixers, for the uninitiated, are regular social events between a sorority and a fraternity, typically a party that involves alcohol and takes place in a brownstone, East Campus suite, or at a bar. Caroline Hirsch, a 2016 Barnard graduate who identifies as a female-presenting, genderqueer bisexual woman, calls these events the “worst kind of hell.”

“I always hated it,” she says. “We’re basically presenting our women to all these men as people they can hook up with later that night.”

But the RA for Sigma Nu says that mixers are, in a sense, no different than going to a bar on Saturday or attending any other kind of college party.

“Sometimes, mixers happen where it’s very dull, and there’s not much energy. Other times, people roll through with funnels held aloft, laughing and dancing already. It’s a great time,” he says. “It’s not all hookup culture. Some people are just there to dance, have fun, play games, see their friends.”

Sigma Nu hosts “dicksers” about once or twice a semester with other fraternities, but these events tend to lack the same kind of hookup atmosphere. Sororities, however, are prohibited by their national organizations and by Columbia from hosting parties—so their joint “sisterhood events” often range from community service to group baking.

“Gays kind of have their own ways of finding one another,” the Sigma Nu RA says, adding that even “dicksers” are not really about brothers hooking up with each other because there are so few queer fraternity members. “Gay spaces are few and far to come by, but that’s mostly a problem with population. There’s not that many of us in general.”

But these heteronormative practices rooted in traditional gender roles are ingrained in Greek life from the very beginning. Students interested in joining a Panhellenic sorority, for example, must go through a process called “formal recruitment” at the beginning of the spring semester. These potential new members, or “PNMs,” are given specific instructions and themes—for instance, a “classy brunch”—on formal dress for each day of recruitment.

“The whole recruitment process is about making yourself look as ‘feminine’ as possible, which basically means you have to wear a dress,” Hirsch says.

Members of each sorority acting as “recruiters,” meanwhile, are required to wear uniform sets of dresses and heels in colors to represent the chapter. AXO, Hirsch’s former sorority, came under scrutiny in 2015 when its recruitment manual—including dress codes—was leaked to Jezebel.

“I remember thinking, ‘I have to stand in heels, and I never wear heels ever. I have to stand in this dress for hours and put on a face of makeup,’” Hirsch, who identified as gender-questioning while she acted as a “recruiter” for AXO, says. “It did make me feel super uncomfortable in that there was no leeway in terms of what you could be wearing.”

Lindsey Cohen, a junior in Columbia College and the president of the Panhellenic Council, says that dress codes—at least for PNMs—are “flexible guidelines” that do not seek to restrict personal style or identity. “The purpose of the dress code is not to make PNMs conform to traditional gender roles,” she says.

Members of Delta Gamma on bid night. (Trinity Lester / Staff Photographer)

In previous years, PNMs were also prohibited from discussing the “four B’s”: brownstones, booze, bars, and boys, in reference to potential romantic interests. This year, that last category was amended to “brothers,” meaning that only fraternity members couldn’t be discussed.

Likewise, according to Maccherone, her chapter of DG is working on addressing what she sees as a double standard: The sorority’s national overnight guest policy does not technically allow men in the chapter brownstone (a rule that she admits is not always followed), but Maccherone’s girlfriend can sleep over anytime.

Heteronormative traditions even extend into Greek organizations’ staple philanthropic events. For a queer Barnard senior who has since disaffiliated from AXO, and requested anonymity because she has not entirely come out, some philanthropic events in particular can make a show of men doing traditionally feminine or flamboyant things like the act of cross-dressing, she says.

Besides AXO’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” the senior pointed to DG’s annual “Anchor Splash,” where groups of brothers and varsity athletes clad in Speedos perform synchronized routines, starting off with dancing but sometimes going as far as simulated oral sex.

“It’s funny when the fraternity members wear heels, because it’s like, ‘Oh here’s these guys who don’t know what they’re doing,” the Barnard senior says, “or, ‘Isn’t it funny that all these sororities and all these women are just here to watch men in these Speedos?’”

Though these events raise money for important causes, the senior says they can ultimately function in homophobic or transphobic ways.

Katie Wilson, a Columbia College junior and the president of Columbia’s Delta Gamma chapter, declined to comment for this article, but pointed to the group’s chapter statement, which says its members engage with and support LGBTQ people.

“While Delta Gamma endeavors to work against oppressive gender stereotypes, sorority culture traditionally affirms constructs of conventional femininity and heteronormative assumptions,” the statement says. “Taking that into consideration, Delta Gamma Zeta Theta seeks to further this conversation.”

Fraternities' and sororities' brownstones on 114th street. (Trinity Lester / Staff Photographer)

Morgan Apostle, a junior at Barnard and a bisexual member of Alpha Omicron Pi, believes that the University’s progressive nature allows conversations like the one surrounding AXO’s fundraiser to happen.

“The fact that these discussions happen at Columbia is pretty big,” Apostle says. “At other schools, it would be completely taboo to even bring up the fact that mixers are heteronormative, or that there are queer people in sororities.”

Pushing Membership Policy Beyond the Binary

This struggle for inclusion, however, faces much bigger challenges when it comes to making space for trans and gender nonconforming people in Greek life.

Almost every chapter at Columbia responds to a national organization—often containing a professional staff, a board of trustees, and coordinators who oversee each campus’ chapter.

“In a national community of many subcommunities, the question of gender inclusion and specifically trans inclusion is a complicated one,” Chris Woods, the assistant director of LGBTQ outreach in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, says. “Things that are nationally inherently gendered or binary are going to cause struggles and tensions for the trans community.”

At Columbia—as on most college campuses—trans and gender nonconforming students are afforded almost no clarity or legal rights if they want to join Greek life. Because of a 1989 exception to the gender equity law Title IX, for social fraternities and sororities to keep their status as single-sex organizations, schools cannot stop them from denying membership based on gender.

None of the Greek organizations present on campus have policies that openly bar trans or gender nonconforming students from undergoing recruitment, but many chapters’ policies fail to say if non-cis students will be accepted.

Jessica Pettitt, a consultant on diversity in higher education and a former student affairs administrator at New York University, says the current feeling among national Greek organizations follows a “don’t ask, don’t tell” model: With a few exceptions, organizations tend to avoid publicizing or explaining their policies to chapter leaders or potential members.

According to Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the trans advocacy group Campus Pride, many Greek organizations instead talk about inclusion “behind the scenes, and it then trickles down to their members.”

It is in this current environment that Windmeyer commended the video of Angela Cosley Harris, AXO’s National President, that presented  her sorority’s new trans inclusive policies. “I thought that was pretty bold and public,” he says.

In antidiscrimination policies, sex and gender are often conspicuously absent from the list of other identifiers—like race or socioeconomic background—that cannot be used to make membership decisions. Some fraternities and sororities won’t actually say that only “women” or “men” can join, but others will include these terms without explicitly specifying whether they apply to trans individuals.

Even supposedly “trans-inclusive” policies may not always be so straightforward and can still, in some cases, be discriminatory.  

For instance, a representative from Delta Sigma Phi says via email that its “membership is open to all men,” but only so long as they are recognized as a man by their state or university. (This specific requirement opens up a Pandora’s box regarding the challenges of changing identity documents for trans people.)

“Having a doctor’s note is not a policy that [Campus Pride] would ask for trans people in order to be part of a brotherhood,” Windmeyer explains. “They don’t ask for a doctor’s note for cisgender people, so why are they asking for a doctor’s note for somebody who I assume doesn’t pass, right?”

The national president of Kappa Alpha Theta, meanwhile, has said on Twitter that “all who identify as women are welcome” to undergo recruitment, but the sorority’s online policy does not include gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy. Theta’s national representatives did not respond to requests for clarification.

As a result of these complexities, the various levels of a chapter can end up interpreting—and applying—this policy in entirely different ways. As Pettitt says, “Just because you have a policy, doesn’t mean everybody knows about it or that they’re fully trained in that policy.”

But Windmeyer sees root of this problem coming from up top. “There are a lot of national organizations right now that are like, ‘What’s the threshold for being a man? What’s the threshold for being a woman?’ for the fraternity or sorority,” he explains.

At Tufts University, for instance, a trans woman was initially offered a bid during recruitment in fall 2016 by the local campus chapter of AOII, before the national organization stepped in to review the situation and the woman’s eligibility. Half of the sorority disaffiliated in protest in the following days.

Even though some organizations have adopted trans-inclusive policies, the system of Greek life makes it hard to identify concrete signs of discrimination. In both fraternities and sororities, decisions around potential new members are made behind closed doors and are rarely articulated to these members themselves.

“Every national organization gets to pick and choose its own highly exclusive characteristics of membership,” Pettitt says. “The way that recruitment is set up is so subjective and so exclusive, and it’s impossible to know all the reasons why someone didn’t move forward in a process.”

Apostle, who has participated in three formal recruitments, including her own, echoes that same lack of transparency in decision-making.

“You don’t have to give anyone a bid, so that can be used to justify exclusion based on things like sexuality, or if you’re trans, or racial identity,” she says.

Sophie Gorham, a senior at Columbia College, and Morgan Apostle, a junior at Barnard College, both in Alpha Omicron Pi (Trinity Lester / Staff Photographer)

At the University of Michigan, a trans woman who went through formal recruitment was offered three out of a possible 11 invitations in the first round, and just one in the round following that—leading her to drop out of the process entirely. (Chapters with trans-inclusive policies—including DG and Gamma Phi—did not invite her back.)

And a few months ago, Adam Davies, a trans man at Northwestern University, was dropped from every sorority by the second round of formal recruitment, with school administrators citing issues of “fit and eligibility” to explain why each organization had not called him back.

As Davies’ example shows, this discussion may not as simple as including trans women in sororities, or trans men in fraternities. Many inclusion policies fail to include any language regarding non-binary students, or members who transition once they have already joined a Greek organization.

“If an organization engages in this conversation—which is a big if—there are two prongs to it: who can become a member and who can stay a member,” Pettitt, who has worked with national fraternities and sororities on drafting trans inclusion policies, says. “Someone could transition or identify as genderqueer or gender nonconforming prior to—but also after—joining.”

For Kay Ferguson, a Barnard junior who identifies as queer and agender, part of the issue surrounding the question of trans people in Greek life is that the discussion and language surrounding gender identity changes rapidly.

“There’s problems with saying, ‘we’re going to allow trans women, because in 5 years it’s going to be a different question—‘do we accept trans women and gender nonconforming people?’—and 5 years after that it’ll be something else,” they say.

For instance, Ferguson—the former president of GendeRev—explains that the term “transgendered,” which is used in Delta Gamma’s trans inclusion policy, was once considered proper terminology but is now outdated. “Ten years ago, it was the word to use, it was the word of the day,” they say.

Calling for Change

Columbia, for its part, takes a hands-off approach to the recruitment process. Jazmyn Pulley, the associate director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, says that all policies regarding recruitment are left up to the individual chapters themselves.

Her office doesn’t collect information on gender identity of new members and defers to Greek governing boards in terms of establishing policies on who is allowed to rush.

“It’s an ongoing conversation with other offices on, ‘Where are we on this? And where do we have to go?’” Pulley says. “The chapters are always trying to find ways to be better. So if that’s a conversation they need to start having more, I think they’re ready to start having that conversation.”

Organizations in the Multicultural Greek Council and Interfraternity Council set their own individual rules on this issue, while Cohen says that Columbia Panhel does not have its own policy on trans and gender nonconforming individuals.

Windmeyer echoes that he’s noticed an ongoing dialogue about how to be more inclusive. “I’ve heard definitely a broader conversation about how can we maintain our single-sex, single-gendered status and be inclusive of a trans man in a fraternity or a trans woman in a sorority,” he says.

But that conversation can be tricky when Columbia chapters are up against much larger national organizations. Apostle, who has been involved with chapter leadership at AOII, says that fraternity and sorority headquarters must take the first step in order to encourage local chapters to push for inclusion on campus.

“A lot of it [discrimination in membership] comes from local chapters thinking that they will make nationals angry in some way,” she says. “If more national sorority headquarters would release statements that they are actively trans-inclusive and accepting that trans women are women, then local chapters wouldn’t feel these anxieties about being penalized.”

So far, the state of this situation is mixed—and in some cases, has relied on student members to push for change instead of national organizations

For instance, a group of members from Columbia’s chapter of Sigma Nu have proposed and drafted an amendment to the fraternity’s national constitution. A portion making it clear that sexual orientation could not be used as a factor for exclusion was approved in the summer at a national conference, but the issue of gender identity was tabled for a future meeting in 2018.

But beyond this proposal, nearly everyone I talked to said that trans inclusion had not been discussed much—if at all—within their respective organizations. Even members of Sigma Nu, like its RA, mentioned that gender identity has never been discussed in the chapter at-large because no one has brought it up.

“The biggest obstacle is that inclusion has never been a priority to the Greek community,” Sara Newman, a junior in Columbia College and a member of AXO says, emphasizing the need for more concrete steps. “By definition, sororities are exclusive, and for that reason, I’ve never seen people proactively ask, ‘How can we be more inclusive?’ Discussions about inclusivity have gone on, but there haven’t been any actions.”

Sara Newman, a junior in Columbia College, and a member of Alpha Chi Omega (Trinity Lester / Staff Photographer)

Likewise, Rowan Hepps Keeney, a Barnard junior who identifies as genderqueer or nonbinary, says that waiting for national headquarters to pass policies or for trans students to try and undergo recruitment in order to raise the issue only extends the problem.

“In a society that basically tells us that our identities are invalid, I think a lot of trans people are hesitant to apply for things that are inherently gendered or pretty often perceived to be problematic,” they say.

Hepps Keeney explains that all-women’s spaces are especially trans-exclusive, so trans women may be afraid they won’t be accepted or included. Meanwhile, people who are designated female at birth—like them may fear the possibility of sexual violence inside fraternity houses.

That’s not to say, though, that some people haven’t attempted to push for change.

Over the course of my reporting, I heard about a cis woman unsuccessfully trying to rush Sigma Nu, a Barnard student being rejected from a fraternity, and a trans man alum of Alpha Epsilon Pi. (All of these students either declined to talk to me or did not answer repeated messages.)

“Somebody might not be screaming about it, but it might be an issue without people knowing it’s an actual issue,” Hirsch, the genderqueer AXO alum, says. “Sororities don’t want it to be an issue, so they don’t try to actually include trans people.”

Hepps Keeney compared the topic of trans people in Greek life to the debate in 2015 over Barnard’s trans admissions policy, where arguments ranged from admitting only cis women to opening up the process to anyone who is not a cis man. The college ultimately announced it would consider only applicants who “consistently live and identify as women.”

“If you’re a gender-segregated organization, what commonality in the community are you trying to maintain by being gender-segregated?” Hepps Keeney says. “If it’s a specific identity or a specific experience, how does that further empower the community in a way that not being gender-segregated wouldn’t do?”

Hepps Keeney says that it would be helpful for Greek governing boards to take steps like Brown University’s Panhellenic board, which made a public statement for its 2016 recruitment process saying that all students who identify as women are welcome to go through formal recruitment.

While this announcement is largely symbolic, it represents cis members of Greek life taking the extra step to make their community more inclusive—which is precisely what Hepps Keeney says must happen next.

“Bureaucracy will always have red tape, and there will always be lines that are set up that make going out of binaries difficult, especially in groups that are not queer or trans,” they say. “If organizations are not doing active work to revert that, students who are part of minorities definitely don’t have a reason to want to apply.”

Hirsch, meanwhile, says all restrictions to membership should be lifted. Even though trans-inclusive chapters don’t have policies surrounding nonbinary members, such an approach would open up sororities to anyone who doesn’t identify as a cis man who might want a space in Greek life.

“If you include more people and more identities, it’s going to be a stronger and more intelligent community,” they say. “If people want to be included in something, there should be a conversation around it.”

But Ferguson says they recognize a case for preserving a sorority as an all-women’s environment.

“Women’s spaces have tendency to be safer for trans men, but on the other hand, you’re taking away space from trans women,” they say. “If you’re historically a women’s sorority, I don’t know how you should include nonbinary genders. I want women to be safe in a women’s community, but I don’t want people who are non-binary or agender to feel excluded.”

Sigma Nu’s RA, likewise, isn’t so convinced when it comes to including women in fraternities. Though he says that other chapters of Sigma Nu have accepted trans men—and that his own chapter would be open to trans and gender nonconforming pledges, treating them like anyone else—he draws the line at cis women.

Indeed, he tells me that when Columbia’s chapter of Sigma Nu denied a bid to the woman who attempted to rush, “it was focused on it being a brotherhood. This being about guys, and being able to become emotionally open and in touch with another in a space for men.”

For Hirsch, however, it all comes back to creating a supportive community.

“Greek life is supposed to be a community where you get connected to other people,” she says. “Including everyone regardless of their identity—that’s just going to make Greek life all the better.”

Rébecca Ausseil contributed reporting.

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