Controversy surrounds Greek life across the country — with chapter suspensions, discrimination and sexual assault allegations. At BGSU, Alpha Tau Omega is raising the bar for fraternities through inclusion and advocacy.
On campus, there are over 37 Greek-affiliated chapters. The Interfraternity Council sits 15 active social fraternities, including ATO.
The Epsilon Kappa Chapter of ATO is one of many chapters across the country and gives young men the opportunity for community service, leadership and brotherhood.
“My drive to join ATO came from a position to find a place where I fit in and could be a leader all while making a difference on campus. I saw the chapter before I ever joined doing so much on campus and getting involved. That I knew I wanted to call them home,” Devin Clark, a brother of ATO, said.
Many parents worry about their children joining Greek organizations, however, Clark said, “I felt proud to tell my parents of me joining a fraternity who gives back so much.”
Although, the stigmas are hard to ignore. President Remington Schneider never pictured himself in a fraternity before ATO.
“I saw ATO offered more than just a ‘frat’life. These men actually care about you and what you’re doing in college and after. We care about the leadership skills you have now and how we can make them grow. For me, it was the sense of true brotherhood. I’m not just a number, and it matters who I am in this fraternity,” Schneider said. At BGSU, ATO seeks to be different than other chapters.
After recent controversy of racially charged discrimination in Greek Life on campus, ATO aims for the creation of a diverse and inclusive chapter.
“Discrimination has no place in our fraternity. We believe strongly that everyone should be respected. No matter what background, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual identification or other parameters which a person might associate with,” Clark said.
Creating an inclusive and diverse environment for young men is a significant aspect for the brothers of ATO, and it begins on day one.
“The two values we have that touch everything we do is love and respect. First of all, we value the love piece for anyone. That is accepting them for who they are, what they stand for and whatever their beliefs may be. The other side of it is respect. We believe there is nothing more you can give to a person than just the respect of being a person. Whether it’s off-campus events or on-campus events, we try to wear that on our chest because in our mind it is just the right thing to do,” Schneider said.
Members believe strongly in everyone being respected and having a home in ATO. “We have so many men who come from so many different places and bring so much value to the chapter,” Clark said.
Last spring, ATO tackled another stigma and issue on campus by starting the movement to end sexual assault at BGSU. Member Cameron Johnson and fellow brothers reached out to other Greek chapters to take a stand together. They organized an awareness march and raised money for the local Cocoon shelter with fraternities Tau Kappa Epsilon and Kappa Sigma.
“There was a number of factors that went into the decision (to raise awareness), but on this campus alone it needed to be addressed. It was recognizing the issues and stigmas faced in our organization and showing the community we are making an honest effort to distance ourselves away from these stigmas,” Johnson said.
Members of ATO are required to go through Title IX training, which includes knowing proper forms of consent, how to partake in bystander intervention and BGSU’s process of sexual assault situations. Members also learn throughout the semester from Title IX Coordinators, national representatives and local law enforcement.
“We wanted to stand with survivors and make a difference to show we support those who are affected by sexual assault. Because it’s not OK and nobody should ever be made to feel uncomfortable,” Clark said.
In the coming years, the men of ATO aspire to end the culture of sexual assault campus-wide.
“We want it to be a snowball effect and eventually get the entire community on board. We figure we are in a position where we have the privilege to be able to do something. It is what we think being in a fraternity is about. It’s flipping the stigma and changing the lens” Schneider said.
ATO aims to be different and continues to make change throughout campus.
“We aren’t here to one-up another fraternity; we are here to provide an experience no other organization can have. And that comes from providing an experience of how we can better each other,” Schneider said.
Whether it is creating a diverse and inclusive environment, standing with victims of sexual assault or giving back to the community, ATO puts perspective to the standard at which fraternities should be held.
“We don’t strive to be like anyone else. Because when you follow in somebody else’s footsteps, often times people don’t want to step up. Especially when it matters. That’s what makes us different; we take a stand when others won’t,” Clark said.