While the Greek-letter system at GW remains largely segregated, fraternity and sorority members explained that the differences between black and white organizations lie not in skin color but tradition and custom.
“(Black organizations) were founded in a time that wasn’t conducive to African Americans, and that’s why we take our organizations so seriously, because we have a legacy to uphold,” Duplessy said.
She said black fraternities and sororities maintain important traditions in secrecy.
“All of the NPHC organizations are secretive by nature. While other organizations have to submit a constitution, we don’t have to because the information is secretive,” Duplessy said.
GW’s three black fraternities and sororities and its Latino fraternity operate under the National Pan-Hellenic Council, while the 19 other fraternities and sororities are part of the Interfraternity Council and National Panhellenic Association, respectively.
“NPHC organizations are community-service based,” Duplessy said. “Zeta (Phi Beta) doesn’t have a lot of social events.”
She said NPHC organization events are open to the GW and D.C.
communities, not just fraternity and sorority members.
“Internationally every chapter in our sorority will take part in a public service project focused on HIV and AIDS in the black communities,” said Jalila Brown, president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Sharice Welch, an assistant program coordinator for GW Greek Affairs, said the three councils have different sets of policies and procedures.
“(The minority organizations) are not social organizations; they are public service based,” she said.
She said the Greek community does need more events that involve all letter organizations on campus.
While there are no major problems in having separate systems, IFC President Anthony Morris said groups could be more inclusive in events.
“Heightened interaction with the NPHC would lead to better opportunities to work together and a better understanding of what each group does,” Morris said.
A Different Process
GW’s Latino fraternity is under the umbrella of NPHC as a minority Greek organization, said Michael Trask, recruitment director for Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. at GW and two area schools.
“We don’t have all the same rights (as other NPHC organizations),” he said. “For every four members, we get one vote because we’re not as large and not as old as (the black Greek organizations) are.”
The Latina sorority, Lambda Pi Chi, chose not to join the NPHC because of this voting process, the sorority’s Latino outreach coordinator, Sandra Gutierrez, said.
The Latino fraternity decided to join the NPHC, rather than the IFC, because members wanted to help the community and distinguish themselves, Gutierrez said.
Brown, president of the Delta Sigma Theta black sorority, said the process sets Greek-letter organizations apart.
“They have different issues that are priority to them,” she said. “We wouldn’t go to meetings about alcohol or reclamation. That’s where the division comes in,” she said, referring to sessions to re-activate members.
These differences make it difficult to interact with each other, Sigma Nu Philanthropy and Academic Chair Robert Hodge said.
“In general I believe that white Greeks can’t really connect with African Americans,” he said. “The structure of the system, as in NPHC not being at the same meetings, divides us immediately.”
Brown said diversity should not come from meetings.
“The further creation of diversity among Greeks would have to come naturally and from the people, not from being forced to interact with each other,” she said.
The recruitment process also differs between predominantly white and minority Greek-letter organizations.
Alpha Phi Alpha President Talib Hudson said low membership is due to the style in which NPHC organizations recruit and the low number of minorities on campus.
“We recruit at events like the step show and financial aid workshops,” Hudson said.
There are 10 black fraternity and sorority members and two Latino fraternity members in the NPHC: two in Zeta Phi Beta, five in Delta Sigma Theta, three in Alpha Phi Alpha and two in Lambda Upsilon Lambda.
Some black students rush predominantly white Greek-letter organizations.
“We have a black pledge this semester – our first ever,” Hodge, a Sigma Nu member, said. “As multi-cultural as GW is, it’s very segregated.”
Greek-letter members in white, black and Latino organizations agree there is a cultural divide between the IFC, Panhellenic Association and NPHC.
Hodge said different backgrounds make it difficult for members to identify with each other.
“They mainly grow up in different neighborhoods,” Hodge said. “It’s hard to identify with each other.”
“It’s not a race issue,” Zeta Phi Beta member Duplessy said. “The difference between our organizations is that this is a lifetime commitment. We are too small to have even one person who is not an active member.”
Hodge said stereotypes on both sides of the Greek-letter community may play into the divisiveness.
“The minority sororities and fraternities might see the IFC and Panhellenic Association sororities and fraternities as the ‘Animal House’ stereotype,” he said. “I can’t see the girls with, like, credit cards interacting with girls who grew up in D.C.”