Greeks “Walk a Mile” For Awareness

It is a challenge to remain calm, collected and impartial when addressing an issue that greatly affects something you hold dear.  Whether because of pride or passion, cooler heads are usually abandoned for louder voices.

However, this piece is not an attempt to claim that a particular way of expressing oneself is superior, that injustices and imbalances should not be fought against, or that individuals should not express their individuality as they see fit; this is simply an observation and an urge for understanding.

The recent controversy over the VIP Program and CARE office’s “Walk a Mile” event is a fresh reminder of how quickly cooler heads can be abandoned when faced with a difficult issue.

On one side, the CARE office and VIP Coordinators tried to put on an event, one that has successfully raised awareness with regards to sexual violence in the past, in the hopes of stemming the tide of rape culture.

On the other side, activists who feel the event is archaic in its terminology and exclusive to additional groups affected by sexual violence rallied to oppose it.

Two groups, both horrified and called to action by the thought of their loved ones having to live in a society that allows for rape culture to persist on a daily basis, suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of an issue they both agree on.

The anger and outrage that each side eventually succumbed to shut down a productive discourse. Event supporters and possible allies remained in the dark as to the struggles faced by the survivors whom the event tried to support; opponents of the event and survivors were so engrossed in their pain that they shut out people who were trying to help.

Perhaps it was the lack of effective communication or reluctance to accept opinions outside of immediate affiliation that aided the breakdown in coordination between the two groups.  Perhaps it was just anger. Anger over the CARE office for not understanding the nuances concerning women’s issues that some know about more about than others.

Anger over individuals trying to shut down an event built on noble intentions.  Anger over Greeks being allowed to attend the event.

The reality is that everything starts with values and intentions.  From the values and intentions, one must act to determine what causes to embody and courses of actions to pursue.  For a cause to be successful, one must not only embody the cause, but be able to spread passion and belief in that cause to others, a task which requires effective and rational communication.

The Greeks are present, driven and passionate like the rest, confident in their values and intentions, and yet undesired by the UCI community because of group affiliation.  The bridges between the Greek system and the rest of our campus have long been in need of repair. Communication is frequently abandoned, but many in the Greek system hold strong values that defy the stereotypes worn by the Greek community and eagerly seek to bridge the gap.

Surrounded by supporters at the “Walk a Mile” event, the representative from CSP Sexual Assault and Victim Services Dawn Foor summarized the situation: “It seems that we have recently become so focused on highlighting our differences and uniqueness that we have lost the ability to recognize our allies and unite against this devastating violence, even though no race, no gender, no ethnicity, no sexual orientation is immune to this rampant destruction. The word ‘community’ has ceased to represent people collectively, and rape culture feeds off of this.”

A community does not exist without unity. From this spirit, many of us invite a shared dialogue for future events where we can both learn from each other and ensure that our events are held with proper intention and execution.

Supporters of any cause are not without their flaw or fault: some do not have the same level of understanding and education as others. We are from different backgrounds with a variety of experiences; however, our differences should not distinguish our resolve. If you’re aware of nuances that others are not, why deny those who share your values access to your support and knowledge?

While many in the Greek system may not be as well informed about certain issues as their peers on campus, our resolve to understand and change is still noteworthy.  Marginalizing our desire to help is unnecessary, and it limits the sphere of understanding from reaching all across our world.  Creating change is difficult enough to do alone and getting shot down by a potential ally is even worse.

Let us strive to take moments like these and recognize the flaws in both parties and makes amends through communication with cool heads, rather than withdrawing further into our respective communities.

 

Matthew Ripley is a third-year business economics major. He is a member of the Greek system and can be reached at mripley@uci.edu.