Similar to many other university administrators across the country, I went into extreme community-reflection mode as soon as The University of Alabama sorority recruitment discrimination issue hit the news last year.
Was my community similar? Were my students discriminating on the basis of race or culture? Were my alumni contributing to a bias-filled environment? I paused and then remembered, it was not about me. It is not about any of us, for that matter. What this event did for us was open a window into the realities of many of our communities. This public and disappointing incident contributed to learning for those local and afar. It reminded us that the very makeup of the organizations we believe in, fight for and find solace in, are inherently flawed in the mere demographics we claim to include.
also left curious as to what happens next. And not just for Beta Theta Pi. Are others assessing the makeup of their organizations? Will they program around diversity and inclusion, as it relates to the findings? Evans et al. (2010) asserted, “As the majority group in predominantly White institutions, white students also are often the most privileged by the outcomes of this research” (p. 239), as it relates to white privilege and associated studies. There is a large opportunity here for further exploration, and it is my hope this is only just the beginning. Stepping outside of the organizational perspective and into the campus viewpoint, and also knowing what we know about the size makeup of our varying types of organizations, it is becoming more and more apparent that we need to evaluate the status of our councils and the way in which they are engaged. For starters, why is it that students of color are frequently recognized as secondary to the majority organizations on campus? Last year, I had a great conversation with a colleague regarding listing groups in the following order: Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic, Multicultural Greek, NPHC. The issue with this language is that it constantly places the majority organizations ahead of our multicultural and minority groups. It was at that point when our office made the commitment to alphabetize our groups in all communication, correspondence and language, as students are recognizing this order and viewing it as an order of importance. This little step has been one contributing factor in our attempts to make a difference.
Why is it that students of color are frequently recognized as secondary to the majority organizations on campus?
“WHITE. CHRISTIAN. CONSERVATIVE. STRAIGHT. AMERICAN. WEALTHY. URBAN” (Roupas, 2014). If you frequent “The Beta Theta Pi Magazine,” you will recognize this grouping of labels from its spring 2014 publication. The fraternity conducted a survey of itsundergraduate men, collecting demographic, historical and anecdotal information from members and new members. While the findings confirm Beta Theta Pi is predominately compiled of White, Christian, conservative, straight, American, wealthy and urban men, the author argues the article’s intent is for more than creating or obstructing diversity. Citing brotherhood as a core reason to explore the makeup of this undergraduate community, Roupas (2014) uncovered some interesting perspective. Specifically, 80 percent of men who pledged the organization in the fall semester of 2013 were White (Roupas, 2014). Let’s pause there for a moment.
Why is this important? Why does this matter? For starters, the general argument noting these statistics to not be about race, sexual orientation, national origin, age, etc., but rather, “about brotherhood” (p. 30), contributes to the devaluing of identity-development and the self-identification of contributions of members in the organization. Furthermore, this reminds me of the delusion, “I don’t see color.” As the article explores various layers of diversity among members, I am particularly appreciative that Beta Theta Pi is taking the initiative to recognize the status of the organization. And while I commend the publication of this in-depth and relevant report, I am
Again, so why does race matter? I imagine we all can come up with some type of answer for this question. However, it is next important to identify a few myths surrounding the work we do in this area. “Since the majority of college students are White, they are the group most often used as subjects in all kinds of research conducted on campus” (Evans et al., 2010, p. 239). The makeup of our fraternity/ sorority advising structures also mirrors the balance of this assertion, and the following points are common missteps in the way in which many view fraternity/ sorority advising.
Myth: “It’s not about privilege and oppression.”
Wrong—race has everything to do with privilege and oppression. Evans et al. (2010) argue White privilege to be dominant in North America since as early as Columbus. This assertion is hard to argue, especially if