I recently completed the Greek Emerging Leaders Programs, in which we learned effective leadership skills and discussed important ideas and issues surrounding Greek life. The most significant issue facing Vanderbilt Greek Life and Greek Life in America as a whole is race and diversity. Some believe that Greek Life is one of the few outwardly racist organizations, centered upon white identity, that still exist today because most fraternities and sororities were founded just after the Civil War, and their predominantly white population still remains today. Fraternities and sororities are notoriously thought of as racist and discriminatory for a number of reasons.
- News stories reporting racist traditions and practices of various fraternities and sororities are being regularly reported. Ex. SAE at Oklahoma University.
- It’s challenging to join a sorority/fraternity as the only person of color because no one wants to see like an outcast among a group they are a member of. This fuels the cycle of white hierarchy among Greek Life.
- There are significant monetary and social costs to joining a sorority/fraternity. Members are expected to pay a significant fee to be a member (there are minimal scholarships) and implicitly encouraged to behavior and present themselves in a specific manner.
- While there are NPHC fraternities and sororities, this further the issue of segregation because individuals of color may feel like NPHC is their only option.
- “Inclusion” seems to only be a buzz world. It is difficult to see the specific actions that fraternities and sororities are taking to be more inclusive.
- According to Cornell’s website, while “only 2% of America’s population is involved in fraternities, 80% of Fortune 500 executives, 76% of U.S. senators and congressmen, 85% of Supreme Court justices, and all but two presidents since 1825 have been fraternity men”. Let’s keep in mind that most of these individuals can be assumed as white, and this parallels the issue of white supremacy in America.
While I am a white member of a Greek organization and understand what these organizations have to offer, I believe it is important that people recognize the reality of Greek Life. I am curious what other people think about this issue. What are other reasons contributing to the racist culture of these organizations? How is this creating a divide in the Vanderbilt community? What steps should be taken to overcome this issue?