A large majority of male students at The University of Tennessee are members of fraternities, and according to many of those students, one of the main goals of Greek life is being unified while also being diverse.
Yet when looking at the racial and ethnic make up of many of the fraternities on the UT campus, the idea of unity within diversity does not seem to ring true.
The exact breakdown of the Greek population is not available, according to Jim Harrison, advisor of Fraternity Affairs, because UT does not keep demographic information on Greek members. But according to Greek members, the numbers are not high.
"We have roughly five members that are minorities out of about 100 members," Jared Cox, vice president of Alpha Tau Omega, said. "We really promote diversity within our fraternity, and we hope that our minority enrollment continues to rise."
President of Sigma Nu, Andrew Shafer, also stated that all fraternities on the UT campus promote diversity.
"As far as I know, there aren't any fraternities on campus that don't promote diversity," Shafer said. "Sigma Nu does not discriminate. We have over 200 chapters, and they all stress having a diverse group of recruits."
President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Edward Hollingsworth, agreed, saying that his fraternity promotes diversity, yet there are only two current initiates who are minorities.
"I feel that people are around those they feel comfortable with," Hollingsworth said. "Many of our members went to an all black high school, and many of them just aren't accustomed to being around other races, and I'm sure there are similar instances within the other predominantly white fraternities."
There are 26 fraternities on campus, and all are governed by the Interfraternity Council. But four of those fraternities also reside within an organization called the Black Greek Letter Council.
According to Harrison, this separate organization is necessary.
"Their (BGLC organizations) new member intake process, community service projects and chapter 'week' programs are quite different from how the IFC operates," Harrison said. "It makes sense for these organizations to have their own council to discuss this business."
UT is seeing an increasing number of minority enrollment, and he and the IFC are excited about this trend, Harrison added.
Yet even with diversity permeating the Greek population, Hollingsworth agreed that this separate organization is needed.
"None of the black fraternities have houses on campus, which makes a lot of difference in terms of issues that need to be discussed," Hollingsworth said. "When I attend IFC meetings, I don't have much input in the discussions concerning things of this nature."
Hollingsworth went on to say that he felt his and other black fraternities don't have as much influence as the other fraternities that have a higher enrollment.
"We have different motives and different situations that we must deal with, yet our numbers are drastically lower," Hollingsworth said. "This doesn't give us much of a voice in matters."
However, Harrison said he feels that no such issue exists.
"Our predominantly African American fraternities have the same voice in IFC as anyone else," Harrison said. "Where a chapter resides, chapter size or their membership in the BGLC has nothing to do with their voice in the IFC."
Schafer also reiterated Harrison's sentiment, saying that everyone at the IFC meetings is given an equal opportunity to discuss all issues.
The reasoning behind this trend of minority groups dividing into separate organizations is unclear; however, Hollingsworth offered some speculation.
"I've visited various colleges in the Midwest, and diversity does not seem to be an issue," Hollingsworth said. "I feel that it may have something to do with the climate in this area. Race is still an issue, not necessarily a dislike of a particular race, but more so the environment you're brought up in. A lot of people just aren't used to being around different races."
Dean of Students Maxine Thompson did not return multiple calls for comment over a two-week period.
Published: Thu Oct 21, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:29 p.m.