experience means they must assimilate to dominant norms, rejecting the counterstories that inform their worldviews (Cantu, 2012).
Equity Versus Equality
Creating an open inclusive environment for URM students in the fraternity/sorority experience requires us to distinguish equity from equality (Tate, 1997). The notion of equality assumes all individuals have equal access to the same resources and opportunities. However, this equality façade in fraternity and sorority life creates a false reality because not every student enters the recruitment process with the same types of social and cultural capital, the skills, knowledge and experiences that equip students to navigate in specific social situations (Bourdieu, 1986). In contrast, equity assumes individuals have unequal access to resources and that to achieve a truly inclusive fraternity/sorority experience requires us to address the structures that prevent equal access. In fraternity/sorority life, we can increase inclusion by implementing a number of recommendations.
Critically Challenging Racism •
Fraternity and sorority professionals have democratic responsibilities to promote real inclusion. Hope for inclusion lies in creating chapters that become “democratic social spheres” (Giroux, 2009, p. 445) where students are equipped with the tools to challenge the current ideological state. This cannot occur without creating an environment that fosters space for interrogation of privilege and gives voice to the myriad of experiences of URM students who can be influential brothers and sisters.
Even if students are able to navigate barriers and join a historically-White fraternity or sorority, many underrepresented minority students experience an unsupportive racial climate.
To create an inclusive environment for URM students requires us to interrogate our own beliefs and worldviews. We can do this by critically evaluating our own privilege and biases. We must then challenge students and other professionals to do the same.
We must question policies and practices and then change those that inhibit inclusion. Who do they benefit? Who experiences barriers because of those policies and practices? For example, if a chapter has a housing policy that requires members to live in the facility, how does this discourage students from joining who may need to live at home to help their families financially?
It is essential to challenge organizations to embrace intersectionalities as a source of strength rather than something to quell. Too many groups exhibit norming behaviors that minimize difference. Instead, these differences need to be celebrated and encouraged.
ethnicity. Through the telling of counterstories, learners are taught to question and challenge the status quo of human relations including large unresolved issues such as race (Brookfield, 2005).
It is also important to create spaces for racial dialogue and story sharing that allows students to capture their own class, race, religion or
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York, NY: Greenwood. Brookfield, S. D. (2005). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cantu, N. (2012). Getting there cuando no hay camino (when there is no path): Paths to discovery testimonies by Chicanas in STEM. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(3), 472487. Espino, M. M. (2012). Seeking the “truth” in the stories we tell: The role of critical race epistemology in higher education research. The Review of Higher Education, 36(1), 31–67.
Emily Perlow is the director of student activities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She serves on the board of the Northeast Greek Leadership Association as assistant executive director, is a volunteer for the Association for Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, and on the education committee for Alpha Gamma Delta. She is the recipient of the NGLA Philippi Award, the Theta Chi Citation of Honor, and the Beta Theta Pi Outstanding Fraternity/Sorority Advising Professional Award.