We sat down and spoke with Shegufta, president of Sigma Omicron Rho, UVA’s only co-ed Queer and Allied fraternity. She opens up about some of the backlash SOR has faced and her hopes for the future of the University community.
Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a third year biology major. I volunteer at the hospital’s pediatric unit (which is a blast! cuddling babies is the best part!), I spend time helping out in Professor Roach’s lab in the greenhouse, am involved with a Literary and Debating organization, and I am in SOR.
What is SOR?
SOR, Sigma Omicron Rho, is UVA’s only co-ed, Queer and Allied fraternity. I’m currently the president. I think it’s the first co-ed LGBTQ related fraternity in the country, actually. Since people might be genderqueer or trans*, so being co-ed was the only way to have an inclusive queer fraternity.
What happened recently regarding their advertisements?
SOR was advertising for its open rush…Tuesday night our social chair and I spent about three hours flyering on various bulletin boards and the blue posts around grounds designated for flyers. On Thursday morning on the way to class I noticed some of them were not on the blue posts, so I investigated further.
Some of the flyers inside of the academic buildings were also taken down, which leads me to believe it wasn’t the weather. I didn’t want to assume the worst so I asked Newcomb Hall if they had taken them down due to a violation of flyer policy. Newcomb notified me that they only take down the flyers on Sundays, and if the flyers had been taken down by either them or groundskeeping, SOR would have received an email. Neither I nor anyone else on exec got an email regarding the flyers.
This led me to believe that they were taken down intentionally and likely by a student. The only reason I could think of for them taking it down is because we mentioned that it was a Queer fraternity. The open rush events we advertised were quite vanilla. We just had snacks, music, board games, and a costume contest, which doesn’t seem too unusual to me.
Has anything like this happened to SOR in the past?
Not to my current knowledge.
Does this seem characteristic of the UVA community to you?
As far as the general UVA community goes I don’t think it’s characteristic of the community. I think that the majority of people at UVA are tolerant, and even those who have somewhat negative feeling about LGBTQ individuals probably wouldn’t go so far as to take down the flyers (because it’s such a waste of energy to look for flyers and take them down – you’d have to be fairly emotionally invested). Most people at UVA aren’t homophobic, though, I think heteronormativity has a very strong presence in the culture at UVA.
There is still a very small number of students who do have strong homophobic feelings towards LGBTQ people, as evidenced by the hate crime that occurred towards the end of last semester, and more recently this flyer incident. So there’s still work to be done.
What are your hopes for the future direction of the community on Grounds?
I hope that in the future UVA is a place where people will no longer be reluctant to mention what their orientation or gender identity might be. I think that one way of getting towards that would be for people who are informed to call out their friends when they are saying something that is homophobic or heteronormative.
I think that this would also intersect with other forms of bias at the university, where we point out to people that rape jokes are never funny, and that sexual harassment is not okay, and saying/doing things that are racist is not okay. When the students as a community make it clear that these attitudes are not acceptable, there will likely be less of a chance someone would act on these biases, especially in a malicious or violent manner, out of the false idea that it would somehow be justified.
Anything we forgot to ask or final thoughts?
The response that I’ve gotten from other students and administrators has been overwhelmingly supportive. I want all students on grounds to know that no matter what happens, it’s okay to be who you are and there’s an army of people ready to be there for you.