Updated: Oct 30, 2020
By: Maria Giovanna Jumper
In response to recent racial tension, students have begun to question the integrity of their Greek organizations. Many institutions have had racist incidents surface in relation to their fraternities and sororities and they have begun to question whether those organizations still have a place on college campuses.
The historically white Greek system was established in the early 19th century for white college-educated men. Dating back to 1825 at Union College, John Heath, along with several others, chartered the first Greek life organization, Kappa Alpha Society. Since then, Greek Life has expanded to over 2,913 chapters on more than 630 college campuses. And since then, it has had a controversial history because many Greek organizations have remained exclusively for white people, that is until the late 20th century.
Naturally, something dating back as far as the 1800s will have practices that are now outdated and engender protest, like the “Abolish Greek Life” movement.
A recent “New York Times” article, titled “The War on Frats,” stated, “Greek life is exclusionary, racist and misogynist, as well as resistant to reform because of the hierarchical nature of the national Greek organizations, which control local chapters,” when explaining the reasons behind this movement.
Adelphi is home to numerous Greek Life organizations whose student leaders and Center for Student Involvement (CSI) advisor take this movement very seriously. Tommy Severin, the CSI advisor for Greek Life, said that there have been no complaints about Greek organizations themselves in his almost two years at Adelphi. Additionally, when complaints do arise about specific students in Greek Life, Severin reports those complaints to Student Conduct so they can be directly addressed. Severin and student leaders have been committed to being proactive to ensure equity and inclusion for all those on campus.
“Over the summer, a group of incredible student leaders from the Greek Life and Social Fellowship community came together to form the Greek Life and Social Fellowship Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work Group,” he said.
Severin explained that this Work Group examined three major components of our community: membership experience, campus and community relations, and education and training. The group created a report, which provided recommendations for the campus, chapters and councils for how to make strides in addressing racism, discrimination and other forms of injustice within our community that have begun to be implemented at all levels.
The group has published their findings on the Greek Life and Social Fellowship MyAULife page. In this report, they also created recommendations for chapters to implement.
Member so this Work Group were from Delta Phi Epsilon, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Pi Lambda Phi, Delta Sigma Pi, Delta Chi, and representatives from the Inter Greek Council, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, and the Multicultural Greek and Fellowship Council.
One recommendation for membership experience is that “all chapters will either create a position with responsibilities around promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the chapter and educating their membership or incorporate these responsibilities into an existing position beginning in spring 2021.”
Delta Phi Epsilon (Dphie), has turned this recommendation into action. They have come together in recent times to promote more inclusivity within their chapter, and have created the Global Inclusive Coordinator to work under the Member at Large (MAL) position.
Emily Campos, the MAL of Dphie, holds the responsibility of making sure all sisters are feeling welcomed.
Campos said, “The concept of the position came [about] because in the midst of what occurred during the summer and pandemic it came to [the Leadership Team’s] attention that there was more as an organization [that] we can do.”
Campos added, “At first the position was going to tackle racism and be called a Diversity Coordinator. However, with educating myself I didn’t want to label it that way and also, with more thought and consideration I wanted to broaden it. The amazing thing about our sisterhood is that we come together for our philanthropies, but we [also] encourage our sisters to pursue their individual passions. Many of our sisters are advocates for various organizations [such] as [advocating] against racism, oppression [and] human trafficking."
Throughout the summer many Greek organizations at Adelphi took to their social media accounts to show their support to the BLM movement, as well as their sisters and brothers of color.
Delta Gamma posted a statement to their Instagram (@deltagammaau) on June 4 that read: “Delta Gamma was founded upon the ideals of doing good through social responsibility, personal growth and friendship… We are working as a chapter to educate ourselves on the importance of solidarity and what it takes to be an effective ally.”
Additionally, the post included an anti-racism resources list, which can be found at antiracismforbeginners.com. The post also highlighted ways to help in the BLM movement, including where to find petitions to sign, and where to donate.
Kappa Sigma also took to their Instagram account (@aukappasigma) to acknowledge the racial injustices many are facing in our country today. On June 3 they made a post stating: “Kappa Sigma is a diverse organization. While many of us cannot come close to comprehending the unique experiences and challenges that many of our members continue to face everyday...Together we stand as Brothers united against all injustice, racism and violence -- for our mutual protection.” The caption also read “Injustice anywhere is a threat everywhere #blacklivesmatter.”
Sigma Lambda Upsilon or Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. is a Latina-based sorority on the Adelphi campus. SLU also took to their instagram (@alu_alphakappa) to share books with their followers, as a means to spread awareness to resources available to educate yourself. The post also read, “We must educate ourselves as people seeking to enact change and inspire justice. We follow the lead of Black and Brown writers and activists. We must work towards a better future for all folks -- today, tomorrow and always.”
These posts are just the start of the learning and education Greek organizations are taking to be allies and support social justice.
The Work Group also added recommendations in Education and Training, stating, “All chapters will require all members to participate in a training focused on issues of social identity, privilege, and oppression annually beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year.”
Additionally, the Work Group said: “The Center of Student Involvement will develop a Greek Life & Social Fellowship Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resource guide to provide information on available services and support, topical readings, and other resources as appropriate to chapter leadership to aide in their efforts to create an inclusive and affirming fraternal experience for their membership.”
These are just some of the many recommendations provided by these student leaders. For more information, see the Greek Life and Social Fellowships MyAULife page. On this page you can also find a guide for understanding and addressing racism among members of your organization.
Severin has also been a part of the creation of the Equitable Adelphi Action Team (EAAT), where he has worked with students who are involved in Greek Life and those who aren’t to create recommendations for the university’s response to racism.
On this Severin stated, “I’m hopeful that the work of the Action Team will create a more just and equitable Adelphi community that will improve the experience for all students. I also think that working with the EAAT keeps campus issues on my radar that might not otherwise be in my view when I’m only working with the smaller Greek segment of the Adelphi community.”
Elias Higgs, a brother of Pi Lambda Phi and member of the Work Group, shared his experiences with Greek Life. Higgs, who was previously on the Interfraternity Council executive board, is now the educator for his fraternity, where he educates his fraternity's newest members. Pi Lambda Phi, the first non-sectarian fraternity in the United States, has the Elimination of Prejudice (EOP) as their philanthropy.
Higgs said, “Pi Lambda Phi has hosted several events on campus for many years to eliminate prejudice, for example, our Elimination of Prejudice week where we host an event every day relating to this issue. Our biggest event that week is our walk a mile event where we have brothers walk in heels to bring awareness to domestic violence and people can donate.”
He continued, “And we have also worked very hard to diversify our organization so every perspective on campus is expressed within our organization.”
The founding principles of many Greek organizations have to do with acceptance and upholding justice. Although Greek organizations were once founded upon racist and segregationist ideologies, students in the Adelphi community are working to educate themselves and separate themselves from this past.
Higgs said, “I personally have not experienced any racism towards me within Greek Life, however, I can understand why people on the outside may have that opinion about Greek Life and this also doesn’t mean that it does not happen. Every organization should be held accountable for their actions so that we can uphold a high standard within our community, which will make us all act accordingly.”
Higgs said that throughout the summer he participated in protests and was active in advocating for justice. “I felt supported by my brother while I was going to protests as most of my brothers came with me to these protests and some of them went to their own protest separately.”
Although some campuses and their Greek organizations are facing a lot of backlash and there are rising concerns about ending Greek Life, Adelphi’s Greek community remains committed to promoting inclusivity and standing up to any discrimination that may occur during recruitment or within Greek organizations.