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The Dartmouth
June 12, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

ORL finds Greeks are diverse

Despite perceptions that the Greek system lacks diversity, a study conducted by the Office of Residential Life shows that the coed, fraternity and sorority system is nearly as racially diverse as the Dartmouth community.

Minority students make up 29 percent of the class of 2003 and 20 percent of the class of 2002, according to 1999 figures. ORL's study -- which surveyed nearly 90 percent of the 2002 and 2003 classes -- found 21 percent of Greek-affilliated students to be part of a racial minority.

Although there is a small disparity between the percentages for the Greek system and Dartmouth as a whole, the gap has been closing over the past years, said Greek Leadership Council Public Relations Manager John Lawrence '03.

But because concrete figures did not exist until recently, it is hard to say exactly how much or how rapidly the gap has been closing.

Many CFS organization members said there still exists the perception that Dartmouth's Greek houses are not diverse, despite only a small disparity in actual percentages. They blamed stereotypes and the lingering memories of a less inclusive system.

Dartmouth's Dean of Pluralism Tommy Woon agreed, saying, "Our perceptions haven't caught up with reality."

Director of the Center for Women and Gender Giovanna Munafro cited differences in culture as a factor contributing to this perception.

Some students of color may find it very difficult to present themselves to people who on the surface seem very different, Munafo said, suggesting that the social values and practices in many Greek houses -- including heavy drinking -- are not part of the "life experience" of many minority students.

Karim Marshall '03, president of the historically black Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, agreed, saying that "pong is boring" for many blacks, and that the idea of drinking in order to get really drunk "is foreign to me."

Panhellenic Council President Ann Chang '03 cited stereotypical images of sororities as possible deterrents for minority women, explaining that her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, is perceived by many as "all white and blonde." She said that sorority members actively work to dispel these perceptions so that women are not put off by them.

But the compressed timeline of sorority rush may complicate such attempts. Under the current system, women often join Greek organizations after only three or four formal interactions with women in a given sorority.

Several fraternity presidents also agreed that stereotypes, myths and history are partly to blame for the perception that Greek houses are not diverse or open to minorities.

Sigma Phi Epsilon President Patrick Granfield '03 explained that part of the problem is that the Greek system at Dartmouth is not historically diverse.

"It's all connected to the past," Alpha Delta fraternity member Kapono Chong-Hanssen '03 said. He added that, while negative events at Greek houses will resonate in the Dartmouth community for years, "good things" are hardly ever noticed. He noted that last summer, AD held tails with Delta Sigma Theta, a historically-black sorority.

Alpha Phi Alpha's Marshall cited a "ghetto" party that occurred in 1998, as well as parties with luau and "Gangsta' Love" themes in 1999 and last month, respectively, cancelled by their planners when they began generating controversy. Marshall said that such incidents are explained away and that the organizers rarely understand or even care why others are upset.

These attitudes, not the race of members, may deter minority students, Marshall said, suggesting that Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity -- known for having a significant proportion of members of Asian background -- would not hold such parties.

In searching to make the Greek system more inclusive, though, house members and administrators disagreed.

Representatives from the Office of Pluralism and Leadership have been working with all Greek houses in order to increase inclusivity and diversity, Munafo said.

But many Greek leaders are skeptical about the usefulness of administrative prescriptions.

According to Granfield, Sig Ep is already very open and diverse and the administration just wants tangible evidence of the house's efforts.

Alpha Delta President Daniel Brown '03 and Chong-Hanssen agreed that individual interests in diverse activities, not official mandates, are what make their house inclusive as a whole.

"Programs can only work to a certain point," Brown said. He added that positive interactions can't always be pre-programmed and that he didn't think administrative rules would "make any difference in the end."

Greek leaders stressed that in considering diversity within their houses and at Dartmouth as a whole, it is important to consider a definition that goes beyond simple racial statistics.

Marshall described diversity as social, ideological, intellectual, regional and socioeconomic. Granfield cited race, ethnicity, religion, politics and sexual orientation as different facets of diversity.