Off the Rugby Path
Most University students associate Greek letter organizations with either the Inter-Fraternity or Inter-Sorority Council. The Multicultural Greek Council, however, provides an alternative for students who seek to incorporate their different cultural backgrounds with the facets of a traditional Greek system.
The MGC consists of six different organizations (four sororities and two fraternities) and is headed by an executive board that includes members from a number of the affiliate organizations. The MGC takes great care to maintain a unified association while excelling in its own respective areas of service and cultural awareness in the community.
"We definitely try to do interactive events, like holding bi-monthly meetings with the leaders of each organization," said Connie Chang, president of alpha Kappa Delta Pi sorority. "This spring we will have a MGC cook-off. Last fall we did a chalk walk in the amphitheater; each of us took a block and decorated it. It was a way for all of us to be proud of our organization individually but by doing the chalk walk together it was like we were saying 'We're all MGC.'"
The member organizations include alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Lambda Theta Alpha, Sigma Psi Zeta and Theta Nu Xi sororities, as well as Lambda Phi Epsilon and Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternities.
Individual strength through service
According to its Web site, alpha Kappa Delta Phi aims to "promote sisterhood, leadership, scholarship and Asian-American awareness on the Grounds." Many of its service activities revolve around breast cancer awareness.
"Breast cancer is our national philanthropy," said Chang. "This coming spring we are planning a breast cancer awareness night in March and the proceeds will go to a breast cancer cause."
The men of Lambda Upsilon Lambda strive to increase the representation of Latinos in the academic community, according to their Web site.
Focusing on the empowerment of Latina women, many of Lambda Theta Alpha's service projects aid less fortunate children living in Charlottesville, according to sorority treasurer, Sabree Walker.
"We participated in the big apple-fest up at the orchard," Walker said. "We've done a book fair in the past. We did a Boys & Girls Clubs bike race. Two of the girls we mentored last year participated in a 75 mile bike race; we directed traffic and helped out. We also did a radio-thon with the U.Va. hospital to raise money for neglected babies."
Sigma Psi Zeta, another Asian-American sorority in the MGC, prioritizes combating the abuse of and violence towards women according to the chapter's Web site. Several activities sponsored by the sorority, including the Purple Ribbon Project and Take Back the Night, held in October and April, help to raise money to aid all women.
When one of the brothers of Lambda Phi Epsilon, the Asian-American fraternity, faced serious illness, fraternity members throughout the country added a new cause to their areas of interest for service activities, according to fraternity member and MGC President Jovian Ho.
"One of our brothers from the California chapter died from leukemia because there wasn't a large enough Asian population in the area to find him a [bone marrow] match," Ho said. "Our fraternity started an Asian-American bone marrow drive nationwide. It was the most successful [effort] on the East Coast in the history of the program."
Theta Nu Xi sorority incorporates women of diverse backgrounds, focusing on multiculturalism in general rather than one specific heritage or culture, according to their Web site. Portraits, one of their projects on Grounds, is a compilation of student submitted literature, music and art that expresses emotions and experiences that reflect diversity and the experience of growing up in a culturally varied environment.
Come one, come all
While each group prides itself on service accomplishments and contributions to the University and the community, the introduction processes are conducted differently. Each organization, however, prides itself on being welcoming and open to everyone.
"Registration is pretty open, it's completely free and there's no obligation," Ho said. "Just come if you are interested."
Several MGC fraternities and sororities opt for an alternative recruiting process instead of a traditional rush.
"Right now there are six organizations in the MGC -- four of them rush and two of them have an orientation process," said Laura Nicole Wilensky, Lambda Theta Alpha Chapter president. "We do an interest group for any group of ladies interested in the organization... The purpose is to introduce the ladies to a smaller version of our sorority. On alternate weeks, we have sister bonding activities."
Even though some of the MGC organizations have specific cultural backgrounds they traditionally associate with, there is no rule limiting membership on the basis of ethnicity. The organizations seek out those interested in the culture rather than those with a specific background.
"Lambda Theta Alpha is a Latina sorority by tradition but not by definition," Walker said. "I am African-American and Panamanian. We are all multicultural ourselves, we don't strictly put on Latina programs. If a program is directed toward the Latina community then we will make it open to everyone."
While encouraging celebration of their own specific cultural backgrounds is incredibly important,members of the MGC strive to embrace diversity of all walks of life.
"Our ethnicity comes from a huge range, not just from an Asian focus," Ho said.
"We have brothers of every race."
The Outside Looking In
Even though the purposes and goals of the MGC are unique from other Greek organizations at the University, they still manage to reach out to and participate with fraternities and sororities within other Greek councils.
IFC President Charlie Morgan said most of the interaction between the MGC and the other three Greek councils takes place during the meetings of the Inter-Greek Council.
He added that the IFC and MGC member organizations try to keep each other informed about their respective philanthropy events in order to encourage attendance.
The MGC also helps annually with Habitat for Humanity alongside other members of the IGC
"All of the different Greek organizations work together on the Inter-Greek habitat house," said ISC President Laura Anne Kuykendall. "It is a Habitat for Humanity house that the members of the IGC sponsored. Every Friday and Saturday about 10 people from different groups [in the IGC] came together to volunteer."
Morgan noted that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has worked to increase cooperation between different Greek councils.
"There's definitely been a focus in bettering relations between all the Greek councils," he said. "The OFSL had a symposium where we came together ... As we learn more about each other we can help each other out more."
As for potential brothers and sisters concerned with what they want to get out their experience in a Greek organization, Kuykendall said the "system of different choices" makes many options available to University students.