As a fraternity president, he has worked with Black, Latinx and white fraternities to examine the Greek system at Ohio State for implicit and explicit racism.
“We have a group chat with all four of the Greek councils … calling out racist policies and micro-aggressions” that occur within the system, he said. When they discovered that both the Panhellenic Association and Inter-Fraternity Council don’t have bylaws regarding the use of hate speech, they exhorted the organizations to amend their rules.
All the councils since have banned hate speech and imagery and updated punishments to reflect the seriousness of the offense.
“We continue to have conversations around establishing a better community,” Fernandez said.
The challenge is to sustain the momentum and to not let complacency about racism and implicit bias take hold.
Perhaps, Fernandez said, we need to take stock of the university’s past to shape our future.
Most people don’t know, for example, that part of the Ohio Union is shaped like a lantern, and the student newspaper is named after one, because the Underground Railroad ran through campus. The path snaked through Neil Run Stream — now Mirror Lake — past the South Oval to where the Union stands today.
“We’re never taught that unless you hear it from somebody else,” Fernandez said. “That’s literally erasure, right in front of you on campus.”
That critical aspect of our past should be taught during orientation, he said. “There’s a history here on this campus, and you should be aware of it.”
Because being an ally means never forgetting, holding that lantern aloft for others and moving toward a more equitable future