Moving Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities Forward

Innovations in Practice

by Crystal Garcia (Volume editor) Antonio Duran (Volume editor)
©2021 Textbook XXII, 250 Pages


From their founding, Greek letter organizations have maintained legacies of exclusion that have particularly targeted minoritized people including Black, Indigenous, People of Color as well as queer and transgender individuals. In response to larger societal oppression and, more specifically, historical discriminatory practices within historically white sororities and fraternities, culturally-based sororities and fraternities emerged to serve and lift up minoritized communities. Culturally-based sororities and fraternities (CBSFs) include Asian American, Black, Latinx/a/o, LGBTQ, Multicultural, and Historically Native American sororities and fraternities. Unfortunately, conversations on sorority and fraternity life (SFL) have prioritized historically white organizations, perpetuating the same legacies of oppression that led to the formation of culturally-based groups to begin with. This book is a form of resistance to these power dynamics and brings to light the histories, legacies, and strengths of CBSFs as well as ways to re-envision equitable support for these organizations. This book will be instrumental to SFL practitioners, (inter)national sorority and fraternity leadership, and for all SFL members in their efforts to increase their awareness of CBSFs. Additionally, campuses are increasingly embracing opportunities to understand minoritized students’ experiences on campus and to center equitable practice. This book could be used during professional development workshops for deans, faculty, and student affairs professionals to consider how well they are supporting minoritized students and, more specifically, those who are in culturally-based sororities and fraternities. This text can also serve as an important resource for college courses focused on college students, student affairs, and social justice in higher education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Section 1 Setting the Stage: Overview of Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter one Introduction: Historicizing and Contextualizing Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter two Developments in Research on Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • Section 2 Innovations in Practice: Opportunities and Challenges Facing Organizations
  • Member Vignette: Black Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter three A Practitioner’s Perspective: Advising and Supporting Black Sororities and Fraternities
  • Member Vignette: Asian-Interest Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter four A Practitioner’s Perspective: Asian-Interest Sororities and Fraternities
  • Member Vignette: Latinx/a/o-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter five La Perspectiva de un Practicante (A Practitioner’s Perspective): Latinx/a/o- based Sororities and Fraternities
  • Member Vignette: LGBTQ-Interest Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter six Queering Greek Life: LGBTQ-Interest Sororities and Fraternities
  • Member Vignette: Multicultural Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter seven Building Solidarity: A Guide for Supporting Multicultural Sororities and Fraternities
  • Member Vignette: Historically Native American Fraternities and Sororities
  • chapter eight Confronting Colonization: Moving Forward to Remove Barriers for Historically Native American Fraternities and Sororities
  • Section 3 Innovations in Practice: Issues in the Broader Landscape of Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter nine Attending to Intersecting Identities in Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter ten Addressing Hazing Practices within Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • chapter eleven Bridging the Gap between Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities within Larger SFL Communities
  • chapter twelve Interweaving Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities into the Campus Imagination
  • chapter thirteen Moving Forward: Concluding Thoughts on the Future of Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities
  • About the Authors
  • Index

←xii | xiii→



On February 6, 2020, Drs. Crystal Garcia and Antonio Duran congregated and facilitated the first meeting with all the contributors of this book. For some of the scholar-practitioners who agreed to contribute to the text, this was the first time meeting each other, while for others this convocation was an opportunity to reconnect. On this date, the group celebrated their individual and collective accomplishments and also commemorated Crystal and Antonio for bringing into fruition this book proposal, which brought together a number of experts in sorority and fraternity life (SFL) research and practice in the same room. Moving Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities Forward: Innovations in Practice provides a deep overview of the history and current landscape of culturally-based sororities and fraternities, as well as opportunities and challenges for growth and change within postsecondary education. This work facilitates a rich overview of the missing histories and experiences of culturally-based sororities and fraternities, as they have often been forgotten and buried in mainstream SFL and higher education. This book is long overdue.

Crystal and Antonio define culturally-based sororities and fraternities as:

… social organizations that were founded to serve marginalized student populations, such as Students of Color and individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. More specifically, culturally-based sororities and fraternities include, but are not limited to, historically Black sororities and fraternities situated within ←xiii | xiv→the National Pan-Hellenic Council as well as sororities and fraternities typically grouped within Multicultural Greek Councils (e.g., those created for Asian American, Latinx/a/o, LGBTQ, Multicultural, and Native American communities) (see Chapter One for more).

With this definition in mind, I advance that culturally-based sororities and fraternities are cultural productions that provide collegiate Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color spaces to (re)create and (re)imagine sorority and fraternity identities. In other words, culturally-based sororities and fraternities provide space for Students of Color and those with other minoritized identities (e.g., those within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer [LGBTQ] community) to feel visible and validated.

I am grateful for the intellectual labor of Crystal and Antonio, and all contributors of this book. Through theoretical and practice-based scholarship, the reader will be challenged to think about and lead critically on their campuses and Greek life organizations. In particular, readers who work with or have an interest in sororities and fraternities within the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, Inc. (NALFO), National APIDA Panhellenic Association (NAPA), National Multicultural Greek Council (NMGC), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), as well as Native American, LGBTQ, and other culturally-based sororities and fraternities that are not part of national umbrella organizations, will find this text instrumental to research and practice. One example of how readers will be challenged and question their own behaviors is the critical use of language. When referring to Greek life organizations, Crystal and Antonio first refer to sororities and then fraternities (i.e., “sororities and fraternities,” not “fraternities and sororities”). This intentional decision on the order of language generates a conversation about gender and privilege, and moves us towards challenging and dismantling the rigid gendered culture of sororities and fraternities. This book motivates readers to create and foster a culture of inclusivity in postsecondary education institutions, for culturally-based sororities and fraternities, and its members.

As I engage in reading and unpacking the scholarship of Crystal and Antonio, I recognize they are making a difference in our field, and the world. They offer a careful critique to how SFL has segregated and oppressed Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color. They complicate the SFL experiences of students by placing a race and ethnicity analysis at the center of this conversation, alongside sex assigned at birth, gender, and sexuality. All which start creating a social movement for justice and transformational change for and with Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color in culturally-based sororities and fraternities. This book situates, humanizes, and empowers many Black, Indigenous, and People ←xiv | xv→of Color, and other minoritized communities (e.g., LGBTQ people) who are or have been part of culturally-based sororities and fraternities in research, practice, and leadership.

Before engaging in the practical context provided by all practitioner-scholars in each chapter, and with the help of bell hooks, Daniel Solórzano, Miguel Ceja, Tara Yosso, Iris Marion Young, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Kathleen E. Gillon, Cameron C. Beatty, Michelle Espino, James Barber, Daniel Bureau, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Monica Miranda, Manuel Del Real, Stephen John Quaye, and Shaun R. Harper, in this foreward I contextualize and theorize racism and culture in context to culturally-based sororities and fraternities. The importance of theorizing racism and culture rests in “presuppose[ing] specific structural and institutional background conditions … how they affect distribution—what there is to distribute, how it gets distributed, who distributed, and what the distributive out is” (Young, 1990, p. 22).

Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color have not received an equitable distribution of resources in higher education due to racism. Racism is manifested in all aspects of society, from which, overt and covert racist policies have given greater access to white students in higher education. Solórzano et al. (2000) defined racism as “one group believes itself to be superior, 2) the group that believes to be superior has the power to carry out the racist behavior, and 3) racism, affects multiple racial and ethnic groups” (p. 61). Racist policies and practices have also recreated and reproduced oppression through sororities and fraternities. For example, since the establishment of Greek-letter organizations in the United States, these societies were organized by settler-colonial European notions of a gender construct as binary, and “White as a racial category was often linked to Christianity as a way to refuse membership to Jewish students” (Gillon, Beatty, & Salinas, 2019, p. 11). Furthermore, Gillon et al. (2019) explained that while white sororities and fraternities were expanding in higher education, “the participation of Students of Color in higher education continued to be regulated by racist laws that excluded them from attending college or segregated them into specific colleges and universities” (pp. 9–10). This form of racism and segregation creates a dystopic canon wherein “cultural images and messages that affirm the assumed superiority of Whites and the assumed inferiority of people of color [sic]” (Tatum, 2013, p. 65).

Cultural racism has played a significant impact on sororities and fraternities’ history. Black, Indigenous and Students of Color were not allowed to join white sororities or fraternities. Therefore, Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color created their own Greek-letter organizations as a form of racial uplifting. Racial uplifting is manifested through the “aspirations to find activities in higher ←xv | xvi→education to empower, uplift, and support [Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color] while receiving an education motivated them to create organizations for themselves” (Gillon et al., 2019, p. 11). Similar to Gillon et al., in the introduction to this text, Crystal and Antonio expand that culturally-based sororities and fraternities continue their racial uplifting by giving “attention to serving and lifting up Communities of Color and other marginalized populations” through their service, leadership, academics, and philanthropy.

Culturally-based sororities and fraternities have created their own cultural perspectives to develop their own sense of belonging and validation. These cultural perspectives are rooted in how Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color often experience cultural stereotypes, isolation, alienation, oppression, and marginalization from whiteness on- and off-campuses. Reflecting on the new cultural perspectives that these organizations bring to higher education can help one understand and define culture as a new form of critical hope (Duncan-Andrade, 2009). Culture as critical hope embraces inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color histories, epistemologies, beliefs, values, symbols, traditions, practices, meanings, leadership, habitual components, and stories of individuals and groups in an institution that express their experiences, and communicate with one other. With this definition of culture in mind, Young (1990) suggested that “Culture is ubiquitous, but nevertheless deserves distinct consideration in discussion of social justice” (p. 23). Therefore, the following questions should be asked to challenge the cultural perspectives of white sororities and fraternities: Who holds the status quo? Who is being oppressed, and what are the root causes? What factors shape the values and beliefs of organizations and institutions? How is prejudice and bias created? And what are people’s individual biases, values, and beliefs towards culturally-based sororities and fraternities?

Higher education institutions have capitalized from Black, Indigenous and Students of Color, and now, they are trying to capitalize on culturally-based sororities and fraternities. For example, higher education institutions have benefitted from the contributions of service, philanthropy, and academic engagement from Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color and LGBTQ students, bolstering institutional success, but have failed to critique this political and cultural labor. Moreover, students push higher education institutions to actualize their set goals as a form of performativity to gain funding and prestige. Institutions set goals all the time, and students hold them accountable so that goals are not performative but become a reality (Quaye & Harper, 2015). Furthermore, institutions must practice effective methods of cultivating belonging and validation in order to maintain and affirm that culturally-based sororities and fraternities are spaces where various nationalities, races, ethnicities, sexual and gendered boundaries ←xvi | xvii→offer a space for students’ development and experiences. One must acknowledge that not everyone within a culturally-based sorority and fraternity is a Student of Color or shares the same experience. Instead, culturally-based sororities and fraternities symbolize the breaking away from homogenized notions of sororities and fraternities as white spaces. To identify a part of a culturally-based sorority and fraternity is to identify with, and advocate with other students who have been rejected in mainstream higher education spaces. Culturally-based sororities and fraternities play a significant role for students’ sense of belonging, retention and graduation.

This book transgresses the traditional knowledge on SFL. Though culturally-based sororities and fraternities have been ignored in most aspects of higher education, they have resisted and shaped higher education and have contributed to the culture, policies and economies of colleges, universities and communities (Barder, Espino, & Bureau, 2015; Miranda, Salinas, & Del Real, 2020). Therefore, we, higher education scholars and practitioners, must raise critical questions that disrupt the mainstream understandings of culturally-based sororities and fraternities in higher education. And not allow others to lessen the impact of culturally-based sororities and fraternities in higher education spaces for students, and in particular Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color as well as LGBTQ students. This book allows us to imagine the new possibilities that SFL has lacked to imagine—the act of becoming part of the culturally-based sisterhood, brotherhood, and siblinghood. Yet, we have to question, what does sisterhood, brotherhood, and siblinghood mean in culturally-based sororities and fraternities and in higher education? And how are these spaces also oppressive of people who do not identify with the gender binary? Further, we must ask how have culturally-based sororities and fraternities dismissed the conversations of access to trans* students, students of low social economic status, undocumented students (with and without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status), homeless students, and students with disabilities?

Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color continue to resist erasure. In hooks’ (2010) words, in order

… to resist this erasure, we must do all we can to document, to highlight, to study, to celebrate, and most importantly to crate work that is cutting-edge, that breaks through silences and the different walls that have been erected to block our vision, of ourselves and our futures. (p. 174)


XXII, 250
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXII, 250 pp., 3 b/w ill., 3 tables.

Biographical notes

Crystal Garcia (Volume editor) Antonio Duran (Volume editor)

Crystal E. Garcia, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Studies. She received the 2020 NASPA Latinx/a/o KC Outstanding Faculty Award and the 2018 AERA Latina/o/x Research Issues SIG Dissertation Award. Antonio Duran, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Administration of Higher Education at Auburn University and earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University. He received the 2020 AERA Queer SIG and NASPA Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation Awards.


Title: Moving Culturally-Based Sororities and Fraternities Forward