Most sororities emphasize academic excellence, community service and, of course, sisterhood. For some women of color, that sisterhood would feel more complete if their sorority was also concerned with their specific culture. That’s why, in addition to the traditional Panhellenic Association options for greek life, IU also offers multicultural fraternities and sororities oriented around specific ethnic cultures.
These multicultural option, however, are much smaller than their Panhellenic counterparts, offer fewer events and do not have as prominent of a presence on campus.
Additionally, the Panhellenic and multicultural branches interact very little, which leaves many students of color with a difficult choice: join a group that celebrates their background or join one that offers them the version of greek life they assumed they would have. The fact that multicultural fraternities and sororities are essentially ignored by the rest of the greek system is unacceptable. The two halves are separate and unequal, which perpetuates the unfair practice of forcing minority communities to exist in the margins.
Despite being proud of her Mexican heritage and wanting to join a sorority that would connect her to other Hispanic women, sophomore Alexis Castillo chose not to rush Gamma Phi Omega, IU’s Latina sorority, because she didn’t feel it would offer her the greek experience she wanted.
“I wanted to join a Latina sorority, but I also wanted to get the full college feel, and going through the recruitment for other sororities, I realized I would be connected to more opportunities on campus than with the multicultural sororities” Castillo said.
Castillo ultimately chose to rush Alpha Gamma Delta to avoid feeling disconnected from the majority of the greek community at IU and so she could enjoy the classic sorority experience she’d been hoping for since she was a freshman.
This choice should not have been necessary in the first place, unless apathetic coexistence now counts as accepting and valuing diversity.
IU is very much a school that boasts diversity and tolerance, but its greek system is lacking in this collaborative spirit. Though the current separation is almost certainly unintentional, Castillo believes complacency is not a good excuse.
“I think each different branch of greek life doesn’t understand the other, so it’d be nice to have sober pairs or philanthropy events with each other and actually try to learn about each other,” Castillo said. “It’d be a process of doing all of that together and of not only socializing but also of understanding the different cultures and what they do.”
Obviously multicultural sororities have to remain separate entities from traditional sororities in order to achieve their goal of creating intimate cultural communities. But people of color should not have to miss out on the expansive social networks and far-reaching philanthropic initiatives that compel students to go greek in the first place.
Although Kappa Delta recently participated in a paired event with Kappa Alpha Psi, IU’s African-American fraternity, more consistent and widespread efforts need to be made to integrate the University’s greek system.
“We should be as caring as we say we are when it comes to accepting other cultures,” Castillo said. “Greek life is awesome and there’s a lot you can do, but we could also be a lot better.”
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