Having been raised in Colombia, I never imagined that I would one day be a part of a fraternity. Not only because I was originally going to attend a Colombian university, but because I felt that the idea of joining a fraternity went against my personality and culture.
The way we see fraternities in Colombia, and in any country in which fraternities are more fictional than a reality, is that they are in a constant state of partying and often force their members to perform embarrassing and imprudent activities that culminate with an infuriated professor or a fraternity member in a hospital bed. Then there is me, a quiet Hispanic, who, upon entering college, was struggling to speak English and having trouble making friends.
My first contact with a fraternity occurred when I was at a Hispanic club fair, looking for organizations to join because I wanted to take advantage of my two years at college. I was introduced to the fraternity by a good friend of mine who encouraged me to pledge. In the beginning, it was just an experiment to me, but soon, that experiment became a brotherhood.
However, I cannot say that a similar interaction occurs among the different organizations within Greek. It is a divided organization in which the interaction among the different chapters might vary depending on which council they belong to.
Greek life is divided into three councils: Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC). Each council is in charge of the different types of organizations that exist within Greek life: IFC is in charge of fraternities at UCI (most of them are part of the North American Interfraternity Conference), Panhellenic Council supervises the sororities and MGC administrates the multicultural fraternities and sororities.
However, I believe that separating fraternities into many councils is unnecessary. If there is already a council for sororities and another one for fraternities, then what is the point of a third council that agglomerates both ethnic-based sororities and fraternities in another council? The president of IFC, Amir Patel, offered me the answer that each council allows more operational flexibility and management. This is a small advantage compared to the the division that is created, with the different councils focused on themselves rather than communicating with each other.
In the short time I have been a member of a fraternity, I did not see any interaction between the chapter from MGC that I am part of and chapters from other councils, and honestly, I did not know about their existence until I began researching. Before, I always thought that they were rich and mostly white fraternities and we were the minority ones; the second-rate fraternities and sororities. I knew that those groups existed, but beyond that, they were a mystery to me. This lack of communication among the council’s groups made me feel a kind of segregation, like it was the “normal” fraternities and sororities against the multicultural ones.
In the near future, students should work to achieve a more united Greek life community within UCI. This has already begun as the current presidents of the three councils are working together to create opportunities for more interaction between the numerous chapters that constitute the different councils. Chelsea Cypress, Panhellenics Council president, told me that their strategy is to create a social event in which all the presidents would meet each other and then “spread the message of unity” as Patel, president of IFC, described it. The IFC and Panhellenic councils are very close, but MGC is now making an effort to get closer to the other two groups. When I asked an MGC council member (who asked to remain anonymous) why all the fraternities and sororities aren’t together, he answered that some chapters are small and feel too intimidated to socialize with other chapters. Some chapters don’t initiate socialization because they believe other chapters should make the first contact. Nonetheless, it is a long process that is just only at the beginning.
I don’t have any solution for this problem within Greek life, but I have a hope that in the future, a member of my chapter can see a member from another council and know who they are or at least recognize the organization that they belong to. We should start destroying the walls that divide us and start building bridges so we can have the diverse Greek life we all want it to be.
Sebastian Suarez is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled “Panhellenic” with a capital “H” and did not properly cite Chelsea Cypress, Panhellenics Council president.