College, for those enough lucky to experience it, can offer students across the world an opportunity to engage in a community of diverse thought, background and experience.
The academic side allows those students to hone in on their interests and have conversations that they probably would not have elsewhere. The social side, however, is a bit more ambiguous depending on the individual. When I think back to my perceptions of college prior to my admission and my ability to obtain first-hand knowledge, I realize that those ideas were partly derived from movies and songs.
I think of “The House Bunny,” “Legally Blonde,” “Animal House,” “Van Wilder,” “Old School” and many more. What do these films have in common? They all posit representations of the wonders of collegiate Greek Life. More specifically, they represent depictions of predominantly white fraternity and sorority culture.
As a minority, I wondered—outside of the token black person, Asian kid, etc. represented in these films—do these organizations represent me? This does not mean that predominantly white organizations do not welcome minority students; however, the question remains, does the culture of these fraternities and sororities adequately represent minority students themselves? If the reaction to the question is at all indefinite, then its answer is indeed problematic.
While there are minority students in non-multicultural organizations across the country, many minority students feel that the culture of those organizations is not enough and, at the University specifically, the two binaries function almost completely separately. Ask yourself: do you know anybody in the Multicultural Greek organizations? Or have you been to any of their events or parties? Or do you know the names of all of these organizations?
The Multicultural Greek Council at Villanova consists of nine fraternities and sororities. Five of them are in the National Pan-Hellenic Council: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Omega Psi Phi and Zeta Phi Beta. Three are in the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations consisting of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Lambda Theta Alpha and Phi Iota Alpha and one sorority is in the National Asian/Pacific Islander Panhellenic Association, Sigma Psi Zeta.
Many of the members of these organizations were initially turned off by the mainstream Greek culture at the University for one reason or another just like many other students. But the dominant reasons seem to be about the culture, priorities and tradition of the organizations themselves in addition to the process of initiation into the fraternity or sorority.
“When you are in a multicultural fraternity or sorority, you are a life member,” says senior Joshua Meekins, a member of Omega Psi Phi. “You are always going to be honored as a brother and that bond is always there. That’s something you can’t buy or purchase. It’s built.”
Much of the tradition in the National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities, also known as the Divine Nine, sprouts from not having a place in society or even being allowed access to Greek Life on various campuses across the nation due to segregation. Thus, the tradition and priorities are often linked to programs and initiatives that preserve and empower those communities.
Jessica Wamala, a graduate student on the women’s basketball team and also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, notices a negative connotation to white Greek culture.
“Sometimes, when I tell people that I am in a sorority they say, ‘Oh, you’re one of those girls,’” Wamala says.
Like Meekins, she too finds, “People say I was in this or that fraternity or sorority, referring to it in the past tense. But for me, it is and always will be in the present tense.”
Another concern for students in multicultural fraternities and sororities on Villanova’s campus is the lack of interaction between the predominantly white and the minority organizations. Much of this is due to the relatively new rise in popularity and membership of multicultural Greek organizations. Still, the two entities do not generally cross paths.
“A lot of people stereotype us and say, ‘Oh it’s a Latin sorority so it’s only the Latinas in it,’” says senior Bianca Santini-Dumas, a member of Lambda Theta Alpha. “Yes, we are majority Latina and that’s how it was founded, but we say we’re Latin by tradition, not definition.”
A burden that many groups that endorse the cultures or values of minority interests must deal with is the reality that people assume that it is only for the benefits of the individuals in said culture.
There is a value in keeping many of these groups homogenous, but it creates an invisible barrier that many non-minority students feel either intimated or put-off by them.
The logic of seeing that group of black kids or that group of Asian kids huddling together as a pack is evident here, too.
We must remember that the transgressions of our nation’s past still have lasting and residual effects that cause issues just like these.
Again, these articles are not asking you to join a multicultural fraternity or sorority. The purpose is for you to think critically about why there is a lasting separation between predominantly white Greek life and multicultural Greek life.