Greek Life’s Propagation of Physical Conformity
As Florida Southern implements its Diversity Task Force and seeks to improve campus culture, racial inclusivity within Greek life is often overlooked.
According to The Century Foundation (TCF), an average of 77 percent of sorority members and 73 percent of fraternity members are white, although they only make up 47 percent of the student body. Nationally, inclusivity within Greek life runs rampant, but there are signs it may be occurring here on Florida Southern’s campus as well.
FSC’s current student body is predominantly Caucasian, which directly translates into a higher percentage of Caucasian men and women joining Greek organizations.
Greek life has a history of accepting more white students than students of color. When an organization is composed of primarily white students, they are more likely to recruit new members who are similar to themselves. This creates a kind of cycle and makes it difficult for colored students to get involved.
On Florida Southern’s campus, there is quite a bit of division between students involved in Greek life, student athletes and the remainder of the population. A majority of students in Greek life are extremely close with one another but tend not to branch outside of that realm. FSC has a high percentage of participation within Greek life as over 30 percent of students are in a fraternity or sorority on campus.
“Going Greek” not only provides students with the opportunity to build lasting friendships but gives them access to networking opportunities that may impact their post-grad lives.
Greek institutions have the power and ability to segregate campus communities. According to TCF, nationally “70 percent of students in Greek life come from the richest quarter of the population, while a mere 5 percent come from the bottom quarter.”
Many times, students are simply unable to afford the high dues Greek life requires. At Kansas University, average board and dues is $5,300 per semester, which equates to over $30,000 for just three years.
Luckily, dues are much more affordable at Florida Southern, partly due to the fact that room/board in the Greek suites is paid directly to FSC rather than included in member dues. However, with dues still costing over $500 per semester, or over $4,000 for a full four years here at FSC, the cost still discourages many students from low-income households.
Currently, there is only one African-American member in FSC’s Zeta Tau Alpha chapter and three African-American members in Sigma Alpha Epsilon. As white members dominate chapters across campus, non-white freshman may be nervous to even go through the recruitment process.
According to Cornell, although only 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in fraternity life, “80 percent of Fortune 500 executives, 76 percent of U.S. senators and congressman, 85 percent of Supreme Court justices and all but two presidents since 1825 have been fraternity men.”
The racial inclusion within fraternities and sororities not only affects the social experience for students of color, but also impacts their ability to network and grow within the business world.
According to U.S. News, prior to 2013, only a single black member had ever received a bid from any of the 16 sororities on the University of Alabama’s campus. A sorority member at the University of Alabama explained that one of the reasons sororities tend to reject African-American members is because sisters worry it will affect fraternities inviting them to parties.
The fact that we live in a world where individuals refuse to extend membership because they’re concerned over which fraternity parties they will get invited to is unbelievable. A lack of diversity within Greek life will further hinder minority students’ opportunities to network and succeed. It’s 2018, it’s time for change.