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Diversity and Greek Life

inthegardeninthegarden 1686 replies30 threads Senior Member
edited February 4 in Parents Forum
My D is a junior and we're in the thick of the search. She wants a larger LAC in the Mid-Atlantic, maybe upper South or Ohio. Not a partier. Neither she nor I are crazy about the idea of Greek life. I'm an egalitarian at heart, and I feel that, at a small school, why divide students further? On the other hand, most of the schools my D is drawn to do have a sizeable percentage of students in Greek life. Shes liberal-leaning in her beliefs, but mainstream in presentation (I jokingly call her "preppy-lite") but she's non-judgmental about all kinds of people. She happens to find a lot of SJW activity distressing, even if she knows there are reasons for it. I'm saying all this to describe how she came to be attracted to middle-of-the-road schools that happen to have a good percentage of students participating in Greek life.

As I said, niether of us is crazy about the idea (I wish there were schools like Bates with no Greek life near us...she doesn't want to go that far away and likely wouldn't be admitted to Bates anyway). On the other hand, she's an only child who always wondered what it would be like to have siblings and loves having a secure feeling of belonging. She has good social instincts, is not awkward, but a little shy and not a super-extrovert who can work a room. I could see her being drawn to being in a sorority for the cozy feeling of belonging and I can't say with certainty that I wouldn't let her join a low-key sorority if she did end up at a school with a significant Greek presence in which it's hard to find your place otherwise.

However, when I think of sorority sisters, I tend to think of racially-segregated groups. My D is Asian (adopted). If allowed here, I would like a truthful discussion about how much of an impediment that would be. Please don't (out of a feeling of discomfort of messy reality) just say that that is not an issue if you really don't know... or conclude it's not an issue because you know of a sorority that happens to have has one Asian girl in it. And please don't say that she should just join an Asian culture club because my D would feel like an outsider there, too. She grew up in a white family in a largely white communtiy and. apart from visiting China once and learning a few interesting things about the culture, does not really feel any more Chinese than most of your children feel about whatever countries your ancesters immigrated from. It's her DNA, but not really her ethnicity. not something she's ashamed of, but not what she identifies with, either. But lets be honest. If she rushes, will her race be a hurdle or impediment? Are there sororities with girls from a number of races...because that is the one I'd like her to join...black, white, Asian, hispanic, etc.). I'd steer clear of schools with Greek life entirely, except that there's really only one on her list that she likes with below 25% Greek life. Mods, please don't shut down this thread.... there's really no place to discuss this, and the "race" thread has been shut down (and it focused on large, societal-level topics, not the cares of any particular concerned parent). It seems that everything else can be talked about on CC except the elephant in the room that I'm living with. I'd like a chance for a respectful exploration of the topic, please.
edited February 4
70 replies
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Replies to: Diversity and Greek Life

  • wisteria100wisteria100 4405 replies49 threads Senior Member
    While W&L has a very high % of Greek participation, that actually means it is very inclusive and those who want a bid, get one. Davidson has eating clubs and they are more randomly assigned vs going thru a regular bid process. So perhaps look into those 2 lacs.
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  • OhiBroOhiBro 575 replies7 threads Member
    @inthegarden , I apologize if my response came across as being disrespectful of your question. But the response was genuine, and I believe appropriate. Other responders will have different perspectives, and IMO, the value of such a forum is to gather a wide variety of viewpoints.

    I know so many people like you and your daughter that my image of the two of you is probably spot on.

    But supposing that she could be rejected by her race somewhere, and that you can prevent that from happening with some research up front, when does it stop? Will you vet potential employers, cities, etc to continue protecting her after graduation?

    Personally, I think the racial factor is a tiny concern. Especially in comparison to ways that naive freshman girls can get taken advantage of (guys, alcohol, etc).
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1686 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited February 5
    @Ohibro, thanks for your honesty. I would hope that by the time she graduates she will have developed some worldliness and independence to live wherever she wants without my hovering. But SHE, in fact, might be the one trying to get a job in our economically-dying little town, and I would be the one encouraging her to go out in the world. In fact, she could go to college for free at the local university where my husband is a professor, but I've said she needs to go away to develop independence (though selfishly I'd like her to stay by my side).

    Yes, I admit to some helicoptering. Maybe a lot. But I have done a lot to say "jump in...the water's fine!" I was the one sending her off to pre-school when she wanted to stay home...sending her to summer camp so she would know how to be away and make new friends....and I tried to send her to Spain to a summer-abroad host-family program...to no avail. She is the one to tell me that she dreads the first days of new situations (like summer camp) because she always has to explain to people "who she is" ...like when people are surprised she doesn't speak Chinese, and no one else has to explain their personal lives and thier birth and adoption. She is the one who decided not to take AP Human Geo because the teacher requires students to do a lot of class presentations on their family ancestry (which family?) and that type of thing always seems to lead to questions about private stuff (like her abandonment) that she just doesn't feel like making public. Some people are enthused about that kind of self-expressions and some people are private... and both are healthy. But when you're a transracial adoptee it's harder to be a private person if that's how you are, because people are curious. inside the bubble of old friends, she's fine. She's the one with discomfort of unfamiliarity, not me. And knowing that, I'm trying to do a bit of sleuthing.

    A world explorer myself (two- time Peace Corps Volunteer on two continents, solo backpacker around West Africa for months, at a time when there were no cell phones or computers) I'm protective of her, yes....but I also have a personality that is geared to outward exploration. It's natural for me to encourage my child to venture out. But I'm also aware that my whiteness has made it a lot safer and easier for me to do so. She's a competent and yet sensitve kid. It's hard not to have a measure of protectiveness.
    edited February 5
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 373 replies7 threads Member
    edited February 5
    Hi, there, I am also a white parent of an Asian son. He's is a first-year at Denison, so the issues you describe are still very fresh in my mind. Before moving to the US this past fall, my son lived his whole life in Asia (not the country where was born) and attended international schools. Almost everybody in his schools were half of this and half of that or at least from somewhere else, so he grew up thinking that all this diversity was normal and that he himself was a typical American kid. So I had some of the same worries you describe sending him off to the wilds of Ohio. When we started the college search, we included some schools with significant Asian populations (Occidental) or otherwise very diverse (Trinity University in Texas). I, hopefully with some subtlety, also tried to steer him away from heavily Greek schools (we the parents loved Bates!), and he realized early on that he didn't want to be in a school with a big SJW presence. And then he fell in love with Denison. Denison is very focused on increasing diversity and is making good progress, but the number of Asian students is still relatively small. And while Greek life is nonresidential, it still plays a part (Wikipedia says 25% of the men and 30% of the women are Greek). Last week was rush week and my son told me he went to a couple of the parties but decided he wasn't interested in pledging. He is on a sports team, and the team seems to be his social home base. In any event, none of the things I worried about have been an issue at all. He has made friends with kids from all sorts of backgrounds, and his being of Asian ethnicity doesn't seem to be a factor in anything he does. I've been on campus with him when he meets his friends and no one blinks an eye when he introduces me as his mother. He still thinks he's a typical American kid. Sooner or later, somewhere down the road, he'll probably have to deal with someone doing or saying something stupid because he's Asian, but so far so good. This is all very anecdotal, but I guess my point is that if she picks her school carefully and follows her instincts about fit, your daughter should be fine. You can't really guess whether a school will be a good fit just by the demographics, it's more about finding someplace that's genuinely inclusive and welcoming. I think my son actually figured out what kind of school Denison is by watching the track team practice when we visited and seeing how they interacted. With respect to sororities specifically, I don't have much first-hand information, but I know that there are sororities on many campuses that are affiliated with the Multicultural Greek Council so that may be something to look into. (Although, from your description, maybe that's not something your daughter would go for, kind of like imagining my son joining the Asian Students Organization!) Good luck to you both!
    edited February 5
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3680 replies24 threads Senior Member
    @inthegarden I thought of Denison, mentioned above, but my first thought, if it's not too far away, was St Olaf, located about 45 minutes from Minneapolis/St Paul. While the student body may not be diverse enough for her, it struck me as more moderate than many LACs with a kind, earnest student body, and no Greek life. Also larger than some (closer to 3,000 students than 2,000)

    Dickinson (PA) seemed middle of the road politically to me, has some Greek life, but Asian population is modest.

    Case Western? We looked into this school for one of my kids and the Greek life there seemed to be oriented more towards community service and special interests and relatively less towards partying. Fraternities and sororities also seemed relatively inclusive. Case also has a sizable number of Asian students. These days, admissions are increasingly competitive and demonstrated interest is important there.

    I also thought of U of Richmond, due to size and a politically more moderate student body. But it's only about 8% Asian students and I have no idea about how its Greek life works in practice. Also getting more competitive for admission.
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 373 replies7 threads Member
    @mamaedefamilia , those are good ideas. My son also applied to St. Olafs and was accepted but ultimately preferred Denison. He also applied to Lawrence, which seemed to have a similar low-key feel, but he became very put off after he started receiving calls from other "Asian" students working with the Admissions Department - he really resented being pigeon-holed like that. On the other hand, one of my son's good friends, a Korean national who was educated in the same international schools, is at Dickinson and is having a very good experience there. If a school has a lot of Asian students, that can also be complicated, as they may tend to slice and dice themselves into different groups. The kids of a friend of mine had this problem when they moved to US schools. They are ethnically Chinese but were raised and educated in a different Asian country and found they did not fit in with any of the Chinese groups on campus.
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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 2216 replies28 threads Senior Member
    You have a lot of preconceived notions of Greek life which varies greatly from school to school, generation to generation, and within Greek chapters. I think you are worrying for nothing. You dd has good social skills - she will know what is right for her.
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 944 replies7 threads Member
    She's really going to have to look at the Youtube videos and chapter photos online to get a sense of each house at each school. Photos might not tell the whole story, but it tells a significant part of it.

    The greek life at my alma mater was mostly white, but some houses definitely had more diversity, even back then.

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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1662 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @Empireapple that the Greek thing is going to vary wildly by school. It's such a personal decision, nobody can say where she'd feel best. Visiting as much as you can is probably the best way to figure it out.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9753 replies108 threads Senior Member
    There are schools out there with zero greek life (easy to google) but hard for people to make suggestions without knowing your D's stats. I was thinking about Vassar but don't know if it is a fit academically or if you find that too far.

    My D isn't a fan of Greek life either. For full disclosure, neither am I. I think that's a perfectly fine criteria to help narrow down the list. While it may be more difficult to find a school with no Greek life, although they are out there, it should be fairly easy to find one with less than 25% participation.

    I agree with the poster to visit as many schools as you can. I would also throw in a larger university just to be sure, as sometimes it can be easier to meet your tribe in a larger population. Case Western was a good suggestion up thread if her stats would make her competitive.

    I'm going to make a sweeping generalization so don't stone me, but we found southern schools/culture to be harder for an "outsider" to break into. People were initially friendly but only superficially so. Easier to make more meaningful connections for us in the midwest. (Grinnell and St. Olaf would be other good LACs to consider if distance comes off the table).

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82636 replies737 threads Senior Member
    tkoparent wrote: »
    With respect to sororities specifically, I don't have much first-hand information, but I know that there are sororities on many campuses that are affiliated with the Multicultural Greek Council so that may be something to look into.

    While MCGC chapters may include those which are explicitly multicultural, many are predominantly Latino or Asian, just like how IFC and PHA chapters are often predominantly white and NPHC chapters are often predominantly black. That the umbrella organizations are segregated is a legacy of historical segregation, but probably helps keep informal segregation alive in many campuses' sororities and fraternities.

    But things do vary from one campus to another, so specific investigation of each campus is necessary if this is a concern.
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  • OhiBroOhiBro 575 replies7 threads Member
    Thanks, @inthegarden . I can better understand and empathize with your situation. I see how the small town plays into this. Your daughter really is a banana. (Somewhere Between reference)

    Your daughter and others like her add tremendous value to the diversity mix, having Chinese genetics with non-Chinese parents. It’s a superpower, in a sense.

    Sounds like she is signaling that she is not comfortable yet going too far from you, which often changes during college to the point that kids are ready to go out into the world after graduation.

    Are you comfortable revealing options to the forum that are within, say, a 2-hour drive? That kind of distance is a big step for any kid, and probably more so for kids like your daughter that may have subtle reactive attachment issues. But still close enough to get a frequent sense of “home.”

    I’ve seen on other forums where kids have gone far away to the best school or the perfect school, and it’s too shocking for the level of adventure they are ready for.
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  • RockySoilRockySoil 204 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @inthegarden I get where you are coming from and don't think you are being a helicopter at all. Kids are incredibly busy these days and most don't have the time or inclination to research all 3000 schools to find good fits. By talking to her about what she wants/doesn't want, you can narrow down that 3000 to a workable list for her to look at in depth. For me that is parental support, not helicoptering.

    I hear your point about racial/cultural segregation at schools, but I'm not sure it is any worse at schools with large Greek populations. At many schools without fraternities or sororities, the colleges have living/learning programs like "East Asia House" or "Rosa Parks House" or "La Casa Cultural House" which effectively act as racial/cultural sorting mechanisms. I am conflicted about these programs, in part because it leaves out people like your daughter who bridge cultures, but it is what it is.

    Maybe a forward-thinking school would open a "Mixed-Ethnicity House"? Something like, "Mongrelville - a place for the pound puppies of the world":)
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1686 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited February 5
    Thanks, everyone, lots of food for thought. @TKOparnet, thanks for describing your son's story; that is helpful. Your son sounds like a wonderful and remarkable young man! Happy to say that we've already scheduled Denison for a spring break visit along with Kenyon (probaly too reachy and rura) and Wooster (probably a safety, but maybe a safety she could love). @mamaedefamilia, I have always loved what I've read about St.Olaf, and I think my D might like it too, but it's just too far geographically. Ideally, my D would like to be no more than four or five hours from home, (she'd really prefer two!) We'd stretch that for the right school but Minnesota would be quite a haul. We don't live anywhere near an airport, either.

    D won't be a STEM student ...that could actually be an asset for admissions to a school like Case Western but I think it's too urban for her tastes. A tiny college town up to a small city or suburb of a larger city could work as long as the campus itself is green and buccolic. She wants a LAC of 2000-3000 students but I think she could stretch to a school of 6000 or so. Our flagship is just too enormous (but she'll apply) and the other State schools aren't great fits for various reason I'll not detail here.

    @ucbalumnus, her admissions selectivity level is a little hard to determine now because she has very lopsided scores. 4.0/4.45 GPA in the highest rigor track in an average public high school. Struggles a bit with math/chem/physics but has kept up with her STEM peers and makes all A's by sheer work ethic. A strong reader. First SAT with about a month's light prep: 780ERW and 620 M. Is trying the ACT this weekend and will retake SAT in March. I'll be happy if she can get math scores up 40-60 points and call it a day. Solid but normal-kid ECs. Future major undecided but not heavy STEM. So, a solid LAC/ small university in the 30-60-ish ranking range with a welcoming social fit and a nice campus is our goal. She's an only child to put though college and we've funded a college savings plan since she was a baby, Low COL area, no debt and no mortgage so no real financial concerns (merit would be nice, not absolutely necessary). I don't want to identify our precise area, and since we're not dependent on state schools that's not really necessary.

    Dickinson is actually the school I meant when I said there is one school she likes that doesn't have a very strong Greek presence. It's a match. Actually, I'd be surprised if she didn't get admitted, so in that sense it might be a safety especially if math scores come up a little. I'd be thrilled if she attends. I think she'd like more choices though.

    The school that has dazzled her most at the moment is Lafayette. It has a sizeable Greek presence, though possibly not a dominating or exclusionary one. I've heard it said here on CC that students can find their social place easily at Lafayette if either a STEM student, an athlete or Greek, non of which describes my daughter. There could be some other ways for her to join in (she's a band kid, former ballet dancer and has had some riding lessons in the past (Lafayette has an equestrian club that doesn't require prior skill, some informal dance goups and music ensembles) but I've heard about the STEM/sports/Greek makeup of Lafayette alot on CC and i think it's worth looking into how inclusive these groups are or are not.

    She also likes Franklin & Marshall (that was the school with the student protests, which she now feels confused about) and, to a lesser extend, Gettysburg. They both are known for their Greek life. It was, in fact, a fraternity party at F&M in which brothers were sporting coolie hats, and derogatory racial notes left on the dorm door of an Asian girls's room that sparked off the protests. I don't know if the notes were related in any way to a fraternity, however.

    @Empireapple, I think everyone has preconceptions about just about everything...but awareness of them is key and that's why I'm asking questions. I'm quite open to the possibility that my preconceptions are wrong (in fact, I hope they are!) But sometimes there's a grain of truth to these things.

    Another thread was detailing how rush in some schools can be quite exhausting and devastating, how some sororities rate girls' attractivness as part of criteria for who gets in, and some seem to need prior personal connections and references which make getting into them difficult for some girls who did not grow up in the region of the school. I also grew up (eons ago) in the deep South (with ancestors who fought for the Confederacy) so I have THAT version of Greek life stuck in my head, as inaccurate to Greek life today and in other regions it may be. So I don't think it's a great leap for the mother of a daughter who is a POC to simply ask the question. By their very nature, sororities are groups of young women that would be looking for sisters that they can easily identify with. I'm sympathetic to that, even if I don't especially like it. Rush probably doesn't lend itself to getting to know people on a very deep level before decisions re made. Human nature being what it is, people tend to seek a quick sense of famlliarity in forming social sub-groups and...let's be honest... even if there is no overt, deliberate, conscious racism, POC students COULD have an additional social hurdle to get into some groups that are predominately white because sororities, by their very nature are exclusionary groups, even if they don't mean to be unkind. Please open YOUR mind to the possiblity that you have some preconceptions of your own about how easy it is to find one's place as a POC who looks one way on the outside and another on the inside. I'd bet a million dollars your D never had experiences growing up where she was told by other kids "you're not American, you CAN'T be a REAL American" or had boys yell out obscene racial taunts from a bus window as she walked by on her first weeks of high school (yes, even in her protected little town). Yes, my D is strong and got over it, and has long-standing friendships, but things like that do register in your character somewhere, and for her it comes out as a shyness and a hesitancy in unknown situations. I didn't say my D is especially socially confident and adept in that way that can instantly dissolve boundaries at a party. I just said she's normal and mainstream and not awkward. She's not quirky in that way that celebrates arty/quirky. She is more of an introvert (a friendly intovert, to be sure, who loves fitting into group activites). She's the kind of girl whose finest qualities show up over time in quiet loyaly and conscientiousness and non-showy dedication to whatever friendships and groups she's in. I don't know that those are qualities that would make her sparkle at rush parties, and if her race is an additional limiting factor, better to be somewhat prepared now or consider that in her selection of colleges.

    I've written a book here, and my apologies if it's hard to get through. Thanks to all who have contributed and gotten this far!
    edited February 5
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 944 replies7 threads Member
    When you are reading about percentages of students in Greek Life, keep in mind that many of them don't rush until sophomore year. So I think that COULD mean, say, 30% of the student body but only of 3/4ths of students are eligible. Depending on how they want to present it.
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1686 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited February 5
    Thanks, @PetraMC, that could be a good thing (meaning, more time to get to know people on a genuine level before rush parties occur) but it would also mean there's a higher percentage (than 30%) of sophmores, juniors and seniors belonging to a house and fewer students left to socialize with if you're not part of that.
    edited February 5
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  • OhiBroOhiBro 575 replies7 threads Member
    My little filter spit out:

    St Olaf, Denison, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Skidmore, Wheaton; UofRichmond, Lehigh, Bucknell, Hobart.

    Is Massachusetts too far?
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