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First Amendment Institute: Advocating for Greek Associations

Category: Fraternity

Lisa Thibault

Epsilon Iota, Westminster

Two Theta collegians attended this year’s First Amendment Institute in Chicago during the first weekend of February. Sponsored by the Fraternity and Sorority Action Fund, the Institute presented information on the importance of advocating for rights on college campuses to members of North American Interfraternity Council (IFC) and National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) chapters across the nation. At the conference, approximately 40 students representing 37 U.S. college campuses discussed First Amendment issues impacting college campuses.

“Attending this event has been one of my favorite and [most] impactful experiences as a Theta,” says Meghan Quinn, Beta Phi/Penn State. “Over the weekend, attendees met with fraternity and sorority leaders and learned how to advocate for freedom of association within our communities and respective campuses in dynamic and ways. Through our collaboration with fraternity and sorority professionals, industry experts, and legal and advocacy experts, and by participating in large group and breakout sessions with our respective councils, I felt incredibly empowered by all the presenters and attendees and determined in my mission to protect the fraternity and sorority experience.

Meghan Quinn, Beta Phi/Penn State

“Deepening my understanding of freedom of association and freedom of speech proved immensely valuable, and served to motivate myself and others to ensure these rights are protected and not jeopardized. We learned about the values and benefits of Greek membership in comparison to unaffiliated students and how to market these positive aspects of fraternity and sorority life. I know the value Greek membership gave me, and I am excited to advance and preserve positive and evolving Greek membership, experiences, and opportunities for all. I gained a greater sense of pride and accomplishment, and respect for what it means to be a member of Kappa Alpha Theta during my attendance at the First Amendment Institute.”

Katie Kirk, Zeta Eta/Wofford, also attended the Institute. “Sometimes, college administration states that it is for the students’ benefit to postpone Greek life recruitment to the spring semester,” she says. “However, research shows that first year academic achievement and mental health is improved through participation in Greek organizations.

Katie Kirk, Zeta Eta/Wofford

“We also discussed freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment. Even though people might disagree with us, we should allow them to voice their opinions. The best way to encourage civil discourse is to allow those we disagree with to present their arguments. This paves the way for meaningful conversation. Calm and respectful conversation can change perspectives, whereas yelling and preventing someone from speaking does not, and instead drives polarization between individuals. We also talked about hateful language and when the boundary is crossed from speech that is hateful to speech that is threatening in nature and entices violence.

“The [Institute] allowed me to hear from other students and discuss common issues that we all struggle with as college students. It was incredibly eye-opening to hear from the other Panhellenic women and how they see these issues being addressed within their chapters. The conference gave me the resources to advocate for myself on my college campuses and opened my eyes to new perspectives.”

Thank you, Meghan and Katie, for representing Kappa Alpha Theta and being part of important discussions to advance the Greek experience across our college campuses.