The Office for Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development, a department of USC Student Affairs, is conducting a survey among the Greek councils in order to “assess the perception of diversity and tolerance in the Greek community” and allow the office to collaborate with cultural centers on future programming, according to an email sent from Associate Director Ray Carlos to chapter presidents.
The survey asks students to rate their fraternity or sorority in categories of diversity among race, class, gender and sexual orientation. It also allows students to state what kinds of resources they believe would be useful to address issues of diversity.
Beth Saul, the office’s assistant dean, declined to comment on the data because she believed any comment at the moment would be premature. Saul added that the office would comment on the data being collected once the results were released at the end of the semester.
USC’s Greek life is divided into six distinct councils. Of those, only one — the Asian Greek Council — targets a specific ethnic group in its description on the Greek life website.
Jeffrey Liu, president of Beta Omega Phi, a member of the Asian Greek Council, said he was not informed of how Student Affairs will use the survey data.
“I don’t really know what they’re trying to achieve with this survey,” Liu said. “Even if they find out that there isn’t cultural diversity, I don’t know what they can do to promote that.”
Liu said that some councils are less diverse than others because they mainly target members from a specific race or cultural background.
“Ethnicity and diversity will depend on the council. The Interfraternity Council is not necessarily representative because they’re predominantly white,” Liu said.
Liu’s claim was echoed by one Panhellenic Council sorority member who did not wish be named because she feared facing consequences from her sorority if they found out she was speaking out against the Greek system.
“I was talking to Asian girls during rush, and some said they had low expectations because they expected that a house would only take about three Asian girls,” she said.
She added that she could only think of three girls out of her pledge class of approximately 80 who were members of minority groups.
Liu said there are multiple reasons why this might occur in the Greek system.
One reason, Liu said, is that the cost can be prohibitive to those from lower income brackets. Seeing the lack of diversity might also discourage students from trying to join if they don’t see themselves fitting in, Liu said.
Liu said he doesn’t feel like the multi-council system is necessary, and that integrating the Greek system into two councils — one for fraternities and another for sororities — would help diversify the system.
“If I were looking at the community from the outside. I would definitely feel that there is a huge division between cultures,” Liu said. “I think it’s kind of accurate.”
A non-Greek student who also did not wish to be named said he perceived the IFC and PHC to be “dominated by whites.”
“Minorities aren’t formally discouraged,” the student said. “But they’re discouraged from trying to join in the first place because they see it as a white institution.”
Leaders from within the IFC defended their community’s diversity.
IFC Vice President of Recruitment John Martello said that the stereotypes that IFC fraternities are “white and upper-class” are unfounded and originate from media representations of Greek life.
He said the other multicultural councils were instituted because of segregation in the past and they don’t necessarily reflect current attitudes.
Martello pointed out that the IFC held a seminar at the start of rush week to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to rush a fraternity.
IFC Vice President of Communications Tanner Sandoval said he doesn’t see racial inclusion as a problem that needs to be addressed with additional attention at this point. He added that the other councils have a different focus than the IFC and PHC and should not be seen as mutually exclusive.
“You can be in a multicultural fraternity and a social fraternity,” he said. “IFC and PHC serve more of the social aspect of Greek life.”
As far as costs go, Martello noted that there are a number of scholarships available for those who cannot afford dues.
“I can say with confidence that being in Greek life isn’t necessarily a financial burden if you maneuver through it correctly,” he said.
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