Bringing together multicultural communities and Greek life

Madison Weaver, News Co-Editor

“What does bridging the gap look like? How is that going to happen between multicultural organizations and Greek life?” Black Student Union (BSU) President Nneoma Ibezim ’18 posed these questions to guests at a community dinner hosted by the BSU and Alpha Chi Omega on Oct. 25, where students, faculty, and staff discussed ways to bridge the gap between multicultural organizations and Greek life on campus.

The discussion was led by Ibezim and Alpha Chi Omega President Hannah Rosen ’18. They explained that the event was a part of an initiative by Panhellenic Council President Amarachi Ekekwe ’18 to pair multicultural and Greek organizations together to host events and begin closing the divide between the groups.

Ibezim and Rosen described the main goals and characteristics of multicultural and Greek organizations, pointing out similarities and differences in their missions and membership, as well as reasons why they believe many members do not reach out to students outside of their organizations.

“We found that a lot of the gaps in our organizations come from a lack of communication, lack of interaction, [and] a lack of opportunity to interact in safe and fun ways that aren’t forced,” Rosen said. “From a Greek perspective, bridging this gap is challenging. One reason is that the Greek community is so large, or seems so large… you don’t always feel that pull to reach out or branch out to try and make friends outside of the Greek community.”

“Similarly, multicultural organizations have a very strong, tight-knit network… Most importantly, people in multicultural organizations come together because they have found a safe space,” Ibezim added. “To be honest, again, we are a predominantly white institution and it is possible and plausible that many times the experiences that people have in their halls or in their classrooms is different than the community that they come from.”

Ibezim and Rosen also presented lists of common stereotypes for both types of organizations, prompting guests to consider terms that they associated with each type of organization. For multicultural organizations, guests shouted out words like “belonging,” “diversity,” “minorities,” “involved,” “social justice,” and “history.” For the Greek community, guests offered words like “white,” “homogenous,” “exclusive,” “rich,” “philanthropy,” and “partying.”

The speakers asked the audience to consider how these stereotypes affect organizations and offered reasons for why these generalizations stick around, regardless of whether they are truly representative of an organization or not.

“A lot of the lack of interaction we have feeds into our belief that all these stereotypes in our head are concrete and that’s all that’s there about the other organization. It works both ways,” Rosen said.

The conversation turned over to the guests, who were asked to sit with people they did not know. Each table had individual conversations that spawned from questions posed on a projector screen, which addressed subjects like stereotypes, inclusivity and exclusivity, social experience, the effect of greek life on campus, the purpose of multicultural organizations, and solutions to bridging the divide between these organizations.

After small group discussions, Ibezim and Rosen invited individuals to share what their groups discussed.

“At every community dinner and at every speech, it seems that the people who show up are… the ones who want to bridge the gap, so I hope that today everyone who is from a sorority or fraternity or a multicultural organization goes back to their organization and suggests having a mixer or a community service event or something to bridge the gap,” Tehani Gunaratna ’20, a member of greek life and GenFirst!, said.

Dabreon Darby ’19, who described himself as a member of “all three large campus groups” —a member of Multicultural Student Services, a member of Greek life, and a student athlete on an athletics team — stated that he offered a unique perspective when it came to evaluating relationships between organizations.

“This event was an amazing experience,” Darby said. “But overall, when it comes to bridging the gap between multicultural organizations and Greek life, having dinners like this is very important in achieving that goal and having conversation and dialogue; that discomfort is very important in trying to achieve this.”

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