Alternatives to Greek-Letter Organizations Warrant a Second Look

Article excerpt

Because of the discriminatory practices and lack of appeal of many predominantly White Greek-letter organizations, students of color sought the development of their own. Alpha Phi Alpha, Rho Psi, MALIK Sigma Psi, Lambda Theta Phi, and Alpha Pi Omega set the stage for later African American, Asian, African, Latino and American Indian Greek-letter organizations respectively. In addition, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community broke a barrier by forming Delta Lambda Phi as a fraternity that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Greek societies as a whole have made a positive impact on college campuses and communities throughout the nation. They're involved in community service, philanthropy and often make a significant contribution to the diversity of the student body. On the contrary, Greek-letter organizations have been criticized for monopolizing the social life of college campuses, hindering recruitment efforts, impeding scholarship, and most detrimental of all, engaging in hazing-related activities, which have resulted in countless injuries and deaths. Anyone who read about the tragedy of the two women who drowned on Sept. 9, 2002, in Los Angeles during a pledging-related activity had to be troubled by this senseless loss of life. Yet this tragedy, as horrific as it may seem, only touches the surface.

For their participation in hazing-related incidents, Greek societies have been suspended from campuses, members have been expelled, sued or issued heavy prison sentences and administrators have developed policies that seek to limit Greek life or eliminate Greek societies all together.

Despite these challenges, many students on campuses, including those where there is no Greek life, still desire to associate with Greek-letter societies, while others who are discouraged by the current Greek systems still seek organizations that foster brotherhood and sisterhood.

In response to this dilemma, many alternative organizations have emerged. For example at Hamilton College in New York, Sistergirls was founded by faculty and staff members as a support group for undergraduate women of color, and Sisters of the Round Table (SORT) was founded at Colgate University as a series of Saturday forums to address tensions between African American and Latina women, later evolving into a campuswide support group for all women at the university. …