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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Greek garden aims to bring equity for cultural fraternities, sororities

The Greek Unity Garden is being built to represent cultural fraternities and sororities on campus. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Greek Unity Garden is being built to represent cultural fraternities and sororities on campus. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Greek Unity Garden will be unveiled on August 29th after months of construction and over a year of planning.

The goal of the monument is to bring awareness and have a physical representation of culturally based fraternities and sororities. Therefore, the plaques on the stone monument will only represent chapters of historically black, Latino, Asian and other ethnic minorities centered fraternities and sororities.

“In a campus that is wonderfully so fast moving I think it is a great way for students to stop and recognize there is a Greek community on campus,” said Director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life Jason Bergeron. “I think its a way to celebrate what we don’t always perceive as diversity and equity within Greek communities.”

The project will specifically highlight cultural fraternities and sororities, because the inter-fraternity council and panhellenic council groups already have a physical structure on campus, Bayou Oaks, said Bergeron.

“They’ve been wonderfully celebratory about it because they already have a space that they exist in and that is a physical representation of their presence on campus, which is Bayou Oaks,” Bergeron said. “So it’s really about creating equity and representation on campus.”

Students in Greek life are excited for the new representation the structure will bring to those not involved with fraternities and sororities on campus.

“I think it is kind of a cool concept to have a platform people will be physically able to walk by and see,” said Ed Gonzales, Alpha Sigma Phi member and a Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life ambassador. “Especially because the American narrative of Greek life overall is negative.”

Gonzales knows what many people think of Greek life. Often portrayed in the media as white boys who do nothing more than party, drink and sometimes haze new members.

He hopes that the monument will help show people that there is much more to joining a fraternity or sorority than than the public’s’ preconceived notions.

“Greek life is a lot of things, in a good light, that no one really talks about,” Gonzales said. “Mostly meaning we do a lot of philanthropy. A lot of people don’t know we have philanthropy we’re required to do by our national boards, and if we don’t do them we can get in trouble.”

The structure itself is not actually a garden as people think about gardens. There are no flowers or vegetables. Instead, the “garden” is three intertwining stone circles that will have plaques that represent the chapters and their missions.

The concept for the monument was not done solely by the administrators. Students whose organizations were going to be represented also got a say.

“We came to them with the idea, with the concept made and they really worked through the design with us,” Bergeron said.

The garden has been in the works for a while and its opening had been delayed.

“It has been a longer project than anticipated only because we want to make sure, as it represents an important experience for people, we want to makes sure we get it right,” Bergeron said. “So there’s some design elements we’ve continued to work with just to make sure we’re as comfortable with it as we can be.”

Bergeron hopes that the garden may even increase membership in Greek life, allowing those who may not have previously thought joining was in their stars see Greek life as an inclusive entity.

“Sometimes knowing that there’s representation can help students to think about fraternity and sorority membership as a function of their overall campus experience,” Bergeron said.

Correction 12:12 p.m.: The reporter of the story misconstrued Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Jason Bergeron’s quote. We apologize for the error.

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