The Acts of Exclusion in Greek Life

Greek life has been under a microscopic eye, especially this summer and fall. Sorority Instagram pages are flooded with pictures of members and captions saying, “I found my girl gang!” What about everything that’s going on in the world? The protests, the murders, the systemic racism absolutely has to be acknowledged. We have to acknowledge that Greek life as a whole is predominantly white. I think many people have a fear of joining Greek life because they look different (size, skin color, etc.). How do we welcome more diversity in our chapters? Do we create sororities and organizations for the Black and Latinx communities on our campuses? Should we partner with preexisting organizations so we can learn more and hear their voices and perspectives? One thing that I’m interested in pursuing is partnering with a Black or Latinx sorority for a philanthropy event and educational programming. We need to make a conscious effort and do better. Greek life has a lot of work to do. These acts of exclusion and racism from the past cannot be disregarded or forgotten. That being said, it is our job to create change for the future.

One term that often gets thrown around in Greek organizations is the word “legacy”. A legacy means that the person has had a relative in that Greek organization. Legacies are important to sororities because they allow family ties to continue. Once the organization knows about your legacy status, you will usually be given special consideration. Some sororities guarantee invitations back during recruitment, and some even put you on the top of their bid list. For example, if my mother was in Alpha Phi, I would be a legacy. If you were to look at this a little deeper it can become clear that this is extremely exclusive. What about the people who could not afford to go to college, let alone join a Greek organization? What about first generation college students or students that are members of marginalized communities? Greek life has not welcomed them with open arms in the past, so why would they believe that they are welcomed now? 

In order to make the recruitment process more fair and continue to have an open mind, my sorority and chapter (Delta Zeta Xi Iota) has decided to disregard “legacies” during our recruitment process. We want everyone to have a fair chance and want everyone to feel equally important, regardless of the past history of Greek life. We acknowledge that this is not enough, however we are making a promise to continue to learn and educate ourselves about how we can do better by furthering our relationship with The Office of Multicultural Life, moving our diversity chair position to our executive board, and reading/watching documentaries as a group. We have also created a program where (every Monday) we are all encouraged to research and share resources with each other. When discussing the importance of becoming more inclusive, many of our chapter members spoke out about the importance of previous opportunities and how we can move forward/create the same opportunities for all members, regardless of their background. It’s necessary for us, as white allies, to acknowledge that these conversations can be and should be had more frequently.

In first chapter of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, a white woman said she was shocked racism still exists. This example is one of the reasons that my sorority and many other people have taken it upon ourselves to continue to further our education, educate others, and fight for an increasingly inclusive world. The failure to recognize that Greek life is built on a system of racism is problematic. I’m a proud member of my organization, but I am aware that we are not perfect and have to continue to hold ourselves accountable, speak up, advocate for change and continue to work towards becoming more inclusive. While Greek life has many benefits, the history and ignorance is difficult to forget. Educate yourselves so you are aware! Educate yourselves so you can speak up! Educate yourself so you don’t have to be ignorant, and can work towards making a change. That being said, how do we continue to hold Greek organizations and ourselves accountable? If we cannot forget the racist actions that Greek life is built upon, how can we move forward and do better?

1 thought on “The Acts of Exclusion in Greek Life”

  1. Marissa, you make such a good point here. As much as it is a conversation to have within Greek Life, it is a conversation for the college institution to have as a whole. With regards to the Black Lives Matter Movement and shaky emails and communication presented by the institution through email it seems as though there must be progress made in terms of Greek life inclusivity of marginalized students as well as the college as a whole in ensuring all students (not only the White ones) are able to get the education and experiences they had chose the school for.

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