Updated: Oct. 17, 2016 at 2:26 p.m.
The Multicultural Greek Council has added four chapters in the past calendar year.
The four chapters – three returning and one new – are a leap in the number of multicultural Greek organizations, which now total 15 chapters on campus. Multicultural and Greek student leaders said the chapters are designed to focus on cultures and areas that were not fully represented at GW and that the new groups will promote a more inclusive campus.
Sigma Sigma Rho joined campus for the first time, while Sigma Lambda Upsilon, Phi Beta Sigma and Alpha Phi Alpha all rechartered this year – meaning they had been active on campus at some point in the past four years before losing members and going dormant.
Sigma Lambda Upsilon is a Latina-based sorority, and Phi Beta Sigma and Alpha Phi Alpha are historically black fraternities.
Sigma Sigma Rho is a South Asian sorority, and the chapter’s addition fulfills the council’s promise to add a group representing South Asian students.
Christina Witkowicki, the director of student involvement and Greek life, said Sigma Sigma Rho is educating its first member class this semester. She added that the Multicultural Greek Council plans to continue to expand after this year.
“We have a few other organizations who have reached out that they are interested in joining our multicultural Greek community,” Witkowicki said.
The Multicultural Greek Council first reviews organizations that are interested in opening at GW and then invites them to campus to present on how they would fit in with the existing chapters, Witkowicki said.
Elena Hoffman, the expansion chair for the Multicultural Greek Council, said this year’s additions will represent diverse backgrounds and identities within the student body.
Forty-four percent of students come from minority backgrounds, according to GW’s institutional research office.
Sigma Lambda Upsilon was the first among of the new chapters to be approved by the University last fall. The remaining three chapters were under consideration in the spring, Hoffman said.
“GW needs MGC orgs because they offer a community for students within the wider GW community,” Hoffman said. “What is different and special about MGC, in my opinion, is that it opens up the eyes of students to different cultures and experiences they may have never been exposed to before.”
Hoffman declined to comment on the details of the recruitment and pledge process for Sigma Sigma Rho, saying that information is unavailable until a public ceremony to officially open the chapter later this semester.
The approval process begins when outside chapters identify interested students at GW and send the Multicultural Greek Council an expansion packet to explain items like their goals and national headquarter policies, Hoffman said. Alumni of multicultural Greek chapters who live in the area often approach the council about adding their chapters, she added.
Hoffman said the council plans to add more chapters in the coming years, considering the increased interest over the past year alone. The Multicultural Greek community is crucial because it makes multicultural students on campus more visible, Hoffman added.
“GW is a pretty ‘white’ school, so I believe it is important for people to see the rich culture that the student body actually has, sometimes overshadowed by Panhel and IFC organizations,” she said.
Multicultural Greek President Clare Lewis did not return requests for comment.
Hamisha Patel, the national president of Sigma Sigma Rho, said GW was the first and only university the national council contacted when they wanted to open a chapter at a D.C. university.
“We liked the MGC at GW and how it was structured and really close-knit,” Patel said. “So far all the people we have interacted with have been very welcoming.”
Interest in establishing a chapter in the D.C. area grew as more of the group’s alumni began attending GW for graduate school or moved to the area to work, Patel said. Patel and other alumni started recruiting members for the new chapter over the summer.
Jamila Vizcaino, the chapter president of Sigma Lambda Upsilon, said the sorority helps members connect with a diverse alumni network – connections that can help students land jobs.
“Our chapter founders worked to find a sisterhood that really aligned with the diversity of identities they embodied, the diversity of thought, perspective and experience that exists across the Latina diaspora,” Vizcaino said.
Vizcaino added that the chapter has already hosted some events on campus, like a national campaign – called RAICES – this year themed around increasing political literacy. The group organized a voter registration event and a debate watch party this semester.
Vizcaino said Multicultural Greek organizations give students who are interested in Greek life and come from diverse cultures the chance to combine their interests with their heritage.
“For a really long time MGC has not had a strong presence, and I believe it was mainly the lack of knowledge about what MGC is about,” Vizcaino said. “We definitely hope to see more and more young women of all backgrounds, and even though we are Latina-based, we are not Latina exclusive.”
The national headquarters for Sigma Lambda Upsilon, Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Beta Sigma did not return a request for comment.
Brandon Capece, the president of the Interfraternity Council, said the Multicultural Greek Council’s growth is a positive for Greek life on campus overall.
“The diversity of opportunity really allows individuals to make the most out of their undergraduate experience and grow as people,” Capece said. “Whether an individual joins a Panhellenic chapter, an Interfraternity chapter or a Multicultural Greek chapter, they are welcomed into an ever-expanding network of Greek individuals on campus.”
The IFC has standing partnerships with the Multicultural Greek Council through events like Greek Week, Grand Chapter and Greek Day of Service, Capece said. He added that IFC chapter members will make sure new Multicultural Greek Council members feel included on campus.
“Expansion really is the future of the GW Greek community,” Capece said. “It is through our institutions that we create opportunities for personal growth through living a values based life, and the addition of new chapters allows us to more fully realize our commitment to that goal.”