Addressing Greek diversity, racism at UIUC

The Greek community at the University of Illinois struggles with inclusion

On a campus that emphasizes diversity, the Greek community at Illinois struggles to remain inclusive.
On a campus that emphasizes diversity, the Greek community at Illinois struggles to remain inclusive.

Produced By: Miranda Holloway, Sarah Nolan, Jordan Wilson & Sean Neumann 

On Sunday, March 8, a video from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma went viral in which a bus full of brothers chanted, “There will never be a n—— SAE/There will never be a n—– SAE/You can hang ‘em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n—– SAE.”

The chapter was suspended, the two students pictured in the video expelled from the university, and a nationwide debate was sparked once again: do fraternities and sororities breed a culture of racism, or was this an isolated occurrence?

The incident at SAE is not the first in which fraternity and sorority culture has been criticized for blatant acts of racism. The Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at the University of Mississipi was shut down in April 2013 after members threw a noose around a statue of civil rights activist James Meredith, the first African American admitted to the university.

Greek at Illinois (1)

At the University of Alabama, sororities Alpha Gamma Delta and Pi Beta Phi denied two African American women membership because alumnae threatened to stop funding the chapter if they were accepted.

A similar tone of cultural insensitivity was brought to attention at the University of Illinois after an article was published in the Daily Illini with an image of the confederate flag hanging from the window at the Delta Chi fraternity.

Though the Confederate Flag is often flown as a symbol of Southern pride, many still associate it with the southern confederate states battle for racial segregation during the civil war. As a result, many interpret its use as a representation of White Supremacy, slavery and racism.

Click here for an audio wrap about the controversy surrounding the confederate flag.

The article, which has received over 15,000 views, has sparked a campus wide debate regarding the appropriateness of the flag. Reactions and comments have varied, with most questioning the inclusivity of members at the Delta Chi fraternity.

“The Frat may not support racism, but the fact that it did not feel the need to tell it’s member to remove it from the window, at that time (it may not be there anymore), says that they do not take the subject matter seriously, which IS the issue; insensitivity and the lack of recognition that racism is alive and not acceptable,” wrote KingIllini.

Former members of the fraternity were quick to comment as well.

“I would like to begin by saying that the Delta Chi chapter at Illinois is a very diverse group of individuals. While I was a member there were African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Egyptian Copts, Jewish Americans, and non-American members. It is as diverse now as when I was a member, only a few years ago,” says. FormerDChi.

“To compare the Illinois chapter of Delta Chi to the actions of the members of the Oklahoma chapter of SAE is wrong. I felt that this article was strongly drawing similarities between the two.”

The picture, which was taken anonymously last year, was addressed by executive members at Delta Chi. Regardless, the article which was by former Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Illini, Jonathan Hettinger has created an important discussion on the campus about how inclusive the university is towards minorities.

Click to expand.
Click to expand.

The university is a predominantly white institution. Out of the 27,580 students on campus, 42% are Caucasian while only 8% of the UIUC populations is African American.

Only 32% of the chapters at the University of Illinois are culturally based. Only 10 of those houses are within the African American Greek Letter Council compared to 49 Interfraternity Council chapters and 26 Panhellenic Council chapters.