Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Greek organizations retain goal of cultural support

*Editor's Note: This is the first article in a three-part series exploring diversity in College Greek organizations.**##

While the majority of Panhellenic Council sororities and Inter-Fraternity Council fraternities have physical plants on Wheelock Street or Webster Avenue, for some, Greek life stretches beyond these clusters. In addition to these eight sororities and 15 fraternities, the system features three coed houses, two undergraduate societies and five multicultural Greek organizations composed of national and international fraternities and sororities chartered with specific cultural affiliations.

Of these multicultural organizations, two Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity belong to the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which includes nine historically black international Greek organizations. Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity, also known as La Unidad Latina; Sigma Lambda Upsilon sorority, also known as Senoritas Latinas Unidas; and the traditionally Native American Alpha Pi Omega sorority are classified as Latino Fraternal organizations. While none of the groups maintain a physical plant, the College sets aside on-campus apartments for AKA, APA and LUL members.

The culturally affiliated organizations seek to "support and promote an understanding of a culture to those who join," and chose to join their respective oversight councils rather than College governing groups like Panhell and the IFC when chartered by the College, Director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies Wes Schaub said.

National Pan-Hellenic Council Organizations

APA fraternity, the College's oldest multicultural Greek organization, was founded in 1972 by six undergraduates and graduate student Anderson Lonian '68, according to founding member John Tillman '74. In winter 1972, Dartmouth pledges joined the pledge group at the APA chapter at Harvard University's graduate school, and they chartered their own chapter at the College in the spring.

Seven black students at Cornell University initially founded the fraternal group to bind the men together amid the school's "racially hostile environment" in 1906, according to APA's national website. The group preceded efforts by civil rights organizations to support black students in predominately white institutions of higher education. Currently, APA has 185,000 members and alumni and 730 active chapters.

Dartmouth's APA chapter originally met in the Choates residence cluster and Cutter-Shabazz Hall, Tillman said. The group initially struggled to develop the chapter's campus presence.

"We were the only fraternity of color on campus, and there were no sororities," Tillman said. "In terms of how we were supposed to found a fraternity, there was no one on the faculty to be a sponsor or really help out."

APA accepted its first pledge class in the spring of 1973, and by the end of the 1970s, the brotherhood had grown to 69 undergraduate and alumni members. In the early 1980s, the group organized its first annual Martin Luther King, Jr. candlelight vigil, and the chapter opened its membership to non-black students in 1986.

According to APA member and former step master Aaron Limonthas '12, APA remains true to its founding mission to "develop leaders, promote brotherhood and excellence while providing service and advocacy for our communities" and represents a "strong pillar in the community that has stood for 40 years at Dartmouth."

APA hosts annual events that include Alphademics, which connects freshmen with upperclassmen to discuss course selection and social life on campus, and Know Your Status Week, which raises awareness and provides free testing for sexually transmitted infections, Limonthas said.

The group also co-sponsors a step show during Green Key weekend with other multicultural Greek organizations and campus dance groups, typically drawing an audience of over 1,000 people.

Current APA members produce a newsletter distributed to the chapter's alumni to inform them of relevant events, and alumni often visit members on campus, according to Limonthas.

AKA sorority, the campus's other National Pan-Hellenic Council organization, was chartered at Dartmouth by North Atlantic Regional Director Ruth Easley in 1983. The group began with 13 student members, according to its website.

The national sorority was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1908, making it the oldest Greek letter organization established by black women. Its founding members were "one generation removed from slavery" and recognized their privileged positions as "college-trained women of color," according to the AKA website.

Dartmouth AKA chapter president Olivia Scott '13 said the organization's founding mission distinguishes it from Panhell sororities, though principles of promoting sisterhood and philanthropy may be similar.

"The house started at a time when other organizations like this didn't exist," she said. "It was founded to address minority problems in the black community on campus and in the entire world. We're rooted in black women trying to carry on this message a lot of people find strength and power and inspiration in that message."

The College's chapter recruits new members in the spring under the guidance of nationally stipulated recruitment regulations.

The sorority hosts several annual events including AKA Week, a week-long celebration of the group's history and founders. The celebrations incorporate various themes, such as community empowerment or W.E.B. Dubois's theory of "the talented 10th," and include community service, men's and women's appreciation events, church services and talks by local community members, according to Scott.

Scott said the event has drawn prominent AKA alumni, including Andrea Hayes-Jordan '87 Med'91, North America's first black female pediatric surgeon, and writer and public speaker Michelle Duster '85.

Members volunteer both nationally and in the Upper Valley, continuing the founders' intentions to give back to the community, Scott said. AKA also co-hosts symposiums on sexual assault and sexual health and works with the Center for Women and Gender to plan events that encourage positive body image.

The organization currently has four members on campus, lower than the average of seven to 10 in a typical term.

"AKA has chapters as big as 100, 150 sisters, especially down South, but a smaller chapter has been able to thrive here," she said.

Latino Fraternal Organizations

La Unidad Latina, or Lambda Upsilon Lamda fraternity, was founded on campus in 1998 by four undergraduate students for the purpose of "meeting and addressing the needs of Latino students in higher education," according to its website.

The national fraternity was founded at Cornell University in 1982 by a group of Latino undergraduate students who sought to assume a leadership role and promote cultural awareness and community service.

LUL emphasizes academic achievement, community leadership, volunteerism and cultural awareness, according to member Geovanni Cuevas '14. This focus distinguishes the group from other campus fraternities, he said.

"We do social things and throw parties occasionally, but first and foremost we are community organizers," he said.

Each fall, LUL hosts its Noche Dorada event celebrating identity in the Americas. The event, which includes food, dancing, live music and performances, highlights a different theme each year, with past themes including education and immigration. This year's October event marked the 15th annual banquet, according to Cuevas.

Specific events like Noche Dorada are common among all chapters of LUL and tie the Dartmouth branch to its national affiliates, Cuevas said. The national organization also maintains a listserv account, through which current undergraduates and alumni can make professional and personal contacts.

Senoritas Latinas Unidas, or Sigma Lambda Upsilon, sorority was chartered by four Latina students at the College in 2002 to bring a new professional and social organization to campus, according to the group's website. Although founded by Latina students, the organization strives to include women of "all cultures, creed, disability, political beliefs [and] sexual preference," according to the website.

The national sorority was chartered in 1987 at Binghamton University to advance the political and social status of underrepresented minorities in an academic setting, according to its website.

Dartmouth's chapter which currently includes only one member, SLU president Jamilah Mena '14 plans events to promote healthy body image and cultural awareness on campus. Its largest event, RAICES week, is a national event that also features rotating themes, like raising cultural awareness and improving minority academic achievement.

The sorority also plans volunteer events and organizes informal discussions with professors about culture and identity.

SLU chapters tend to be very small, with between 20 and 30 members, Mena said. The organization plans informal events for women interested in joining and usually hosts a spring rush process.

Alpha Pi Omega sorority was established on campus by Native American students in 2002 to promote "scholarship, honesty, leadership, service and personal integrity," according to its website.

Four undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill founded APO's national organization in 1994, with the purpose of creating a national sisterhood of college-educated Native American women committed to each other and their communities and tribes, as well as to efforts to encourage academic success. The sorority is the nation's oldest Native American Greek organization and has 400 members from 70 tribes.

Dartmouth's chapter collaborates with the Native American Program to plan orientation events, student performances and service projects, according to APO president Cante Nakanishi '13. All of APO fundraising benefits the National Indian Education Association, an organization that aims to increase education opportunities and resources for Native American students.

APO's largest event is Dartmouth's annual Pow Wow, a celebration of Native American dance, music and arts and crafts held on campus each spring. The Pow Wow began in 1973 and draws thousands of spectators from around the country and the Upper Valley.

The sorority currently has six members, enabling it to "cater to people individually," Nakanishi said. The group hosts a spring rush process for new members.

The group connects with its national affiliates via Facebook and phone conferences every other month, and members maintain close relationships with their regional advisor, Terra Branson '10, formerly the president of the College's chapter.

Although APO was chartered by Native American women, Nakashini said the sorority is not necessarily different from other sororities on campus.

"We cater to girls in the same way as any other sorority," she said. "Our connection to the Native American community might make us more appealing to some women, but it's not limiting."