Scandal in Alabama, new sorority at Tufts spark evaluation of diversity in Greek Life
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 07:10
The addition of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta on the Hill has brought a flurry of excitement and discussion to the Greek system as it welcomes its new charter members. As Greek leaders view Theta’s colonization on campus as a fresh start for the entire Greek community, many hope that this will challenge the student body’s perceptions about Greek life.
On a national scale, one visible issue in Greek life is diversity. This September, the University of Alabama was rocked by a scandal involving racially segregated sororities, prompting protests at the university. The incident in Alabama opened a discussion here on campus about diversity in Greek life.
Though Tufts’ Greek community is much smaller than the University of Alabama’s, increasing diversity remains an area for potential improvement. In past years, for example, there were members of multicultural Greek letter organizations at Tufts; now, however, there is only one student on the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) — less than the three needed to actually make the council active according to Tufts policy.
According to Hayley Keene, graduate assistant for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the office is supportive of spreading the word about the multicultural council.
“Across the board I know that IFC [(Interfraternity Council)] and Pan-Hell [(Panhellenic Council)] have been huge supporters in helping the one student that we have in the multicultural council with her organization, as well as helping her in her efforts to spread the word on creating and making the council actually active,” Keene said.
Elyse Galloway, a member of Chi Omega and president of the Inter-Greek Council pointed out the recent Oct. 8 Multicultural Greek information session, where representatives from multicultural organizations presented the histories of their organizations at Tufts.
“This past week we had an info session where various chapters of multicultural backgrounds — Latino, African American — came and presented,” Galloway, a senior, said. “Each chapter basically gave a summary of their organization, their history and their location within the greater Boston area. What was great discussion-wise was that a lot of the chapters brought up how important the organizations were to them as multicultural students in their own communities.”
Keene explained that the impetus for the event was students’ curiousity about these organizations and their presence on and off campus.
Galloway said she thought that Greek life at Tufts has been improving in terms of diversity.
“I think that [the community] is becoming more diverse,” Galloway said. “But there’s always room for progress.”
Multicultural chapters throughout the greater Boston area were present at the information session, including Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta, a historically black fraternity and sorority, Galloway said.
“A lot of the chapters brought up how important the organizations were to them as multicultural students in their own communities,” Galloway said. “Being able to provide that on this campus is essential.”
Greek leadership is adamant, however, that the Greek community at Tufts is not as homogeneous as it may seem. Jaime Morgen, a member of Alpha Phi and president of the Tufts Panhellenic Council, said that Tufts has a different type of Greek system compared to those of other schools.
“I think sometimes people come in with a perception of Greek life that it’s one very stereotypical type of girl or guy that is involved,” she said. “That’s what the media portrays, that’s what bigger schools often are. People don’t realize that it’s a very different culture at Tufts. We really do want anyone and everyone.”
According to Keene, no actual data is available regarding representation of minority groups in the Greek community at Tufts. Despite this, there is some consensus among Greek leadership that Tufts welcomes everyone. Barton Liang, the Theta Chi philanthropy co-chair who is also a New Media editor for the Daily, emphasized that peoples’ perceptions of Greek life at Tufts are not based on reality.
“A lot of people just need to get to know Greek life at Tufts more,” Liang, a sophomore, said. “Because [often] people pre-select themselves out of it without even trying to get to know brothers.”
Morgen agreed that students may have more in common with members of the Greek community than they think.
“We come from different places, but we’re all bonded under something, as well,” she said.
Of course, diversity is multifaceted, and race is only one factor. The financial aspects of joining Greek life can be a big concern for students, since joining a Greek organization is expensive.
Keene said that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is not very involved in funding members of organizations on campus.
“Each organization has its own financial component; however, from our office there is no financial piece,” Keene said.
Morgen added that the expenses should not be a deterrent to students’ consideration of joining Greek life.
“It is a financial commitment, but I know all chapters make it very easy,” Morgen said. “We have payment plans available ... we don’t want finances to be a problem or a barrier.”
Students in the Greek community on the Hill have also extended the conversation on diversity issues to include sexual orientation.
“The stereotype of Greek life tends to be a very straight, white, male-dominated kind of thing,” Liang said. “A lot of students are turned off of even considering joining Greek life if they’re not part of that specific stereotype as a whole.”
In an open forum on Sept. 23, Liang and other Greek members discussed the implications of identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and Greek. One question that arose was whether the Greek community should actively seek out LGBT individuals during recruitment. Liang didn’t think so, and most in attendance agreed.