“You won’t find Purchase run by fraternities, sororities, or jocks. Nothing against Greek organizations or athletes, but we’re more diverse.” Despite this statement on the Purchase College Admissions Web page, it looks like Greek life may be finding its way onto campus after all.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is a non-profit Greek sorority founded in 1913 and currently has over 900 chapters worldwide. They are an organization based on five main principles; economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. Though the largest collegiate-level chapters are located in the southern United States, Purchase boasts three members from its own campus that, this past April, “crossed the line,” into the ranks of sorority life.
Zalyia Grillet, Kristyn Scott and Tishana Warren are Purchase students who were inducted on April 16, 2011, into Delta Sigma Theta’s “Pi Lambda” chapter, which encompasses the Westchester citywide schools.
“Westchester doesn’t know about Greek Life,” says Grillet, an ethnomusicology senior who hosted a Fraternities and Sororities night in Campus Center South in September. The event was meant to spread information about the “Divine Nine,” the nine historically African American Greek-letter organizations students on campuses with Greek Life usually have the option of pledging to.
“There is a lack of understanding and also a negative connotation [about Greek Life],” says Grillet. As the Vice President of the Westchester citywide chapter, Grillet’s goal is to be recognized by the administration of her own campus.
“We’re hoping to establish a club associated with the National Pan-Hellenic Council for community service,” says Grillet. The NPHC, the official name for the Divine Nine, promotes the interaction of the sororities and fraternities and coordinates events in the communities they serve.
“You’re not asking what Delta Sigma Theta can do for you,” says Ethelyn Daley, the President of Pi Lambda, and a senior nursing major at the College of New Rochelle, of pledging Delta. “You’re asking what you can do for the Deltas, and for your community.” Which is why these ladies believe the official establishment of this sorority on campus would be so beneficial to Purchase.
The requirements to join Delta Sigma Theta are strict, and the National Board can reject students when they apply to “pledge.”
According to Grillet, to even be considered, an applicant must have a 2.75 GPA, a history of community service and being involved in the campus, have held leadership rolls, and a letter of recommendation from a professor. “If you don’t even have a professor in mind to write you a letter of recommendation,” add Warren, a liberal studies senior, “Then you’re obviously not what the sorority is looking for.”
Around Purchase campus, rumors fly about why Greek Life is “not allowed,” ranging from President Schwarz himself being against the concept, to an ugly history of groups having illegal and violent initiation ceremonies, which led them to be banned.
Officially, there is no actual policy against sororities and fraternities, according to Jason Alt, the Director of the Office of Student Life & Community Partnerships, who recalled that in 2003, there was an unsuccessful attempt by three students to establish a fraternity.
“The PSGA did pass a resolution about eight years ago stating their belief that Greek Life would not be positive for Purchase College and the type of student it attracts,” clarifies Alt. “However, as it was a resolution and not a bylaw, it did not ban Greek organizations from being on campus, rather just officially stated that such organizations were not positively viewed by the students.”
“In order for it to take place,” Alt continues, “Students really need to generate the momentum, contact organization reps and learn the protocol both from the national headquarters and within Purchase.”
As long as the charter and bylaws do not conflict with any SUNY or Purchase rules and regulations, there is nothing stopping Delta Sigma Theta from establishing itself on campus just like any other club or organization.
As Grillet and her fellow Deltas have proven, they are interested to gage campus reaction. The three students along with Daley recently hosted a bake sale in the lobby of Campus Center North, the proceeds of which were donated to a local cancer research foundation, keeping in line with some of their main principles. Along with the yummy treats, students had the opportunity to ask questions about the girls and their organization, and the Deltas were happy to oblige.
Though the admissions page has yet to be proven wrong, Purchase will not be constructing a Greek Row anytime soon, the Think Wide Open slogan is on its way to including organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta, definitely a diverse concept for this school.