New sorority with Latina emphasis may start chapter at Dartmouth

by Samantha Stern | 11/12/15 11:01pm

Serving and educating through our diversity — “Sirviendo y educando a través de nuestra diversidad” — reads the motto of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a multicultural sorority that may establish a chapter at Dartmouth in the near future.

An information session was conducted using Google Hangout with, an OPBSI expansion committee member and president of the Alpha Theta professional chapter in Florida Yvette Ramirez last Thursday, Karen Afre, program coordinator of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, said.

A group of five students attended the event, which sought to introduce the sisterhood and its mission, as well as to gauge interest in the sorority within the Dartmouth community and answer students’ questions, Afre said. Questions raised dealt with typical concerns associated with Greek life, such as time commitment, the effect of membership on academics and dues, she said.

In the virtual session, the OPBSI representative emphasized the importance of academic programming within the organization, Afre said.

While the email sent to the campus community markets the organization as a “multi-ethnically-based, Latina-oriented, not Latina-based, organization,” the organizational website makes no reference as to its Latina nature.

The diversity of the sorority is well exemplified by its founders, Ramirez said. The makeup of the sorority varies between chapters, depending on the size and student body of the university where it is located, she said. Region IV, composed of universities in the Northeast and into which Dartmouth’s chapter would be placed, draws large numbers of Dominicans, Haitians, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, she said. Ramirez stressed that the organization is open to anybody who is interested.

“We don’t discriminate at all,” she said.

OPBSI believes strongly in women’s empowerment, Ramirez said. Afre said that OPBSI’s progressive agenda and philanthropy — which rallies around countering and spreading awareness about violence against women — would appeal to Dartmouth women, especially given the campus climate right now.

OPBSI has 60 undergraduate chapters and nine professional chapters, including chapters at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Yale Universities.

Ramirez declined to comment on expansion efforts and the likelihood of establishing a OPBSI chapter at Dartmouth, but said that multicultural organizations could have a very positive impact on the Dartmouth community, seeing as the school has been criticized for the exclusivity of Greek life.

Establishing a fraternity or sorority on campus requires an ongoing exchange between students and the GLOS office, Afre said. The last sorority that was brought to Dartmouth was Kappa Delta, which established a chapter on campus in 2009, she said.

Chapters of national or local Greek letter organizations arise when students see a need for a particular organization and take action, Afre said. While the GLOS office does not spearhead outreach efforts or communication with the organization, it works closely in conjunction with students to support those interested in achieving the requirements necessary to receive recognition from the College, she said.

Bringing OPBSI to Dartmouth was an initiative that began last spring under the direction of Yaritza Gonzalez, ’15, and Louise Barias ’18. Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.

Right now, the students are still in the preliminary phases of holding informational meetings and trying to garner student interest, Afre said. Instituting and maintaining the presence of a Greek organization requires immense work, time and effort, and the GLOS office wants to ensure there are enough students — at least 10 — to undertake the challenges associated with founding a new chapter and to allow for the organization to grow and thrive.

According to the GLOS Handbook, these requirements include governing documents such as a constitution and/or bylaws, a code of conduct, a risk management plan, a crisis management plan and a new members program. Many other stipulations exist for the petitioning organization including the need to take out health insurance with the College, Afre said.

“The whole point of having all these regulations is that we want to make sure this chapter continues being a chapter at Dartmouth and that it is successful,” she said.

Having overcome the initial hurdle of bringing an organization to Dartmouth, students will also be faced with the secondary challenge of finding a space to meet, Afre said. Getting physical plans for a house is a lengthy process, compounded by Hanover’s zoning laws, she said.

Currently, there are 30 different Greek Letter organizations on campus — 10 sororities, 16 fraternities and three gender-inclusive fraternities, according to the GLOS office. While the governing bodies of these organizations is constantly evolving, Greek organizations are currently overseen by either the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, Gender Inclusive Greek Council, Multicultural Greek Council or National Panhellenic Council, Afre said. OPBSI would join the MGC, Ramirez said.

“I can’t stress the importance of minority Greek organizations enough,” MGC president Macy Ferguson ’16, said. “[They] need to be thought more of and included more when people think about the Greek community at Dartmouth and the Greek community everywhere.”

Ferguson, also the president of the Native American sorority Alpha Pi Omega, spoke about the role that APiO has played for her. “It’s not just a social organization, it’s about empowering each other to embrace our identities and empowering others to embrace that identity,” she said.

The events held by APiO all have the purpose of community service, drawing attention to the minority Greek community or raising awareness about issues within indigenous populations, Ferguson said, noting that purely social events are few and far between.

Ferguson said that she had not been contacted about the possibility of OPBSI coming to Dartmouth, but that she welcomes and looks forward to the possibility of their arriving on campus.

Multicultural organizations are typically much smaller than other Greek organizations, Afre said. Ferguson said APiO currently has two members.

For some, like Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidad Sorority, Incorporated — president Nicole Castillo, ’17, small membership allows for a deeper bond to be built with other women within the organization. Castillo is in contact not only with the other 13 “Hermanas” who have been members since the sorority’s founding at Dartmouth in 2003, but also with her “Linesisters,” women who pledged at other universities such as the University of Pennsylvania around the same time she did this past spring, she said.

Castillo was looking for a life-long group of women who would support her and whom she could support academically and personally. The women in SLU were strong females whom Castillo felt were professional, smart and “everything her mom had taught her to be,” she said.

“I think it brings a voice for the Latina community. It provides a space for Latina women to promote events and advance causes that matter to us and to our communities,” Castillo said. “I think the presence of another Latina based organization would be amazing. I would love to see more collaboration among organizations and more Latina organizations on campus.”

Geovanni Cuevas ’14, the only active member of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. at the College, said he joined LUL in order to solidify the Latino part of his identity.

“I just really identified with being Latino because it includes the racial category of being black too. There are Afro-Latinos. It was a multi-racial idea that I was pursuing,” he said. “My fraternity is very diverse. I was attracted to the diversity within my chapter.”

Cuevas said he wanted to be part of a national network of Latinos.

“I wanted to know what it was like to be a first-generation Latino student at a state university in New York, and I wanted to know how that experience related to mine, for example,” he said. “I wanted to know how I could help them and share my resources with them.”

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone and representing oneself and culture sometimes is an excuse for individuals to be targeted at Dartmouth, he said. For Cuevas, the fraternity provides a space where the ethnic part of his identity — his “Latino-ness” — can be celebrated.

Dartmouth students are typically unclear as to the differences between Latino organizations on campus, Cuevas said. The Latin American, Latino and Caribbean House is an affinity house with a relationship to the school’s LALACS academic program, while La Alianza is a socio-political organization that serves as a liaison between students and administrators, as well as between student leaders and the overall student body, he said.

But despite the presence of other Latino organizations, having Latino fraternities and sororities is nonetheless important because of the access Greek letter organizations provide to financial resources, he explained.

“The reality is that being a part of a Greek house means having access to social capital that non-affiliated members don’t have access to,” Cuevas said. “In order for the Latino community to access those [GLOS] funds, there must be a Latino organization that is Greek letter,” he said.