As a member of a Divine Nine Organization at Stevenson, my experience as a sorority member has been unique. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, which is the only Black Sorority on campus. For many, joining a fraternity or a sorority is a significant highlight of the college experience. The majority of African American students choose the option and enter the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), colloquially known as the “Divine Nine.”
Stevenson is a Predominately White Institution (PWI) and this makes it difficult for our organization to gain more attention since most students do not know about Divine Nine organizations.
With Stevenson being a private predominately white university with a compact population, as a black organization, we don’t get nearly as much attention or representation on campus as our white counterparts. With 54.6 percent of the student body being Caucasian, non-black students are less knowledgeable about Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs). For one, most people on campus are clueless about the letters we wear and they are not knowledgeable about what we represent.
“I do think sometimes it is a bit more challenging to do some things that we want to do because of the school that we are at. But we all must fully understand our surroundings to know what we are able to bring to the table,” said member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Autumn Davis.
PWIs frequently house NPHC organizations in the same Greek Life office as predominantly white organizations. This is appropriate, given that we are all Greek organizations at the end of the day. Because we do not have as many members or as much interest as other Greek organizations, this can sometimes overshadow our organization. Being at a PWI has made it more difficult to have equal representation on campus because we are not as well recognized around campus because of Stevenson’s student population.
Many of my sorority sisters and I believe that our experience is looked down upon by Stevenson students because they believe we do not obtain the “black experience” or simply because they do not understand what it is like to be us and have fewer opportunities available.
At Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), BGLOs may get to the top of the social hierarchy and are well-known on campus. We are further down the list because there are fewer students who are aware of our organization.
“It’s very different from what I expected. We do not get to have the same experiences that other organizations get to have at HBCUs. We tend to get overshadowed by the nonblack organizations on campus” said Makayla Vaughns, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Students who are unfamiliar with predominately black organizations should be eager to learn more, and it is our obligation to teach them. We want to get as much attention as possible, yet individuals may be turned off by their misunderstanding. Although some are unaware, we cannot expect everyone to know and appreciate what we stand for. If we want others to understand our sorority and its values, we have the responsibility and expertise to show them what we are about. Hopefully, they will be opened minded.
Although there are some downsides to being a part of the only black sorority at Stevenson, it has been an enlightening and empowering experience. Joining a sisterhood such as Alpha Kappa Alpha is an experience that black women rejoice to be part of and it is especially meaningful to be recognized at a PWI. Being a member of a Black Sorority a PWI has made me feel unique in a multitude of ways. It is to be commended since at Stevenson, we have representation that few PWIs have.
Hannah Brammer, another member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, said “I love being able to play a part in Stevenson’s history in terms of their representation of Black Greek organization life on campus. I also love being a part of something that’s ours at a college that is not predominantly us.”
It is all too easy for individuals to forget that membership in an organization is a privilege, not a right. I conducted the same amount of research as I would for a job application and was just as apprehensive about attending Alpha Kappa Alpha gatherings as I am when attending professional networking events. No one is entitled to membership, so if you’re reading this and thinking about joining an NPHC group, do your research first.
With that said, we are all members of a lifelong sisterhood that places a high priority on service, and this should be the case regardless of skin color or the type of university in attendance.
“I feel as though the work I put into my Sorority, the service that we do, and the sisterhood bonds that we have made are the same experience you would get at any other school,” said Autumn Davis.
Women should join a sorority with the intent to find women they can connect with, experience sisterhood, and understand the importance of service for all mankind. Sororities are not all about partying or looking pretty. They are about sisterhood and most importantly, serving the community. Those who do not see the significance of this should not join a sorority.
“Being a part of a black sorority here at Stevenson has made my college experience ten times better and easier. I came in as a transfer student mid-Covid and did not get to meet people until I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. I felt a sense of comfort especially being at a PWI and being the only black sorority on campus. Many times, you may not find people that understand you or can fully connect with you. So, when I became a member, it made me feel accepted being around other black women that understand me” said member Jai-lyn Perry.
Being at a PWI hasn’t affected the reality that we’re still part of BGLO. We still get to represent our letters, have fun, and understand our responsibilities and why we chose to be in a sorority in the first place. We are held to a higher standard by some students because we are the only black sorority on campus and that is something to be proud of.
“I feel very special being a part of a black sorority at Stevenson University. It has been very empowering. I am noticed every time I wear paraphernalia by some of the white students and African American students and I feel like I hold a certain status and have a sense of pride when I am representing my sorority,” said member Morgan Pennick.
Instead of criticizing what you may not understand, I believe we should focus on accepting one another’s differences and understanding one another. Everyone who participates in a BGLO at a PWI has a unique experience. Becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha at Stevenson has been an eye-opening experience, especially because it is the only black sorority on campus. It has allowed me to feel understood, meet amazing women, and be a part of a lifelong commitment to sisterhood and service.