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Greek life at Mercer renamed to promote inclusivity

Archived photo by Jenna Eason, 2016
Archived photo by Jenna Eason, 2016

Starting this fall, Mercer University will now use the label Fraternity and Sorority Programs (FSP) instead of “Greek life” to refer to its 12 fraternities and 8 sororities. The name change comes during a national push for Greek-letter organizations to adopt more inclusive policies.

These organizations will be encouraged to adopt the term but will not be required to do so, said Director of Campus Life and Student Involvement Carrie Ingoldsby.

Ingoldsby said that while Campus Life will encourage students to use the FSP label, the office is “not placing any sort of formal requirement on chapters” to use the term or penalizing the use of common phrases such as “Go Greek.”

An email sent to fraternity and sorority leadership in July said that Campus Life and Student Affairs made the change for several reasons, the first being that “using the term ‘Greek’ to describe a fraternity or sorority ignores the fact that not all fraternities and sororities are Greek-letter organizations. Examples include Acacia, Fiji and Triangle.”

All three examples are collegiate men’s social fraternities. Acacia is a small fraternity of 28 chapters and chose a Greek word for their name rather than the traditional group of letters.

Fiji is the nickname for Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, which maintains 151 chapters. While it is a Greek-letter organization, they said that they try to avoid reference by letters alone or by the slang term “Fiji” outside of casual speech.

When our Fraternity is named in campus or interfraternity publications, we prefer the full spelling of Phi Gamma Delta rather than the use of the Greek letters or the nickname Fiji,” their website reads.

Triangle is a fraternity with 29 chapters for male students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

The name “was chosen to represent the strength of the shape used in design work in the field of civil engineering” and is more representative of the fraternity’s priorities than Greek letters, according to the official Triangle website.

All fraternities and sororities at Mercer University are denoted by Greek letters.

The email also said that membership in fraternities and sororities “does not signal heritage from the country of Greece” and that use of the term “Greek life” contributes to division among campus organizations, referring to the distinction often made between Greek and non-Greek.

In a separate email, Ingoldsby wrote that “most” colleges and universities have made similar changes.

“The Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors (AFA) made the change back in 2007, and asked that all fraternity and sorority advisors make that change so we are about ten years behind that recommendation,” she said.

AFA is an organization of individuals with post-collegiate interest in improving the advisement of fraternities and sororities.

Andrea Starks-Corbin, director of marketing and communications for AFA, said that more general terms are used to promote inclusivity.

“I wasn't able to locate the exact resolution of the change,” Starks-Corbin said. But “we have always tried to change mentions of Greek life to fraternity/sorority life unless it is an official office title (Office of Greek Life at ABC University).”

The AFA style guide mandates that the terms “fraternal” or “fraternity/sorority” be used to refer to these organizations whenever possible. This is to avoid confusion with Greek nationality and to be inclusive of women’s organizations officially labeled fraternities.

For instance, I am a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority while my co-worker is a member of Chi Omega Fraternity, both of which are women's organizations,” Starks-Corbin said.

Many comparable and regional universities have implemented similar terminology.

Furman University, Wake Forest University, Emory University, Georgia College & State University, Georgia Southern University and more refer to their systems as “Fraternity and Sorority Life.”

Ingoldsby said this name change is not an attempt by the university to lessen support for Greek-letter organizations or to undermine tradition.

“Chapters should also understand they are still identified as Greek letter organizations. There is not an attempt to erase history or tradition among Greek letter organizations. We are simply using more inclusive and up to date terminology,” she said.


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