October 1, 2008

Greeks Foster Inclusive Cultural Understanding, Tradition

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Over the past century, culture-based fraternities and sororities have provided a strong support system for minority students and have grown to become influential organizations on America’s college campuses.
This movement is rooted here at Cornell, when in 1906, seven young men, nicknamed “The Seven Jewels,” organized Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first intercollegiate fraternity among African American men.
The fraternity was formed 16 years after Ezra Cornell proclaimed, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,” and one year after the first black student graduated from the University.
Today, the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha is one of 17 multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus, including historically African American, Asian interest and Latino/Latina Greek organizations.
The Multicultural Greek Letter Council (MGLC) is a branch of the Greek Tri-Council, along with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association.[img_assist|nid=32231|title=Living under the same roof|desc=Pi Delta Psi, the Asian interest Greek organization, has a house located on Triphammer Road on North Campus.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Founded on values of scholarship, leadership and brotherhood, Alpha Phi Alpha promotes cultural understanding and joins a networks of culturally-based Greek-letter organizations across the nation.
“Alpha Phi Alpha began in response to the issues faced by the African American population on campus,” said Jarrod Cruz, assistant dean of students, fraternity and sorority affairs and advisor to the MGLC.
“MGLC chapters … use the support of a family-like network to push forward and meet the needs of the community,” said Iris Delgado ’09, vice president of finance for the MGLC.
Here at Cornell, they have done just that. Together, the 150 members of MGLC’s 17 chapters have completed 3,350 hours of service in the Ithaca community.
According to Chris Whylie ’10, president of the MGLC, chapters have evolved over time to adapt to the needs of their members.
“They still provide the same cultural support network,” he said.
While promoting cultural awareness is a core value of MGLC chapters, the organizations maintain they are “culturally based, not culturally exclusive,” Whylie said.
Anthony Lopez ’09, president of the Lambda Theta Phi Latino Fraternity Inc., echoed Whylie’s remark.
Lambda Theta Phi, the first Latino Fraternity in the nation, was founded at Kean University in 1975 in response to racial tension between Cuban and Puerto Rican students. Today, Lambda Theta Phi tries to extend its reach beyond the Latino community that it was established to serve.
“It’s not about being Latino, it’s about understanding Latino culture and the issues we face as a community,” Lopez said. “Germans, Asians, Caucasians — we’ve had them all [in Lambda Theta Phi] here at Cornell.”
While Asian interest chapters often recruit students of Asian descent they are not Asian exclusive.
“Asian interest Greek organizations are for people interested in both Greek life and Asian culture,” said Tian Lang ’09, president of Pi Delta Psi.
According to Tian, “Asian interest chapters are just like any other Greek organization — groups of men and groups of women, who are very close to each other, share similar values and want to make a difference.”
Delgado noted the importance of finding one’s place in the Greek community. Students looking to become members of the Cornell Greek community, she said, whether through the MGLC, Panhellenic Association or the IFC, shouldn’t just look at an organization for its letters.
“They should look at them for their ideas and for their values; these ideas are what cross color lines,” she said.