Greek Life. Just about every college or university has one. Whether that school’s Greek life is predominately black, white, or multicultural depends on the school. But most originated from some desire for student bonding, and fraternities have been around for centuries.
Greek lettered organizations are a variation of old-style secret societies, and while Greek organizations still keep some secrets, most are fairly visible on college campuses.
The first Greek letter organization was Phi Beta Kappa, established in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Phi Beta Kappa set the precedent for future Greek letter organizations by having secret rituals, handshakes and meanings that many Greek letter organizations still have today.
As time passed, Greek letter organizations evolved into large, nationwide groups. These organizations became so popular and sizable that the need for a governing body became apparent.
Today, four different councils govern various fraternities and sororities: the Interfraternity Council governs traditionally white fraternities, the National Panhellenic Conference governs traditionally white sororities, the National Pan-Hellenic Council governs historically black fraternities and sororities, and the National Multicultural Greek Council governs multicultural fraternities and sororities.
It is rare that a person will attend a predominately white institution that has all four Greek councils. In fact, few colleges nationwide have representation by all four councils.
Northwest Missouri State University, a predominately white institution, has a Greek Life that is composed of three councils: IFC, NPC and NPHC. NPHC is the smallest of the Greek organizations at Northwest, and as such, it’s typically the least well known.
NPHC hosts just four Northwest organizations: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated; and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Chapter sizes range from three to seven members, making some members feel left out of the larger Green groups on campus.
“I feel like NPHC and its organizations are practically non-existent to the other councils at Northwest,” Zeta Phi Beta member Kyriana Foster said.
The NPHC adviser at Northwest, Anthony MIttan, said while representation has grown, it’s still lacking.
“Representation has come a long ways, but I think there is still a long ways to go,” Mittan said. “Each council doesn’t necessarily understand each other, there’s a lot of education to go around.”
The feeling of being left out and unnoticed is something that NPHC members have felt for quite awhile, but it could also be a feeling that may be dwindling.
“I feel like NPHC is just now starting to get some type of representation by university Greek Life,” said Tationna Johnson, president of NPHC and Delta Sigma Theta member. “Asking past NPHC members about their experiences with how things were ran and handled under Greek Life gave me the motivation and drive to push through with NPHC and make sure that there is some equality for all Greeks on this campus.”
NPHC is an equal opportunity organization. Not being able to join an NPHC organization because you’re not black is a misconception about NPHC, if not the most common one.
NPHC was founded at Howard University in Washington D.C. by chapters of historically black fraternities and sororities. Howard University is also the founding place of five of the nine historically black organizations.
“I think people believe that they can’t join the organization because they are historically black,” said Edward Gibson IV, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
Gibson is also the coordinator of Intercultural Affairs at Northwest and works closely with NPHC members and says this misconception is continuously being disproven.
Most NPHC organizations have chapters overseas allowing for diversity in their membership.
Kyriana Foster is the president of the Omega Sigma chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, at Northwest and she is also white.
“I found out about NPHC while I was in the process of joining my sorority,” Foster said. “I thought it would be a great idea, a way for all of us to organize and come together to take the individual greatness of our chapters and make it even better as a collaboration.”
Despite the push for diverse membership, NPHC chapters struggle for members at predominantly white institutions. At Northwest, the entire NPHC council has roughly 20 members, while both IFC and NPC councils are each well over 100 members.
Small numbers certainly make it challenging to reach out and educate the student body, especially on a subject that the majority of the student body is unfamiliar with.
However, once people become more familiar with the idea of NPHC and get over the misconceptions, then the council will have the potential to grow and prosper.