Minority women re-defining Panhellenics

By Llana Samuel, Arts and Entertainment Editor

When I arrived on Sept. 8, 2013 to find out if I had received a bid to the sorority I wanted, I was one of many college women about to join a Panhellenic sorority. I was one of many, but I was the only black new member in either of the Panhellenic sororities at the time.

It did not bother me in the slightest at the time. In fact, I was excited to have made it that far when a lot of other girls had not. I wasn’t being treated differently either; a sister who would later become my big sister, grabbed my hand the instant I ran out and led me to the gifts and refreshments table.

I had acquired around 60 new sisters and friends to experience college with and the fact that I was the second active member in my sorority chapter (there had been others in the past) wasn’t a cause for concern. It signalled the beginning of a new era in Greek Life at Armstrong.

Shortly after joining, I was given my first chair position. I became Vice President and shortly after that, President of my collegiate chapter—in less than a year. I had received and award for being the most outstanding new member and friendships with girls in my chapter were blossoming.

So why weren’t there many other minority young women going through recruitment? Why weren’t the women who did receiving bids just as often as their white equals? After all, I wasn’t being treated any different from my fellow new members or sisters. At least I didn’t think so.

The semester after I joined my sorority I was hanging out with a group of sisters and friends in one of the fraternities. A non-racist comment was made about black people and when I answered, a sister deadpanned “yeah, but you’re not black. You’re British.”

Was I really given a bid over the other two black girls who came through fall 2013 recruitment because I was British and not African-American? I did not feel that way. In the Fall 2014 semester there were several more minority women going through formal recruitment and mostly of them accepted bids to Alpha Sigma Tau, Phi Mu or Sigma Sigma Sigma.

The problem was that some of them also dropped weeks into joining a sorority. Our Greek community is growing, trying to increase their presence and having a diverse body of members is helping tremendously. Some will say a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in a chapter does not necessarily inhibit the progress a chapter makes in being philanthropic, hosting social events and maintaining a presence on campus.

I beg to differ. Having a diverse sisterhood not only exposes members to different cultures and customs, it also sheds light on the changing face of women’s Greek organizations.

There are ‘Total-Sorority-Move’-reading, Starbucks-sipping, Lilly Pulitzer-wearing sorority members. There are also tattoo-bearing, international and ex-military members. I am proud to witness growth in the amount of minority women going through sorority recruitment, but I am concerned about their experiences once within these organizations. Are there enough of them in a chapter to share relatable experiences?

Does majority really rule even in organizations that are supposed to be fair and against discrimination? These are questions that can only be answered by those within the organizations.