OU greek councils strive to provide home for students, inclusive community

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Lindsay Ross

IGC President Lindsay Ross poses for a picture outside the Student Life office Sept. 18.

More than 6,000 students participate in OU greek life across five different councils, with more than 2,200 students a part of the Interfraternity Council and more than 3,000 students a part of the Panhellenic Association.

But some students participating in greek life find homes in other fraternities and sororities outside these two councils. The Multicultural Greek Council, the Independent Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council hope to provide a safe and inclusive community for all students who want to be involved. 

OU’s Multicultural Greek Council is comprised of 12 cultural fraternities and sororities with a focus on Latino and Asian cultures, said Multicultural Greek Council vice president of external affairs and Kappa Delta Chi member Taylor Conner.

Conner said greek life and Multicultural Greek Council as a whole provide campus networking and leadership opportunities for every member.

“Other nongreek students may see us as a closed organization in that we are an exclusive council that only offers support to greeks, because that’s a misconception about a lot of the other greek councils,” Conner said. "We’re there to engage with the community. We’re there to be representatives of our council to the OU and Norman community.”

Vice president of recruitment for Multicultural Greek Council and Sigma Lambda Gamma member Miriam Gutierrez sees the council as an organization that “creates a community that one can depend on throughout a person’s college career.” 

Multicultural Greek Council president and Lambda Phi Epsilon member Brennan Nguyen said the common perception of greek life is a community that “is not of color, from affluent backgrounds and have misplaced priorities.” 

“The (Multicultural Greek Council) on our campus is a testament to the fact that the greek community can be diverse in many ways (cultural backgrounds, income and first-generation college students) and is committed to making positive contributions, not only to the university, but to the greater community,” Nguyen said in an email.

While the Multicultural Greek Council focuses on cultural interests, the Independent Greek Council focuses on special interests, such as academics and religion. 

Independent Greek Council president Lindsay Ross agreed that greek life can have a negative connotation, but said the council is working to change this by talking with members and the community about exclusion in their council.

“(Independent Greek Council) challenges (that perception) by focusing on interests and possibly swaying groups that would otherwise not be interested (in greek life),” Ross said.

The overall purpose of their council, Ross said, is to improve and make the process of greek life safer and more inclusive for those involved.

“This is important simply because, as we modify and adapt, we gain new people and new perspectives,” Ross said. “(The Independent Greek Council) works toward this by having open conversations about how we might be excluding individuals or groups and how to fix those issues.”

In addition to the Multicultural Greek Council and Independent Greek Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council is also set apart by being an organization that houses the “Divine Nine,” which are nine historically black sororities and fraternities, said Alpha Kappa Alpha president and health and exercise science, pre-nursing senior Cecily Tullis. 

“The purpose (of the National Pan-Hellenic Council) is to create unity and foster community within these organizations,” Tullis said.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council includes more than 60 members at OU, and the chapters “host a variety of philanthropic, professional development, leadership development and community-building events each semester,” according to the National Pan-Hellenic Council website.

After racist incidents at OU and in Norman occurred in the spring, the Multicultural Greek Council and Independent Greek Council said they worked to improve their own chapters through conversations with their members by talking through what they were feeling, while the National Pan-Hellenic Council said they focused on supporting their own community.

“Our council stood together in solidarity with our black community, especially with our members directly affected,” Gutierrez said. “We wanted to make sure that those within our council felt that.”

Conner said she saw it as an opportunity to address the current health of their council and to understand how the Multicultural Greek Council was viewed by the public. 

“We were just disappointed in the actions of fellow OU students,” Conner said. “We were disappointed in the manner with which it was discussed and handled throughout campus. But really, we were there to kind of take a look inward, check in with our members, kind of address some concerns about how they as an organization were being viewed.”

The National Pan-Hellenic Council looked outward to support organizations such as the Black Student Association and its Black Emergency Response Team following the incident.

“We are black students, so we are affected,” Tullis said. “We do encourage members to support the efforts of BERT and BSA who really do the heavy lifting of having to deal with these issues.”

At all times, the Multicultural Greek Council is a place where students can feel safe and be able to speak out, as their mission is to include all students and to be a “home for those looking,” Conner said.

“From a (Multicultural Greek Council) perspective, what we offer is a safe space to share concerns and a place for those concerns to be validated — for those students to feel that their feelings are validated,” Conner said.

The Multicultural Greek Council works with OU Fraternity and Sorority Programs and Services and OU Student Life, which can open up a way for a student’s voice to be heard. 

“We just believe (their concerns),” Conner said. “We’re here for them, we want to listen to what they’re saying. Their concerns will be taken to the higher departments so that those channels can exercise their resources for the betterment of those students."

This story was corrected at 9:19 a.m. Sept. 27 to reflect the correct name of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

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