Katelin Hudson

Jacob Lee wakes up at 5:30 a.m. on most Saturday mornings with enthusiasm. While part of the reasoning for waking up early has to do with performing in the Pride of Oklahoma on University of Oklahoma game days, a bigger part has to do with helping his fellow bandmates through the Tau Beta Sigma sorority.

On these specific Saturdays, Lee typically lugs around a huge, red crate full of freshly made Picklemans’ sandwiches. He carries this crate throughout the OU stadium in between third and fourth quarter, passing out ham and turkey sandwiches to those in Pride.

“I know it sounds silly, but one of the biggest reasons I’m in TBS is so that I can pass out sandwiches,” Lee said. “I’m always looking for ways to give back to Pride since it’s provided me with so many opportunities, and TBS just allows me to do that.”

Since 1943, the National Honorary Band Sorority has been home to women who take pride in helping college music programs across the country. But starting in 2014, the sorority has welcomed co-educational membership, expanding their service efforts and allowing members like Lee to join. 

Co-ed membership across Greek organizations has been a major topic of consideration on many college campuses.

At a time when organizations are becoming all-inclusive; like the Boy Scouts changing its name to Scouts BSA, and with most college campuses featuring some form of mixed-gender dorms, the concept of gender separated social groups is becoming ancient.

In fact, many issues arise among the enforcement of gender separation. 

According to a study done by the University of Colorado in 2013, specific sorority rules – such as excluding women from throwing parties or having men in their houses – can result in enforced toxic gender roles. These roles can ultimately create an uneven number of sorority sisters in male-dominated spaces; making it easier for women to be excluded from major social spaces if they do not follow specific gender norms.

At OU, like at many colleges, Greek organizations play a big role in many students’ lives. In fact, more than 6,000 current students have joined a fraternity or sorority at OU in the fall of 2019 alone.

Of the 55 registered Greek organizations on OU campus, only two have co-educational membership. These organizations include TBS and Kappa Kappa Psi.

While all considered Greek organizations, the traditional Greek organizations like Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity Council differ greatly from other types of chapters on campus, such as chapters within Independent Greek Council.

Outgoing Independent Greek Council president Lindsay Ross said that the main difference between the average person’s idea of Greek life and the actual dynamics of the IGC lies within what IGC chapters serve.

“The Independent Greek Council chapters are based on interests like music, STEM, religion, culture and service,” Ross said. “The Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council chapters are typically based on community building.”

PAC and IFC Chapters are more centered around social activities, which is why most of these Chapters have houses near OU campus. IGC Chapters; however, are based on interests or community service, and often meet in conference rooms on campus.

The overall purpose of the Independent Greek Council, Ross said, is to provide a home to any and all interest based Greek chapters.

“As most of our chapters are based on completely different interests, we have very little inter-chapter competition,” Ross said. “This assists us having a diverse range of interests while also building a strong, cohesive environment for students interested in joining.”

Additionally, because IGC Chapters are more focused on interests, they are more inclusive and lenient in nature.

KKY and TBS, being two of the more lenient chapters on OU campus with their co-ed membership, allow men and women to help with musical endeavors. With KKY being the brother fraternity to TBS, both chapters aim to serve the same goal: to offer aid to all OU affiliated music organizations. These organizations include The Wind Symphony, Symphony Band, Campus Bands, Jazz Ensembles and the Pride of Oklahoma.

Clark Smith, the TBS sergeant at arms parliamentarian, says that TBS and KKY co-educational membership is what allows the chapters to be so thorough in their efforts.

“Between TBS and KKY, our chapters are the most active ones on campus,” Smith said. “If anything our (co-ed) membership allows TBS and KKY to reach a larger audience of potential members.”

As well as providing TBS and KKY with more members, Smith thinks their co-ed membership equally helps members learn to collaborate with both men and women.

“Service isn’t gendered; anyone can do it, and because of that I think more service organizations should become co-ed,” Smith said. “(Co-education) just offers a variety of opinions which can ultimately lead to positive change – I see this a lot in TBS.”

This open membership doesn’t only benefit the members of TBS and KKY though.

Based on a 2014 study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin, co-education encourages gender equality because students within these types of organizations are forced to listen to different ideas and views provided by opposing genders.

This type of continuous interaction equips students with real world applications of mixed-gender cooperation that is needed for most workplace environments.

And while OU sororities and fraternities do work together for events such as Homecoming, consistency is key for gaining a real application of these tools.

Modern PAC and IFC chapters also emphasize the importance of career connections that students gain through joining a sorority or fraternity. But, by enforcing exclusionary, single-gender practices, these same chapters are prohibiting a prevalent and important factor of today’s workforce – leaving young adults not as prepared for a professional environment as they might think.

Within the past five years, some colleges, such as Harvard and Yale University, have already recognized this and have enforced historically male social clubs to include women. Other colleges like Wesleyan University decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational.

Major colleges across the country may be starting to add more inclusivity to Greek life through co-ed mandates, but TBS and KKY seem to be unique in their endeavors to bring co-ed chapters to OU campus. While some campuses may be ready for this change, others, like OU may not be.

Although completely co-ed Greek life may not make an appearance on OU campus for years to come, Lee emphasizes that Greek chapters will have to inevitably make the change at some point. 

“All (Greek) chapters have differing goals and ideologies, but when it all comes down to it, Greek life is really a way for students to bond with one another,” Lee said. “Organizations people belong to and their gender shouldn’t determine those bonds. I really do think co-ed is the future for Greek life.”

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