USC Greek membership see-saws

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September 16, 2008

1:27 PM

While traditional Greek organizations draw record numbers at the University of Southern California, multicultural fraternities and sororities struggle to stay afloat.

Members of Zeta Sigma Phi, one of USC’s multicultural fraternities, waited to meet potential new members at the organization’s first rush event. Despite the group’s long list of interested students, only one freshman made an appearance, according to USC’s student newspaper, The Daily Trojan.

Zeta Sigma Phi was founded at USC in 1994 and credits itself as its first multicultural fraternity. Currently, it has five active members and failed to recruit any new members last year. The executive board says the organization aims to include people of all cultures.

“Other sororities don’t necessarily not accept people of other races, but they are still predominantly Caucasian,” said Jessica Hartnett, rush chair for Zeta Sigma Phi, said in an article in the Trojan. “We’re one of the only sororities that are truly diverse.”

Unlike other sororities and fraternities, USC’s multicultural organizations are not overseen by either the Panhellinic Council or the Interfraternity Council. The Asian Greek Council oversees the five Asian organizations, and the Multicultural Greek Organization oversees the Hispanic, Armenian and Multicultural sororities and fraternities. The National Panhellinic Council governs the five historically Black organizations.
Syreeta Greene, a member of the National Panhellenic Council, suggested that the shrinking presence of certain minority groups on USC’s campus could be behind the decline in popularity of multicultural sororities and fraternities.

“In the ’70s, the black student population was at 15 percent. Now we’re at 5 percent,” Green said in an interview with the Trojan.

Jay Chang, president of the Asian Greek Council, pointed out that Asian sororities and fraternities are flourishing. After a two-week rush period, 70 students joined Asian Greek organizations.

“Greek life is becoming more important in Asian circles,” Chang told the Trojan.

Adding to the lack of interest, there has been a backlash against the cultural organizations at USC. Some students feel that both Panhellinic and Multicultural sororities and fraternities seek out people of one ethnicity or background while claiming to be open to all.

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