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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, June 16, 2024

Historically Black sorority Zeta Phi Beta establishes Tufts chapter

New chapter of Zeta Phi Beta seeks to change the landscape of Tufts campus life.

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From left to right, chapter members Jahnea Potts, Kimberly Pothemont, ReAnna Barclay, Alvalyn Dixon-Gardner and Saffiyah Coker are pictured.

This semester, the Delta Chi chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority — a historically Black sorority — opened at Tufts. The chapter currently has just five members and the Zetas will seek new sisters in the fall. 

“The goal is to make Zeta a permanent structure — a permanent home on Tufts campus,” Saffiyah Coker, treasurer of the Tufts Zeta chapter, told the Daily. 

Zeta was founded at Howard University in 1920 by five female students. Now, it boasts over 100,000 members within hundreds of chapters across the world.

“One of the principles of Zeta that is really beautiful — and that I was drawn to personally — is scholarship,” Coker said. “And people here are very bright, in so many different ways. So we hope that Tufts students are continuously drawn to the type of scholastic excitement that Zeta is about.”

Along with scholarship, Zeta was founded on the principles of service, sisterhood and finer womanhood. Its rich history and strong ideals attracted Coker to the sorority.

Zora Neale Hurston [is] a Zeta and she’s one of my favorite writers ever,” she said. “Seeing that there are these giant [figureheads in Zeta], who’ve contributed so much to Black life and thought in America, I was like, ‘that is so cool to be able to call myself a member of the same organization as that other person.’ So it’s just a really beautiful opportunity to make so many connections, not even just on this campus but in the broader world.”

Zeta Phi Beta is linked with the other members of the “Divine Nine” — a group of nine historically Black sororities and fraternities. There are citywide chapters of other Divine Nine sororities and fraternities, but Zeta is the only member with an active chapter at Tufts. 

The Zeta chapter offers a new alternative to local sororities The Ivy and Thalia, which do not have a national affiliation, and nationally recognized Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta. The exclusionary history associated with the current national chapters of Greek life on campus may be unsettling to possible recruits.

“The only people I know in [Tufts] sororities and fraternities are not white, but when I think of them as a whole, when I think rushing [and] when I think sororities and fraternities, I think [about the stereotypes] I see in movies, [like] a bunch of blonde girls and frat boys, and I don’t see people of color," Jahnea Potts, president of the Tufts chapter of Zeta, said. 

Zeta wants to market itself as a space for Tufts students who are deeply involved in multiple different disciplines.

“I would say we’re drawn to passionate people, people who care deeply about the things that we do,” Coker said. “We’re all chronically busy, not out of a desire to get the best GPA or do the most things, but because we care about so many different things.”

The establishment of a Zeta chapter at Tufts has been in the works for several years now. Mary Kate Kelley, fraternity and sorority life adviser, commented on the process.

Our office started talking with the extension team of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. a couple of years ago,” Kelley wrote in an email to the Daily. “Last summer, I worked with volunteers from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. to create a plan for them to establish a chapter at Tufts.”

When evaluating a potential sorority or fraternity chapter, the university considers how a new chapter would impact campus life.

“We looked at the types of organizations we have on our campus and we wanted to allow for more opportunities for our multicultural organizations to be more involved in our fraternity and sorority life community,” Kelley wrote.

The chapter looks forward to growing in the upcoming semesters and establishing its place within the Greek life scene at Tufts.

“One of the beautiful things about starting a new chapter is we get to learn from the other chapters around us but also put in our ideas,” Coker said. “We have so many ideas about events we’ll have next semester and just exciting stuff we want to do to help the community grow.”

Potts echoed this sentiment: “It’s nice that [in] starting this chapter, we can make this chapter our own and base it off the needs of the people that are in it and people that may be willing to join or may be a good fit for it.”