The University of Redlands has prided itself on creating a campus community dedicated to academic success, individuality, and creativity. The upholders of these ideals are the fraternities and sororities. The fraternities of Phi Chi and Kappa Sigma Sigma—established 1909 and 1916—as well as the sororities of Delta Kappa Psi and Alpha Theta Phi—established 1910 and 1914— represent some of the oldest traditions of student success and commitment to academic excellence on campus. At what point, however, did Greek societies on campus become considered organizational spaces of cultural exchange and diversity?
The first attempts at creating an organization with the explicit purpose of fostering trans- national and trans-cultural exchange were not the fraternities or sororities. The first organization designed around cultural exchange was the Cosmopolitan Club. Quoting from the 1925 La Letra, the Cosmopolitan Club was created to promote “friendly understanding between the students of various nationalities upon the local campus.” The entry in the yearbook included a breakdown of membership: two Russians, one Filipino, one Japanese, one Chinese, one Canadian, and twenty “American members.” What defined American was unspecified.
On February 7, 1940, Alpha Chi Delta was founded as a sorority committed to making a more democratic society. On April 24, 1940 pledges for Alpha Chi Delta were formerly introduced to the sorority at the house of a Mrs. Jaybelle Lewis. Out of the twelve members Verna Gordon was the only black woman counted as part of the sorority. Her name only appears in the yearbook for that year. Articles found in the Bulldog Review from the same year do not mention her among its membership or pledges.
In 1938, The San Bernardino County Sun ran an article entitled “Negroes Form New Alliance” about the cooperative relationship between “Negro students of the University of Redlands and San Bernardino Valley junior college.” Eighteen students met with educators in Redlands. A list of names included students from both colleges that were part of this alliance between black students and educators. Among them was Verna Gordon. The names of the charters members of Alpha Chi Delta are not counted on the list. This sorority does not exist today.
Between 1960 and 1970 the University of Redlands, in partnership with The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department as well as Lincoln University and African American Institute, a refugee-student project was founded in 1961 as a response to the political unrest in Africa. Students from South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Angola, and Congo were admitted as part of a program to provide refugees an education here at the university. There is little information regarding the involvement of Greek fraternities and sororities in aiding this program.
While Greek Society has changed in many key ways over the years, its history is one of political complacency or silence regarding the political implications of diversity. In looking at the very focused history of some of its earliest engagements with questions of diversity and cultural exchange, it is important to note that Greek Life today encompasses a broader field of experience than it has in the past. However, claims to cultural diversity today cannot be thought independent of certain political commitments in creating spaces for this cultural exchange to actually occur. Diversity isn’t a catch word; it isn’t a selling point for new membership. It is the active commitment on the part of students to engage in dialogues concerning race, class, and gender today that should extend to Greek Society as well. Or perhaps it is not. Ultimately the question of what constitutes diversity here on campus will have to be dealt with. Whether we like it or not.
For those of us who are unaware, our campus is currently undergoing a revolution towards equality. The revolution I refer to is coming in the form of a multi-cultural sorority that promotes a cosmopolitan Greek environment by empowering a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds. Alpha Chi Delta, the ladies with the invisible crown- holding up the pillars of sisterhood, culture, empowerment, academia, leadership, and service.
To support these pillars, the re-emerging family of Alpha Chi Delta plans to have various programs implemented on campus to increase diversity, including bringing speakers from various backgrounds to speak about their culture, life, and work to promote multiculturalism. The sorority also plans on sponsoring educational programs, discussions, movie screenings and cultural dinners. The excitement, comfort, and gratitude fostered within the members of Alpha Chi Delta is contagious. Jordyn Carroll explained,
“I have a significant number of sisters that give me a community I thought I would never find at [the University of Redlands]… Being around other women from so many different cultures and backgrounds has given me a different perspective on many things. I’ve learned more about other cultures in the last few months than I have in my entire life.”
When asked how Alpha Chi Delta has helped members grow, Carroll voiced a vital change has been being part of an organization that has helped and will continue to help other women of color feel comfortable on a predominantly white campus. Senior Alpha Chi Delta member Jewel Patterson said,
“Now that I am a woman of Alpha Chi Delta, I feel so much more confident walking around campus. [Alpha Chi Delta] has pushed me to go beyond my comfort zones, which were in [Johnston and] BLACC, and experience [University of Redlands] campus life.” Jewel demonstrated the familial value of Alpha Chi Delta by saying, “I’m more intentional now because I know that everything I do is a reflection of my sisters, my family.”
Alpha Chi Delta will promote diversity and multiculturalism amongst the organization, as well as on campus through the events previously discussed. According to several people interviewed within the Bulldog community, they are excited about the emergence of a sorority with an easily identifiable purpose. As senior and Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) member, Lynelle Fung, put it, “when new things arise, they really stick to their purpose, and it is cool when people don’t mold to what already exists.” Fung also shared that the reason she herself is a DSP member opposed to a typical sorority is because DSP is a professional based fraternity that will help her prepare for the future.
In contrast to Alpha Xi Omicron, an organization promoting diversity, Alpha Chi Delta is a multicultural organization. Carroll cited the difference between diversity and multiculturalism as with multiculturalism, the emphasis is taken off of race or color. She also stated that,
“Multiculturalism is focused on the cultural differences, not the physical differences of the members. Diversity [knows] the differences are there, while multiculturalism [seeks to understand] those differences. Acknowledging the difference between diversity and multiculturalism is important because we want it to be known that in Alpha Chi Delta, a multicultural organization, embraces, celebrates and explores each other’s different cultures.”
Many of the girls who are currently members of Alpha Chi Delta voiced that their choice towards Alpha Chi was due to the fact that their pillars and their purpose had more personal meaning and intention than what was being offered. For many of the women, this organization can become their home on campus, although they are still in the process of being approved, and a place to explore their own culture and learn about others. Besides pillars and purpose, junior Aaron Jensen hopes to see a “less homogenized rush process” – one that welcomes each person as an individual with all of their differences. But more importantly, Jensen wants to see a different way and reason to rush. Everyone at this university deserves the experience they wish to seek out and a place where they can call home.
[Disclaimer: Emma Wade, culture editor, is founder of Alpha Chi Delta. Jazzy Kealoha, writer of second half of this piece, is a current member.]
[Editor’s Note: There were misspellings to organizations in the first publication of this article that have since been corrected on October 19th, 2015.]