Diversity in Greek Life: Can you really be diverse when seeking to be distinctive?
One writer takes a critical look into how sororities promote diversity and reflects on her own experience.
By design, the Greek system at Dartmouth is inherently exclusive and hierarchical: Built upon years of systematic oppression, it seeks to find people who “fit in” or want to ascribe to a particular tribe. With winter rush for sororities underway, some of the same old questions have started to bubble to the top. How can you try to be inclusive when by definition Greek life is so exclusive?
I myself was hesitant to rush. As an international student, Greek life was an utterly foreign concept to me and being biracial, I went into the rush process aware that people would have inherent biases against me because of the way I spoke and looked. Rushing was the first time at Dartmouth where I truly became aware of my identity as an entity and as something that defined me.
Monique Cummings ’24, a recent member of Sigma Delta Sorority, said that diversity and inclusion were brought up a lot in conversation during her rush process, but that once affiliated, she realized that the comments were mostly performative.
“I personally feel that most sororities are very aware of the issues they face surrounding diversity and actively want to do better,” Cummings said. “However, I do think that across the board the discourse surrounding it is performative and not really integrated enough into the decision making process.”
Cummings also thinks that financial background ends up being a determining factor in rush sorting because of questions that may indirectly reveal socioeconomic status and also because appearances are heavily weighted in the process.
Annie Qiu ’24, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, said that discussions about diversity during rush can sometimes be awkward.
“I don’t think it's possible to have a truly honest conversation about diversity during rush,” she said. “Race was something I was very cognisant of during the process and it was helpful to talk to other women of color to get more of an accurate sense of their experience.”
Qiu added that it was hard to ignore the negative things she heard about certain houses’ approach to diversity and inclusion, and didn’t know if discussions surrounding it during rush were for the right reasons.
Qiu said she ultimately ended up being pleasantly surprised by the racial diversity of her rush class, but noted that to her, the work surrounding diversity and inclusion doesn’t feel like “systemic change.”
“In each house you can see a specific type of woman of color which defines the vibes of the house,” Qiu said. “I think that there is definitely a gap between diversity and inclusivity in that sense.”
Alayna Kasuri ’22, who serves as vice president of inclusivity for Chi Delta sorority, said inclusivity is at the center of the house’s values and her focus on creating a space in which everybody, regardless of any characteristic, feels included.
“The pre-rush training that we do involves bias training which has been helpful in trying to explain to people how bias may manifest unconsciously and implicitly,” Kasuri said. “When new members join the house they get a similar training.”
Kasuri added that, given the challenges of getting to know people well over Zoom, she tries to emphasize the importance of learning the right information about potential new members during the process, such as their approach to matters like inclusion.
Any member can join Chi Delt’s Inclusivity Council, which typically has 10 to 12 members. According to Kasuri, it is a space for members to voice their thoughts and concerns, come up with ideas for events, such as women of color dinners, and bridge any barriers between leadership and the rest of the house.
Kasuri attributed the flexibility of her position to Chi Delt being a local sorority and said she feels no limit to what she can achieve.
“If anything isn’t working with my position, I can just change it,” she said.
Sam Carranza ’22, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for Alpha Phi sorority, commented on the difficulty of Greek houses becoming truly diverse spaces when the classes Dartmouth lets in are not as diverse as they could be.
Carranza highlighted what she sees as a flawed rush process and described a fine line between including and tokenizing people.
“I think that Alpha Phi does its best to receive everyone with an open mind during rush,” Carranza said. “We have bias training that teaches members to look out for a range of things like socioeconomic backgrounds and heteronormativity.
Bre Glover ’22, the founding diversity, equity and inclusion chair for Dartmouth’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, described the challenge as being tasked with promoting inclusivity within an inherently inequitable system. However, she believes that meaningful change can come about through little steps.
Kasuri expressed similar optimism about inclusion in Greek spaces.
“We have to be honest about the fact that Greek spaces are not built for us and it is important to acknowledge that for many of us, adjusting to these systems is harder because of our identity,” she said. “However, with the right people in charge and a strong support system, I think that they are still spaces that we can be successful in, form friendships and have fun.”
Kasuri, Carranza and Glover all said they believe the Greek system has a long way to go, but expressed similar sentiments that the ISC and individual houses want to do better.
I personally feel that my experience with diversity and inclusion during the rush process and now being affiliated has not been what I hoped it would be. Rather than feeling genuine, discussions of diversity and inclusion within the Greek system can often feel largely performative and superficial. Why are we pretending that Greek life is something that we know it never can be?
I know that people care, but I don’t feel that people care enough. I dislike the weight of the labels that surround my identity in Greek life and that I am supposed to feel I don’t belong or shouldn’t want to have fun in a space that is inherently so oppressive.