Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Pledges defy traditional Greek culture

First-year Jake Phillips, a pledge for the Sigma Kappa Tau, stands in the Brodahl parking lot reciting songs from the pledgebook alongside other sorority pledges. Photo by Linnea Ritchie.
First-year Jake Phillips, a pledge for the Sigma Kappa Tau, stands in the Brodahl parking lot reciting songs from the pledgebook alongside other sorority pledges.
Photo by Linnea Ritchie.

First-year Jake Phillips stood next to seven other Sigma Kappa Tau pledges outside the Brodahl Building parking lot on March 12, learning songs about sisterhood even though Phillips identifies as genderfluid.
Using they/them pronouns, being genderfluid means Phillips has a fluctuating gender identity, but Phillips said they is moving towards a male identity. This is the reason Phillips started asking to be called Jake.
“Even though I don’t identify as female, I still do have a loyalty to the gender,” said Phillips. “I grew up like that. It was eighteen years of ‘hey, you’re a girl.’ Even though that wasn’t right, I still have the loyalty and I want to be part of a sisterhood in specific but along with other things.”
Along with pledging Sigma Kappa Tau, Phillips and Anna Serafini, a first-year who identifies as agender, are attempting to create a Greek service group geared toward trans and non-binary students that’s open to all genders.
Phillips said they would like an emphasis on the social aspect of the group as well, because they do not want non-binary students to feel as though they do not get to be a part of Greek Life due to discomfort.
“It’s not really intentional, but because all of gender involved with (Greek Life), it gets a little exclusive, and we don’t want anyone to have to feel that way,” said Phillips.
Phillips said they have been working with Katey Bignall, Greek life director, to get started as an organization. Bignall’s reaction was that Augustana needs a group like this.
“It was really awesome to go to her and get such a great reaction from her, because obviously we were a little nervous,” said Phillips. “We wanted to start this big thing that will hopefully just get bigger and bigger, and to get such a positive reaction is a good sign.”
Bignall advised Phillips and Serafini to start out as a social organization, similar to LOVE and Phoenix, in order to stabilize it before petitioning the Greek Council to be an official Greek chapter.
In order for an organization to officially become a Greek chapter, the organization must submit a list of goals and intended positions in the form of a constitution. The organization must then send three representatives to the Greek Council to give an oral presentation, to make sure the organization aligns with Greek Council’s Constitution.
In order to be officially Greek, an organization must receive a 2/3 approval vote from the Greek Council and the approval of the Student Policies Committee.
The last addition to the Greek Council was the Zeta Phi Kappa sorority in 2011, said Bignall.
Bignall has been working with the group by helping them to market for an informational meeting that occurred Wednesday.
“I’m excited to see how this organization grows and becomes a part of this community,” said Bignall. “I think there’s a definite need for it, for students to have a social organization if they’re not ready or don’t feel like they fit within the Greek community to still have that opportunity.”
Phillips said they plan on working on their potential Greek group’s Constitution this term, finishing it this summer. They and Serafini chose the Greek letters Pi Alpha Iota, because the pair discovered that Greek organizations take the initials of words, either in Greek or English, that group identifies with.
They decided to translate safety, equality and individuality into Greek, and those initials, because those are the words the group will emphasize the most, especially regarding the trans community.
In regards to Phillips’ pledging, Bignall said a group approached her asking how to make them comfortable.
“They really wanted to make sure that Jake felt comfortable in their class. I think it was very telling that Jake was on multiple lists, that the Greek community said…‘We actually are welcoming,’ said Bignall. “…Here we have a person who doesn’t identify with male or female, and they were welcomed with open arms.”
That being said, Bignall said there’s still growth needed.
“This is still something that’s new to many people, (in terms of) language…so I think it’s still a learning experience for a lot of people,” said Bignall.
Bignall said she’s not surprised it was a sorority who was presented with this opportunity.
“I think sororities are a little more progressive when it comes to learning and growing with new things, but (the opportunity) also wasn’t presented the fraternities this year,” said Bignall. “They might have done the exact same thing and said, ‘Absolutely. We want to take her in.’ We will see in the future, I hope.”
Phillips said that even though they feel male more often, they chose to pledge a sorority because they grew up with women.
“There’s just also the fact that while our generation is becoming more accepting, it’s also uncomfortable for me to imagine myself going into a men’s bathroom or being a part of a fraternity with a bunch of cis males,” said Phillips. “While there’s nothing wrong with them, it’s also kind-of I’m the odd one out, and it’s a little bit awkward. It’s more of a matter of my being comfortable…and I want to continue to have a sisterhood while I’m here at Augie.”
Raven Hoffman, one of Phillips’ Pledge Moms, said Phillips is just like any other pledge.
Hoffman, who is also Phillips’ big sister in the sorority, said she attempts to refer to the group as “pledges” or “littles” instead of “ladies” or similar greetings. She said the sorority changed the pronouns in one of the chapter’s songs and haven’t changed the others yet.
“On the first night (of pledging), we asked our pledges if they had anything in particular that they wanted us to know about…we didn’t alter that just for Jake, we did that for the health of our group,” said Hoffman.
Pledge Mom Urid Pacillas said sorority members during rush asked all the rushees introduce themselves by saying their hometown, major and preferred gender pronouns.
“Jake has told me that made them feel much more comfortable, just in the situation they immediately opened up to us,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman said the sorority had an active member come out as being agender, and the chapter was attempting to be more inclusive towards them and the rest of campus.
“When people ask me who my little is, and I say, ‘Oh, my little is Jake Phillips,’ people give me quizzical stares, and I definitely have gotten, ‘Oh, that’s a boy’s name,’ so it’s definitely showing people that things are changing,” said Hoffman.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Augustana Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Pledges defy traditional Greek culture