News

Asian-interest sorority planned

Aims to establish colony this year, potential chapter by 2012

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: This article incorrectly references the “National Panhellenic Association” as an umbrella organization for sororities at MIT. The “National Panhellenic Association” does not exist; MIT sororities fall under the National Panhellenic Conference.

Plans are under way this spring to introduce a new sorority aimed at Asian women on campus. The new group would be MIT’s seventh sorority and the only Greek letter organization with an Asian focus. Kappa Phi Lambda, Sigma Psi Zeta, and Delta Phi Lambda are among the candidates.

Vivian A. Lee ’12, who has been leading plans for the Asian-interest sorority, felt the sorority was needed in order to spread cultural awareness. “Asian culture is still vastly under-represented on campus,” Vivian noted. “There is currently no student group at MIT that focuses closely on the sociopolitical challenges that Asians and Asian-Americans face everyday as the ‘silent minority’ in the U.S.”

The sorority’s recruitment process would be similar to the week-long fraternity rush, a departure from the standard sorority recruitment model. The events would be designed to allow potential sisters to get to know each other closely and to feel unified by the sorority’s specific values. The new sorority intends to be a smaller group, with no more than thirty members at any given time. In contrast, sororities currently on campus generally have over 100 members.

Unlike existing Greek groups at MIT, the sorority would be unique in its support of both Asian- and female-specific philanthropic causes and Asian sociopolitical advancement; current candidate national organizations support these types of causes. Sigma Psi Zeta works to fight violence against women, while Kappa Phi Lambda supports the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Delta Phi Lambda has been supporting osteoporosis research. Social and service events will focus on diversity and social issues in addition to the traditional emphasis on cuisine and pop culture emphasized by most Asian groups on campus.

The new sorority plans to fall under the umbrella of the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association (NAPA), in contrast to most Greek groups on campus, which fall under the National Fraternity Council or the National Panhellenic Association.

Since both NAPA and the potential sorority on campus are relatively new, the organization will offer numerous opportunities for leadership roles in shaping Asian-oriented Greek life at the local and national level, says Lee. The relatively small size of NAPA — it contains only seven sororities and three fraternities — also allows inter-collegiate events between member organizations to happen more often.

Sororities under NAPA follow a unique process in becoming a chapter. After spending a semester as an “interest group,” the sorority receives “colony” status for 1–3 years. After this period, the colony can qualify as a formal chapter. With the new group already seeking members, the nascent Asian sorority at MIT aims to become an official colony in time for the Fall 2011 rush period and to obtain chapter status by 2012.

The new sorority would not be the only Greek group on campus with a cultural affiliation. In addition to the fraternities with cultural affinities, Alpha Kappa Alpha is aimed at African-American women and Alpha Epsilon Phi is geared toward Jewish women. Like the new Asian sorority, neither AKA nor AEPhi participate in the conventional sorority recruitment process. There has been recent interest in re-forming MIT’s Multicultural Greek Council, which has been defunct since 2005, in order to provide support for these cultural Greek groups.

The Asian-interest sorority seems be moving quickly. There are already plans for the sorority to help advertise the first annual Boston Asian Performing Arts Festival on Apr. 23, featuring over twenty Asian dance, choral, musical, and theatrical groups from the Greater Boston area.

27 Comments
1
David M. Templeton about 7 years ago

Last time an attempt was made at a culturalethnic sorority, it was met with much more resistance; I'm referring to AEPhi becoming Jewish (http:tech.mit.eduV126N1515aephi.html).

For Miss Lee: you say there are "currently no student groups at MIT that focuses closely on the sociopolitical challenges that Asians and Asian-Americans face." Can you please explain why the Asian American Association, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, South Asian American Students, Syncopasian, Asian Dance Team, and the three Asian religious groups do not meet the needs of the community? Also, how will this organization help fill those needs for Asian or Asian-American men?

2
Anonymous about 7 years ago

How on earth can you say that "Asian culture is still vastly under-represented on campus" when I think we can all agree that not only are there several, but that many of them also have some of the biggest club memberships on campus?

Speaking as an Asian American, this is completely unnecessary. If you want to waste your time with this, go ahead.

3
Anonymous about 7 years ago

Well I think it depends. If most of the asians students are used to California where the numbers of Asians at most, if not at all, University of California schools is larger than any other population, including caucasian, then indeed they are under-represented at MIT. Maybe such a group could be needed to make these student feel more at home. Perhaps they could also import the good weather and more Japanese grocery stores while they are at it.

4
Anonymous about 7 years ago

1: I don't think the groups your mentioned address the overall social aspect. SyncopAsian is, in theory, a group of people singing Asian songs. That doesn't really have anything to do with the entire scope of Asian culture, does it? If it does, then boy am I missing out on being a good Asian. And until this year, when I saw them dancing at Nightmarket, I didn't even know we had an Asian Dance Team. btw, you've also missed out on CSC and ATS, but last I checked all of their events were just food and karaoke.

I think this is a good idea and I might end up joining myself.... if anything it is an alternative to the huge sororities we have on campus. I dropped out of recruitment because the idea of joining based on three days of speeddating wasn't really my thing, and a sorority that does actual rush-style rush (lol) seems more appealing

5
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

(Warning: long comment ahead..)

Before I comment, I have to mention that the writer made one mistake in the article: There is no such thing as the NPA. It is the NPC (National Panhellenic Conference).

For Mr. Templeton:

Surprisingly, 4 has stated some of the things I wanted to emphasize.

First, regarding AAA, SASE, CSC, ATS, HKSS, SAAS, Syncopasian, ADT, ACF, ABSK, etc. First off, some of the groups you have mentioned (Syncopasian and ADT) were created for very specific reasons - the performing arts. The same is true of ACF, ABSK, CBF, HKSBSG, and the other Asian religious groups (I must apologize, as I am not familiar with the full list). SASE is in another category altogether (I would classify it as academiccareer-based). The four large Asian fellowships on campus (AAA, CSC, ATS, HKSS) focus heavily on pop culture, but there is something lacking by way of traditional culture, sociopolitical issues, philanthropy, and - to put it bluntly - real-life experience of these phenomena. Think back to the last AAACSCATSHKSS event you attended - most like it centered on food and a few performances. While the members of these organizations may appreciate finer facets of Asian culture, the image portrayed to the Institute is one of pop culture.

6
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

In contrast, the upcoming Asian-interest sorority will actively recognize and address the fact that there is much more to Asian culture than delicious wontons and karaoke. In addition, national support (not only from the sorority chosen but from all of NAPA) is very strong and the focus on sisterhood and cultural diversity is important. It is not the intention of the Asian-interest sorority to pull members from or upstage current Asian unions on campus (on the contrary, many of the members of the interest group are active members of these Asian unions). Instead, we hope that with the national support from our sorority, we can also assist the Asian unions with larger-scale events. A good example would be ATS, which teamed up with national organization ITASA (Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association) to host a conference at MIT last semester.

As for how this organization helps fill the needs for AsianAsian-American men... that is beyond the scope of my power. If I could found an Asian-interest fraternity, perhaps I would do it. Alas, I can only do what is within my female ability :)

7
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

Secondly, I wanted to address the issue of interest-exclusivity in Greek organizations. I had not read the article on AEPhi before (thank you for the link), and it is definitely a message we will keep in mind during expansion. However, from my understanding, AEPhi received backlash because its Jewish heritage was misrepresented during recruitment and - quote one of the de-pledges - "The Jewish identity [was] taking priority before diversity." Our Asian-interest sorority is definitely up-front about our values (I can conjecture that AEPhi did not explicitly call itself the "Jewish-interest sorority" when it was recruiting); we also welcome members from any background, since a common pillar of NAPA organizations is "cultural diversity". The much-said slogan of "Asian-interest, not Asian-exclusive" is visibly painted on rush posters from many of these organizations, and we at MIT will stand by that claim. I believe that if we are honest about our intentions, there is no reason why members would find that the organization they end up pledging is any different than the one we show them during rush.

On another note... AEPhi used to have a house?

8
Anonymous about 7 years ago

If a sorority like this was ever brought to campus, it would in no way be "MIT's 7th Sorority." That statement is completely ridiculous to anyone who is not completely ignorant to the sorority system at MIT. the six sororities at MIT are already members of NPC. It took a while to even get Pi Phi on campus because it is a decision that has to be made by more than just one student wanting to start another student group. None of the "Asian Interest" sororities mentioned are members of NPC and so WOULD NOT in any way be considered MIT's 7th Sorority. This article came as a slap in the face to many sorority women, and personally it lowered the credibility of the Tech for me. Get your facts straight and print a correction.

And to V. Lee, I think you need to own up to it and dispel the false claims you have made in this article. You cannot bring a national sorority to campus without going through the proper offices. No one in a position of authority was quoted in this, I'm guessing because they weren't even contacted by the students interested in bringing a chapter to campus.

Boom Roasted.

9
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

As a response to the above comment - which views the definition of "sorority" in a very narrow light - there have not been any false claims (unless you would like to point them out specifically). Although not cited in this article, there has been quiet discussion with the FSILG office in addition to the national board of the Asian sorority we are hoping to expand. I do hope that in the future, though, the staff writer would also make attempts to contact these individuals to speak on the matter.

It is true, though, that this Asian-interest sorority would not be MIT's 7th. It would be MIT's 8th, as Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is recognized by MIT as a legit student organization. Contrary to popular belief, the NPC is not the only umbrella organization that can make "sororities" - a sorority under the NMGC, NPHC, NAPA, or NALFO labels are just as much a sorority as an NPC organization, and it is a slap in the face to members of those umbrella organizations to have you claim they are not legitimate sororities.

10
Anonymous about 7 years ago

I don't think this girl is going to achieve much in terms of "spreading cultural awareness" by forming an exclusive student group for Asians (as if there aren't enough Asian-interest student groups?) that caters to a very small niche...

And calling Asians a minority at MIT is kind of a joke. There are plenty of them to go around.

11
Anonymous about 7 years ago

I'm kind of neutral on this issue, but for 10, she said that "'Asian-interest, not Asian-exclusive' is visibly painted on rush posters from many of these organizations, and we at MIT will stand by that claim." So I don't think it's Asian-exclusive. Though I'm also interested in what she means by spreading "cultural awareness". Guess we'll find out?

12
Anonymous about 7 years ago

10 Your comment is extremely racist.

"There are plenty of them to go around."

What are asians to you? racial diversity trade commodities?

13
Anonymous about 7 years ago

This is not meant to be a mean comment, but a factual one.

Vivian's linkedin: http:www.linkedin.cominvivianleemit

1) Founder, AKPsi

2) Founder, ADT

3) impending founder, Asian-interest sorority

I think it's really cool that she wants to start all these Asian interest organizations but I want to point out the glaring fact that there are a lot of them on campus already, and the even more glaring fact that she has failed to assimilate into any of them -- I feel like she's a serial entrepreneur (which is great) but to me, starting organizations for all the wrong reasons.

Plus, for the good of the orgs she's already started, I'd much rather see her dedicate herself to ADT, AKPsi, etc. instead of starting something new every semester. Might look impressive, but to me, there's a "quality not quantity" aspect here that's clearly missing.

Chinese-American MIT '11 from California -- (which hopefully gives me some cred about 1) Asian-interest 2) business frats 3) Asian-interest frats like Lambdas or aKDPhi

14
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

For 13: could you explain what you meant by "the even more glaring fact that she has failed to assimilate into any of them"? I appreciate your thoughts and thorough research but was a bit confused by what you meant there.

15
Anonymous about 7 years ago

What 13 means is that you should actually get to know people in your organizations, instead of treating them as membership numbers. You fail to grasp that these organizations aren't just filler for your resume.

16
Andrew Jones about 7 years ago

Viv,

You probably don't need to hear this but: "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Or: "You know you're doing whats right when the old guard starts saying you're doing it wrong"

When these orgs are around long after your gone, you'll know you did it right.

17
Amy about 7 years ago

On the small chance that Vivian is still reading this thread:

Why do you need to start a sorority rather tha a club?

18
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

15: unless 13 is a member of both of my organizations (which would be impossible, as the one person who is in both did not make these comments), I am not quite sure how youshe possesses the ability to tell me that I am only treating my groups as resume fodder.

Amy: please refer to comments 5 and 6.

19
Anonymous about 7 years ago

It is also questionable whether Ms. Lee can be a member of another social fraternity since she is a former member of Alpha Chi Omega. Several social fraternities will not allow you to join their organizations if you have already been initiated into a similar one (which may be the case). Some fraternities make you affirm (upon initiation) that you will never unite with a similar fraternity.

Other things to think about.

20
Anonymous about 7 years ago

Diversity at MIT is a characteristic which emerges on a macroscopic scale. When viewed as a whole, MIT exhibits lots of diversity. I don't see why it's necessary for there to be diversity in one particular student group or another. We certainly don't expect to see diversity exhibited in a single individual, which is arguably the degenerate case of a group which consists of one member. Should the MIT Democrats make an effort to include conservative Tea Party Republicans among its ranks, just to increase its ideological diversity? That would be silly.

The value of diversity lies not in some superficial head count of racial minorities, but in the opportunity for communication to take place between groups of people who don't normally talk, about topics which are not usually discussed. If the Asian sorority is able to bring to the attention of the MIT community heretofore unknown issues concerning the female Asian experience, then they will have achieved the purpose of diversity even if their membership turns out to be racially homogeneous.

21
Amy about 7 years ago

So the only difference I can see in this group being a sorority rather than a club is the backing from nationals. What sort of backing do you want them to give you? What do you want them to do?

Please don't think that this is an attack I'm am just curious.

22
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

19: naturally, it has been confirmed with the sorority in question that I am still of proper eligibility; I hope that dispels your questions.

Amy, 21: no harm in being curious! The biggest thing thus far is the ability to connect with chapters and alumni; we have already been in connection with two other chapters of the Asian sorority in the Boston area, which have invited us to various Asian diversity events and even offered us a discount on an East Coast Asian diversity conference. For the same reason that individuals join NPC sororities (sisterhood, national connections, perhaps a living group), The ability to connect with individuals on a national scale is what we hope to benefit from. In addition, we receive recruitment and financial support, which will allow us MIT members to focus on the most important matter at hand - selecting the girls that we feel will most benefit the sisterhood both now and for the future. Also, personally, the philanthropy that our chosen sorority supports (I cannot disclose our selection publicly, by request of the sorority) resonates particularly strongly with me due to prior experiences, and I really want to contribute to it as a member of the sorority that sponsors it. I suppose you can say that we could do that as a club too, but all of the above items come together to make our final decision. If you have further questions, feel free to email me to ask.

23
Anonymous about 7 years ago

Of the sororities mentioned in the article, only Kappa Phi Lambda has two chapters in the Boston area. Why all the secrecy?

24
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

23: I apologize for the poor wording my initial comment. I did not state that the two chapters we visited with were from the same sorority (in fact, they weren't). Regardless, all NAPA sororities request that interest groups do not affiliate with the national organization by name for the same reason that one does not wear a sorority or fraternity's letters before they are actual members -- it is disrespectful to the organization, especially when we as an interest group still do not know all of the histories and detailed principles of said organization.

25
Anonymous about 7 years ago

This is to the individual who said V was only using ADT and AKPsi as resume filler. I can't speak for AKPsi since I'm not in it, but I've seen how much time and effort she puts into ADT. If that's the way you fill your resume, she has given up a lot to do that, and she cares about her members a lot. You must not be an ADT member if you can blindly claim she doesn't care about us.

26
Mneme about 7 years ago

Just out of curiosity, what do you, Ms. Lee, define as "Asian"? For example, would you consider someone of Turkish, Indonesian or Malaysian ancestry to be Asian?

27
Vivian Lee about 7 years ago

For 26: yes, I consider all of geographical Asia to be Asian - it is one of my biggest beliefs that a lot of stereotyping comes about due to this insensitivity. However, most of the sororities under NAPA are East Asian interest, and the one we selected is East Asian interest. There are some other varieties, however - I believe one of the Deltas in NAPA is a South Asian interest sorority. If I had the capacity, I would love to focus on all of Asia, but due to limited ability and focus, we have chosen an East Asian interest sorority.