Cultural fraternities and sororities add diverse elements to Greek life
August 29, 2016
In addition to the traditional Greek system on campus, there is a significant presence of cultural fraternities and sororities.
Most of these cultural fraternities are not part of the Interfraternity Council, and most of the sororities are not affiliated with the National Panhellenic Council. Instead, they are included under the United Greek Council, which currently has about 21 culturally-focused fraternities and sororities under its belt.
This does not include the Black Greek Council, which is in charge of the Black Greek system here on campus.
“We are considered a social fraternity, but our goal is to let other people know about our culture,” said Jacob Park, a junior in LAS and current member of Lambda Phi Epsilon.
Lambda Phi Epsilon is an Asian-Interest fraternity, and like most of the other cultural fraternities and sororities, it is not exclusively focused on one culture. Instead, it encourages the inclusion of other cultures because it makes the cultural education process more meaningful.
Although there are many of these fraternities and sororities, they typically have a much smaller membership base.
“Typical Panhellenic sororities are 100 to 200 members, but AKDPhi has an active house of 12,” said Jenny Tan, junior in Media and active member of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi.
Despite its small size, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi is the only internationally recognized Asian-Interest sorority with 52 chapters and over 6,000 sisters. It does not have a house on this campus so members have to find places to meet, but the fraternities they affiliate with the most have houses.
“I think because we are much smaller, you actually get more responsibility,“ said Hitomi Hayashi, sophomore in Education and also a member of the Alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority. “You get positions. You have to be responsible for something in order for the organization to run. One of my sisters was on the exec board her first semester, so that’s pretty amazing.”
With less competition for leadership opportunities, most members have a good chance of being able to hold at least one position. Additionally, the smaller number of members, and the fact that many of them are of the same cultural background, makes for a closer, more tightly knit group of people.
These Greek organizations also do things a little differently than the more traditional ones.
“We have five pillars, and one of them is Asian-awareness, so we really try to participate in the cultural community around campus and try to make our presence known as an Asian-Interest sorority,” Tan said.
The Asian-Interest fraternities and sororities affiliate themselves with organizations that focus on spreading cultures and learning about other cultures.
For example, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi works with the Asian-Pacific American Coalition on setting up cultural and social events. They also have a close tie with the Asian American Cultural Center, which also promotes cross-cultural education.
“We have a lot of events where we spread Asian cultures or learn about different cultures,” Hayashi said. “We are very close with the other cultural fraternities (and) sororities.”
Since the main focus of these cultural Greek organizations is to educate others about their culture, they reach out to other cultural organizations.
Alpha Kappa Delta Phi has a strong relationship with the Asian-Interest fraternities and with some of the Latin fraternities and sororities as well.
“The events we host on each campus enrich our cultural awareness and help to educate others,” Ji Won Shin, sophomore in LAS and member of Kappa Phi Lambda, another Asian-Interest sorority, wrote in an email. “The events we attend, hosted by other organizations, in turn, enhance our appreciation of other cultures.”
To join these organizations, the Asian-Interest fraternities and sororities have a rush schedule similar to that of the traditional fraternities on campus. They have two weeks of rush events, Monday through Friday, starting on Aug. 22.
There is usually an event every day, but most of the students rushing are normally only required to go to at least three of them. Following the events, the rushes have an interview and then they receive, or do not receive, a bid.
“I went the second week because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, so I talked to the sisters first before going to the event,” Hayashi said.
Many of these cultural fraternities and sororities have booths on Quad Day, and many of them have their own webpage, so prospective members can reach out to them.
“They’re really welcoming — that’s one of the main reasons I joined,” Hayashi said. “If you’re looking for a sorority or frat to join and if you’re not sure, I think you should definitely come check it out because you never know.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misnamed two groups mentioned in the article. The Daily Illini regrets the error.