Students at ASU support more diversity initiatives in Greek life

Greek life offers a sense of community that many students crave, but some do not feel as represented as they should. 

Among over 1,000 different club offerings, Greek life is a focal point at ASU for 6% of undergraduate students and is considered the largest membership-based campus community. ASU is home to 65 active fraternities and sororities, including over 25 culturally based organizations with Latino, Latina, African American, Native American, Asian American and LGBTQ+ focuses.

Across the United States, there has been a lack of diversity in Greek culture. At the University of Alabama, over 36% of the undergraduate student body is involved in Greek life. However, according to an Alabama Local News article, sororities were only formally desegregated in 2013. In 2021, the school’s website reported that nearly 90% of students registered to join Greek life in Alabama identified as white. 

Alabama is not the only school with past Greek life diversity issues. In 2014, ASU’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity status was permanently revoked from campus. It came under fire after throwing a party to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, where nonblack students used the hashtags “#hood” and “#MLKblackout” on social media posts, according to an article by the New York Times.

At ASU, some Greek organizations focus on recruiting a diverse pool of applicants. Bailey Powledge, former president of Sigma Nu Fraternity and a senior studying marketing and sports business, says promoting diversity starts during recruitment. 

“When you focus on the quality of the person you are recruiting, looking for innate leaders with experienced backgrounds, you will find that you naturally attract diverse groups,” Powledge said in a written statement.  

READ MORE: Alpha Pi Omega sorority celebrates and supports Native American culture through Greek life

Sigma Nu won the Northern American Interfraternity Conference Chapter of Distinction, ASU Interfraternity Council Chapter of the Year, and the Sigma Nu Rock Chapter award for various accomplishments within the past year.

“While these awards are not specifically for diversity initiatives, they all contain criteria related to diversity objectives that must be met in order to be eligible,” Powledge said in a written statement.

Odinaka Ozongwu, a current member of Alpha Phi Sorority and senior studying management, said that when joining Greek life at ASU, appearance was never a focal point. 

“It wasn’t focused on what I looked like,” Ozongwu said. “For me personally, I’ve never felt out of place. I’ve always felt like who I am was celebrated and didn’t have anything to do with my skin color.” 

After joining Alpha Phi, Ozongwu served a term as the chapter’s diversity, equity and inclusion chairwoman. She dedicated her time to raising awareness among her peers about issues within the community, including using outdated terms that could be offensive.

“One big thing that I wanted to focus on was making sure that people were aware of the decisions that they made and how that would affect other people,” Ozongwu said. “For example, I did a presentation on the use of AAVE, or African American Vernacular English.” 

Ozongwu reflects on the changes she made within her chapter while serving as DEI chairwoman.

“I could tell when I would encounter some girls in the sorority that their language had shifted, that they weren’t using those terms that I had brought up when I would talk to them,” Ozongwu said. “That was one thing that I was very proud of, and I felt like I made a difference.” 

READ MORE: Greeking out: a look at ASU Greek Life culture 

Although diversity initiatives are becoming more prominent in ASU’s Greek life, some students feel that more work is needed.

Alexis Cooper, a junior studying political science, is a Black student at ASU and a former member of Delta Zeta Sorority who can offer advice for student leaders moving forward. 

“It would be great if the councils could host events for people of color within Greek life to provide them with that safe space in such a white-dominated community,” Cooper said. “I also think that it would be important to make DEI training or workshops required for all members.” 

Edited by Katrina Michalak, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan.

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