Diversity is an ever-increasing concern among clubs and organizations around the country, and the same holds true at The University of Tennessee.
Members of campus sororities say they strive to encourage and promote diversity among their individual organizations as well as the campus as a whole.
Nathaly Perez, president and academic chair for Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, said diversity on campus is continually growing.
"I believe that diversity on campus is growing rapidly and everyone, including Greeks, is working hard to bring awareness of different cultures to the UT students, faculty and staff as well as the local community," she said.
Megan Fields, Panhellenic Affairs advisor, said pinpointing diversity is a complex process.
"Diversity can be defined in many ways, and if you define diversity by where a student is from, what religion they believe in and what kinds of activities they like to get involved in, then the Greek Community is extremely diverse," she said. "Speaking for Panhellenic, we have women from all over the country, believing in a variety of religions and participating in almost every campus organization there is."
But while diversity exists across the entire landscape of sororities, most organizations have very little internal diversity among members. Porche Wynn, adviser for Sigma Gamma Rho, said the lack of diversification among groups is a problem that stems from a historical context.
"We are open to diversity, but because of the history of our groups being only African American or minority, we traditionally do not have many white or international students apply," she said. "In my opinion, it is similar for historically white sororities and fraternities. Because of the tradition and the support of their parents and other contributors to specific groups, it is looked down upon for a white sorority or fraternity to rush an African American or specific minorities. Vice versa, African Americans and specific minorities seldom attempt to rush these groups unless they have something in common with historically white sororities and fraternities than with African American and other minority groups."
She also said diversity can be looked at from angles other than the traditional perspectives of race and ethnicity.
"I believe that the groups that have the most diversity within social Greek Life are the fraternities and sororities that point out differences in human kind such as the gay or lesbian co-ed sorority/fraternity," she said. "Instead of looking at diversity in terms of color they search for members who understand differences in humans and other preferences."
The minority sororities participate in the Black Greek Letter Council, as well as the National Panhellenic Council. The BGLC organizations hold a separate rush process and traditionally have minor differences in regulations governing their sororities. Also, the sororities do not have space in the Panhellenic Building.
Wynn said she hopes to see a step toward more equal privileges in the future.
"I would like to see the Black Greek Letter organizations become more unified," she said. "I would also like for at least one black sorority or fraternity to have a house on campus or a dorm floor, or for black and white groups to have equal privileges when it comes to equality among Greeks on campus."
Fields said all 19 sororities on campus have an equal voice in the work of the Panhellenic Council and use of the Panhellenic Building.
"All sororities have delegates that attend our weekly meetings, and they all have an equal voice," she said. "All groups are invited to all events, and they all have the same access to the building. There are unused suites that can be rented permanently, but they are allowed to use them as needed without charge."
The BGLC prides itself on its community service, and it strives to unify the minorities in their efforts for the university population and the community as a whole.
Perez said the focus on service was a deciding factor when she joined her sorority, which participates in the BGLC. She said she would love to see an effort of sororities of the BGLC and NPC to work together.
"I became interested in Lambda Theta Alpha Latin because of their community service, academic achievement and cultural diversity of its members," she said. "LTA caters to all ethnicities and is for the universal woman.
"I would love to continue and increase the unity and support among all Greeks and students on our campus," she said. "It is important for students to support each other's events and services towards our future and the future of students to come."