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Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

OPINION: Mercer has no place for an openly homophobic fraternity

This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.

Right now, a group of Mercer students is trying to charter a chapter of a Christian fraternity called Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) on our campus. Mercer cannot allow this to happen.

On the surface, there seems to be nothing wrong with allowing BYX into Mercer’s Interfraternity Council (IFC). According to their purpose, BYX exists to “establis[h] brotherhood and unity among college men based on the common bond of Jesus Christ.”

As our long Baptist heritage indicates, Mercer has a large Christian presence on campus. We also have a robust IFC program consisting of eight fraternities that exist to “promot[e] scholastic achievement” and “provid[e] for social, recreational and civic activities” among their members. BYX therefore seems to comply with the goals of both Mercer as a whole and IFC specifically.

However, a cursory Google search of the organization quickly reveals the reason Mercer cannot allow BYX to charter a chapter on our campus: the fraternity has a long history of openly discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community.

For example, before a member can join the fraternity, he must sign a statement agreeing to the organization’s Honor Code. As recently as 2014, this agreement stated that “the organizational position of BYX is that we believe sex is a gift of God to be enjoyed only inside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Therefore, we forbid such activity as fornication, adultery, and homosexual conduct.”

Furthermore, not only does this overt homophobia exist at the organizational level, but individual chapters also perpetuate this hatred against their own members. For example, current and former members have allegedly had their membership revoked at BYX’s Vanderbilt chapter simply for being gay. And this behavior is not unique to Vanderbilt - similar accusations have been made against chapters at other schools, such as the University of Oklahoma.

As part of Mercer’s student life, fraternities and sororities are expected to contribute to Mercer’s “community of respect.” Their role on Mercer’s campus is unique. In my experience as a member of a Panhellenic sorority, fraternities and sororities at Mercer are generally less elitist and more welcoming than their state school counterparts. Mercer’s Fraternity and Sorority Programs (FSP) consists of a large number of students of color, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Indeed, Mercer Campus Life has clearly made a concerted effort to distance itself from the negative associations people often have with fraternities and sororities. For example, if you go on any Admissions tour, you will learn that Mercer has FSP, not Greek Life.  If someone is interested in joining the FSP community, they don’t rush, they go through recruitment.

These small changes highlight a larger trend in the Mercer administration’s overall attitude towards fraternities and sororities. They are eager to show how our school’s FSP community is different from the toxic organizations that are leading some to call for universities to “abolish Greek Life.” By rebranding our Fraternity and Sorority Programs, Mercer’s Campus Life draws a line between our university’s “community of respect” and other schools’ communities of elitism, racism, homophobia, sexual assault and substance abuse.

Since this is the case, how can BYX contribute to this “community of respect” when they openly discriminate against fellow students and members of other sororities and fraternities on campus? How can Mercer allow an organization to join IFC, a council that includes members of all sexualities, when this same organization promotes hatred of gay men?

Mercer must not allow BYX to join our campus. It is not important whether or not the individuals who hope to charter this chapter are openly homophobic. What matters is that they are supporting an organization that fundamentally opposes members of our Mercer community as a whole and FSP members specifically.

If Mercer wants to justify the continued existence of FSP in a time when universities across the country are answering the call to abolish Greek Life, they must take a hard stance against the toxic traits associated with fraternities and sororities. If Mercer’s administration allows BYX to charter a chapter on campus, they are essentially admitting that they only care about FSP’s image, not its actual behavior.

Hate has no place in our university or our Fraternity and Sorority Programs, and neither does BYX.


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