It’s no secret that most Panhellenic sororities are predominantly white and often alienate BIPOC and low-income students. Greek organizations all over the country have faced increased scrutiny for practicing racial exclusivity or engaging in racist behavior. In the wake of George Floyd's murder, many sororities like UCLA's Alpha Chi Omega expressed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram. However, Amaya Fogg at Alpha Chi Omega wanted to go beyond an Instagram post and take more concrete actions to tackle the existing racism within Panhellenic life. Amaya spearheaded the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Committee (EDIC) at UCLA's Alpha Chi Omega during the Spring of 2021. I spoke with Sapphire Sandoval, a member of Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA on the EDIC committee, to learn more about the actions that the committee is taking to combat racism in Panhellenic life.
The goal of the EDIC is to brainstorm ideas and implement actions to eliminate discrimination and prejudice that harm those from marginalized communities. This committee is not only aimed to prevent discrimination but to actively make all members feel welcome. Some of the actions the EDIC is actively working on to accomplish these goals are:
Removing Legacy Questions During Recruitment
Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA no longer accepts potential members based on their legacy status because sororities are historically a predominantly white institution. Therefore, BIPOC are typically less likely to be legacy students. UCLA's Alpha Chi Omega hopes that eliminating this question from recruitment will prevent BIPOC students from feeling at a disadvantage during recruitment.
Raising Funds To Aid Low-Income Students
One of the biggest reasons students feel excluded from Panhellenic life is because they can simply not afford it. EDIC members understand that due to institutionalized racism in our country, BIPOC are more likely to be at an economic disadvantage, thereby contributing to the lack of diversity in Panhellenic life. In the future, the EDIC plans to throw fundraisers to reduce the fees for members who need financial help. Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA also has an array of scholarships for low-income students and practice financial transparency by posting sorority dues and fees on their website.
Making BIPOC Feel Heard
The EDIC is in the process of perfecting a reporting system where members can report instances of micro-aggressions or any form of discrimination that they might be experiencing within the sororities by other members. Members can file their complaints anonymously and choose to have a "tea time" chat where they can discuss how they would like to proceed with the situation.
Holding Members Accountable
The EDIC assures that members who violate Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA's standards will face actual repercussions like termination from the sorority, rather than only receiving a "slap on the wrist."
Facilitating Conversation About Racism
The EDIC is in the process of planning movie nights to show films that facilitate conversations about race such as Get Out, and also problematic films like The Help to discuss topics with members such as racially-motivated anxiety or the white savior complex. They are also planning to hold workshops for members that cover topics such as understanding gender pronouns.
In the future, the EDIC plans to support student organizations like the ASU (Afrikan Student Union) in tangible ways, like using their resources to spread awareness about the organization and give substantial donations.
The EDIC is taking some crucial steps that they hope will make a positive impact. At the same time, many believe that the Greek Life system is far beyond repair because it is part of a larger institution that, for years, has perpetuated white supremacy, exclusion, misogyny, sexual violence, and classism. So, I asked EDIC member Sapphire if she has any advice for students who are still apprehensive about joining Greek life. Sapphire responded by saying that these students' feelings are valid and that they should not feel pressured to join Greek Life if they do not want to. However, she also added, “You would be surprised at how many people agree with you and want to change the system. If you want to create change, a sorority is a great way to reach your community. It’s an excellent way to meet people who share similar values, will work hard with you, inspire you, network with you, and also a great way to gain a support system.” [bf_image id="qg1y7p-7bpzy8-4zi0iz"]
Greek Life often leads to networking opportunities, and gives students a support system that lasts after graduation, so excluding students from these institutions can put them at an even greater disadvantage for future opportunities. Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA is taking some important steps that will elicit necessary change. They hope that more Greek organizations will be inspired to engage in change as well. Ultimately, I believe that being a student of color already comes with enormous difficulties, and deciding whether to join Greek Life is both a personal question and an ideological one.