Sororities are being considered by the Black Women’s Collective as a way to help in the recruitment and retention of black students, even though they are not a part of campus tradition and it is not a college policy to have these organizations.
Sophomore Reena Patton, co-president of the Black Women’s Collective, said Mills has never had an established sorority in its 150 year history. However, in past years there has been some Mills students who belonged to sorority chapters located on other college campuses such as UC Berkeley and Cal State San Francisco.
“It’s not written anywhere that Mills cannot have a sorority of any kind,” said Patton.
Patton said that it is extremely important that Mills women have the chance to belong to sororities because it would help the college in the recruitment and retention of students of all backgrounds.
“A lot of prospective black students, for instance, look for resources and social stuff when they apply to colleges,” said Patton. “If Mills had sororities, it would make the college more attractive.”
However, Dean of Students Myrt Whitcomb said that the college cannot have sororities on campus because they are selective organizations in that they have membership fees and they choose who they want to admit. She said that it is a part of Mills history for students to affiliate with their dorms, lounges and other student organizations with the provision that they are open to all.
“It is college policy that all activities be open to everyone,” said Whitcomb.
“Students are free to join any kind of group off campus that could connect them with their communities. We want them to join if they find it to be meaningful to them.”
Junior Esperanza Tervalon Daumont, a transfer student and member of Delta
Sigma Phi, a national sorority, which she joined while attending Xavier College, thinks that her organization is wonderful. However, she said that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a Greek system on campus because there are not a lot black students, and it would divide rather than unify them. Instead of starting sororities, she feels that students should use the resources that are already available at the college.
“You came to Mills because of what is here so take advantage of it,” said Tervalon Daumont. “The work of a sorority can be done without the letters attached to it.”
Patton said she felt that the black community at Mills should merge with sororities at other campuses so that the students wouldn’t feel so isolated. As is, there is a disparity between the proportion of black students on campus and the amount of black people in the Oakland community, said Patton.
“It doesn’t make sense for Mills to have [approximately] 50 black women on campus when the college is surrounded by a predominately black community, said Patton. “The college does not reflect the Oakland community at all.”
Co-president of the Black Women’s Collective Lucinda Woodson said that many of the black students she has spoken with feel alone at Mills. She said that sororities would help them feel a sense of unity and help them get to know black women from other colleges.
“The Black Women’s Collective tries to provide unity among the black students at Mills but it’s not enough,” said Woodson. “With sororities, members are always in contact with each other and it’s a lifetime obligation. With the Black Women’s Collective, you join every year.”
Monique Parker, a member of the Black Women’s Collective, said that it should be an option for students to join sororities.
“The students and administration should be more open to sororities,” said Parker. Even though members of the Black Women’s Collective think that belonging to sororities is an important part of the college experience and could help with recruiting and retaining students, others say they do not agree because they think that sororities would divide rather than unify students.
Junior Katy Coe said that sororities are not needed because Mills is a small school.
“I don’t think sororities are good because they have a tendency to create a community within themselves and would isolate themselves from the larger community,” said Coe.
“I think that a lot of students come to Mills because there are no sororities,” said Whitcomb.
“I would be shocked if they brought sororities to campus because Mills does not promote Greek life,” said junior Alexis Bell.
According to UC Berkeley Student Nickia Jackson, a representative from the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, it isn’t unusual for women’s colleges to have chapters.
“Spelman, Barnard and Wellelsley College all have sororities,” said Jackson.
Nichole Little, a representative from the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, and Jackson said that it wouldn’t be hard at all for Mills students to participate in Greek life. If any student wanted to join their sororities, whether it is on or off their college campus, they would need to have at least a 2.5 grade point average, a minimum of 20 completed credits (approximately a year of college) and must have an interest in community service.
“The community service can be anything from working in AIDS organizations to working with children,” said Jackson. “Sororities can be used as vehicles to help you work within your community. Historically black sororities are more community service oriented. They are not social organizations.”
Brigitte Cook, a representative from the National Panhellenic Council, said that there is no pledging or hazing when students apply to any of the historically black sororities. However, applicants are screened to make sure that there is a good fit between the sorority and the applicant. “You have to make sure to involve yourself with the organization and then they’ll decide if they want to admit you,” said Cook.
Even though the sorority she represents is historically black, students of all ethnic backgrounds are admitted into the organization, said Jackson.
According to their websites, most historically black sororities were founded in order to encourage high scholastic achievement and ethical standards, to promote unity and sisterhood and improve the social stature of African-Americans.