Student Involvement to evaluate diversity in Greek life



Photo by Genevieve Humphreys

This year, for the first time, the Office of Student Involvement will partner with Institutional Research and Effectiveness to analyze the roster of Greek students and examine the diversity of the Greek population in relation to Trinity.

The Greek life community on campus teaches and lives by the four pillars of fraternity and sorority life: scholarship, leadership, service and camaraderie. Though each organization can choose to highlight other values as well, diversity wasn’t technically defined as a value within the whole community before.

“The concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion are inherent in those values in a lot of different ways, [but] many organizations hold diversity and inclusion as their organizational values,” said Jamie Thompson, director of Student Involvement and interim assistant director for Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Despite the prevalence of this value among Greek organizations, diversity among the Greek community remains low. Because the university has never tracked this data, exact numbers of diversity within Greek life are unknown.

This new look at diversity within Greek life is in part due to its growing numbers on campus. Leading up to bid day on Feb. 8, over 400 men and women rushed to join a sorority or fraternity, a record in recent years. The number who eventually joined a club is also projected to be higher than last year, though this is also unconfirmed until rosters are collected at the end of the spring semester.

“I look forward to partnering with Institutional Effectiveness and Research this spring to examine the fraternity/sorority population in different ways as a it relates to the TU population as a whole. This could include race, gender and other components. This information will be helpful for the community to analyze and discuss membership: Do fraternities and sororities ‘look like’ the TU population? Recruitment tactics: How can fraternities and sororities reaching out to diverse populations? Retention: how are diverse populations retained in fraternities and sororities?” Thompson said. “Issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are important items to discuss within the community. It will likely lead to difficult conversations and will require introspection and self-work, and it is something I have heard many members of the community talk about as a priority this semester and moving forward.”

Thompson believes that the Trinity community and Greek Council can play a major part in showing fraternities and sororities how to better recruit more diverse populations. Alli Roman, director of the Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO), agreed.

“I think Greek life can continue to build relationships with various groups, maybe collaborate with cultural student organizations, and continue to engage in allyship and social justice trainings,” Roman wrote over email. Roman did not provide further comment.

One point where research into the diversity of Greek life will take place is in the recruitment process. According to junior Cristina Kodadek, Greek Council women’s recruitment and orientation chair, as well as member of Chi Beta Epsilon sorority, there is no set method of recruitment throughout all of Greek life.

“What every group looks for in potential new members varies wildly because the groups have different personalities. I think a lot of groups do recruitment with a very open mind to just see who comes to their events,” Kodadek said. “At the end of the day, we can’t make anyone rush. The pool that can potentially be drawn from is the people interested in joining the Greek life community in the first place. I would love to see more diversity in that pool, that would be great if we could encourage more people to give rush a try.”

Every two years Student Involvement conducts a survey amongst Greek life to understand various aspects of the Greek community, including why students joined a sorority or fraternity. The latest survey, conducted in the spring of 2017, lists friendships with active members, desire to be more involved in the Trinity community and to connect with more students that have similar interests as the top three reasons for joining Greek life.

“I think the case for a lot of the people who end up joining organizations is because they genuinely feel really close to members of that organization [or] to the organization as a whole [and] they feel that their values line up with the organization’s values. There’s a lot of different reasons that people join Greek life, but I think most of its tied together by that sense of community,” Kodadek said.

Not only is recruiting an important tactic of creating a more diverse Greek life, but Thompson and junior Jessica Jennings, former Greek Council diversity chair and former member of Alpha Chi, agree that minority students need support within the organization as well.

“Before you can make institutional diversity and inclusion changes to your club, you need to make sure your members are prepared to be good allies to their minority brothers and sisters,” Jennings wrote over email.

For some students, particularly marginalized groups, it is difficult to find a sense of community in Greek organizations.

“Fundamentally sororities and fraternities have not been safe spaces for minority or marginalized students,” Jennings wrote. “I think that clubs would need to work very hard on their values and operations to create a space that would both attract and retain minority students.”

Sophomore Isabel Chavez, diversity chair of Alpha Chi Lambda sorority, believes that Trinity hasn’t made quite enough improvements yet concerning this history.

“I don’t think that we’re diverse enough, but that goes for most organizations, if not all. During recruitment it’s easy to stick within people that you already know and kind of see yourself in someone, but sometimes we need to see outside of that and see people who have different experiences and try to recruit members we normally wouldn’t have affinities to,” Chavez said.

According to Thompson, along with feeling out of place in Greek organizations, minority students at Trinity face challenges every day where they do not feel included.

“That’s an ongoing challenge that we see and hear a lot about. It’s an opportunity and a challenge for the institution and for the students to examine how we can help create that inclusive community,” Thompson said. “Within organizations, specifically fraternities and sororities, I think that’s where the organizations can take a good look inward.”

Representatives for Trinity Diversity Connection and representatives for Greek Council are planning to meet soon, with the goal to establish a relationship and figure out what future collaborations between them could look like. Future partnerships with DIO are in discussion as well.

“My conversations with Greek council are that we never stop learning and as individuals, and as a community, I think we have a lot to learn as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. I think that this is just a starting point for a lot of good work and conversations that can happen in the future,” Thompson said. “The Greek council student leaders that I’ve been talking to about this are really interested in learning from others and understand that some feedback that they’re hearing from Trinity students are people’s real experiences. This is something that is important to them.”