Alpha Chi Omega, one of the four active sororities at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA has recently undergone a pivotal transformation – a transformation from a historically white organization to an increasingly diverse and inclusive space. In the week of 9/18/2023, Alpha Chi Omega (AXO) extended bids (an invitation to join the organization) to 18 new members. Out of the 18, ten of the women are people of color. Before the bids were extended, during the recruitment process, these same prospective members (specifically those from BIPOC backgrounds) consistently asked questions regarding what it’s like to be a POC in a sorority. Not only is Greek life a historically racist system, Muhlenberg is blatantly a PWI (predominantly white institution) which further amplified the importance of such questions. With that being said, Muhlenberg’s AXO had a surprising and overall significant shift with nearly 50% of the sorority consisting of individuals from diverse racial backgrounds, altering the landscape from its 80% white majority in 2020.
Despite this substantial advancement, certain campus groups remain hesitant to engage in collective activities, steadfast in the belief that sororities still predominantly align with a white identity. As VP of DEI for AXO, it is imperative to assert that everyday we are diligently engaged in dispelling such notions and actively dismantling the vestiges of systemic racism within our organization. As a POC immersing myself in this space, I acknowledge its historical narrative while actively embracing the ongoing metamorphosis towards a racially inclusive ethos. The question becomes, what can we be doing better?
This is a question Alpha Chi Omega must explore together as it’s crucial to acknowledge the fallacy of burdening affinity groups with the responsibility of educating white individuals on how to combat racism. Historically, marginalized communities such as BIPOC have endured systemic racism and inequality. The burden of educating others should not be added to the weight they already carry due to centuries of discrimination. Instead, the responsibility of combating the ugly history of Greek life should lie with those in positions of privilege, particularly the white majority. Addressing systemic racism requires understanding the power dynamics and working towards rectifying these imbalances.
In the context of a PWI like Muhlenberg College, it’s imperative to dismantle white spaces beyond the borders of a sorority like Alpha Chi Omega. It is a collective endeavor that encompasses the entire campus and the broader society. Empowering affinity groups on campus is a general start, but also looking at Muhlenberg itself may be more insightful. Muhlenberg is planning a multi-million dollar renovation to its student union building (Seegers Union), but the budget they give affinity groups to work with throughout the semester (to host events) is minimal to nothing. With that being said, PWI campuses must critically examine and address institutional biases that perpetuate racial disparities. From admissions policies to disciplinary measures, addressing and rectifying these biases is fundamental to fostering a more inclusive environment.
In reflecting on the critical journey towards inclusivity, equity, and the dismantling of white spaces within a PWI, we are compelled to ponder: How can we, as members of this campus community, proactively ensure that our actions today echo into a future where diversity isn’t just acknowledged, but deeply understood and genuinely celebrated? How do we transform our campus into a space where every voice is not only heard but honored, and where authentic understanding bridges the gaps that history has created? In essence, how can we move from being aware of the need for change to being active agents of change, both within our academic institution and the world beyond? Alpha Chi Omega is willing to enact a change, how about you?