Asian-interest Greek groups grow at CMU

by Brittany McCandless
Assistant News Editor

As students of a school that prides itself on cultural diversity and awareness, members of Asian-interest Greek organizations want their peers to be aware of where they stand.
?Sometimes it looks like we?re Asian and we?re a separate Greek community. That?s not the case. We?re part of the whole Greek community. There shouldn?t be a division,? said junior business major Jea Suh, the president of Pi Delta Psi, a Greek fraternity which centers on promoting awareness of Asian culture.
Currently there are four Asian-interest Greek organizations on campus. Pi Delta Psi and Lambda Phi Epsilon are fraternities, and Kappa Phi Lambda and alpha Kappa Delta Phi are sororities. Pi Delta Psi, initiated in December 2001, was the first Asian-interest Greek community on campus, and it has since attained chapter status. The other three organizations, still relatively new, are considered ?colonies? and are working toward becoming chapters.
Although not members of the Inter-Fraternity or Panhellenic Councils, the organizations send representatives to Greek Council meetings, and Kappa Phi Lambda and Pi Delta Psi are currently involved in the creation of the Multi-Greek Council. The Multi-Greek Council, similar to IFC and Panhel, will have its own constitution, and may include CMU members of Kappa Alpha Psi, an African-American?interest fraternity that draws its members from the surrounding areas in participating cities rather than specific schools.
Like many of the Panhellenic sororities, one of the focuses of these Asian-interest organizations is service. For example, alpha Kappa Delta Phi focuses on fighting breast cancer, and Kappa Phi Lambda directs its attention to the Red Cross and the fight against domestic violence.
The distinguishing factor of these groups, however, is their focus on exploring and celebrating Asian culture. ?What we try to do is to bring Asian awareness to the campus. We feel there?s a lot of misunderstanding, and we try to break the stereotypes and educate people about who we are,? said junior materials science and engineering major Henry Chou, the vice president of Pi Delta Psi.
In addition to celebrating Asian holidays, the groups try to educate the campus about Asian culture by holding community activities. Some of the events in which the groups are active include the International Food Festival, Night Market, and Asian Heritage Month.
One important misconception about the organizations is their perceived exclusivity. Each of the four groups accepts members of any race, ethnicity, or cultural background who are interested in exploring Asian culture.
?It?s going to take time for people to be more comfortable with being with mostly Asians,? said Ranie Guo, president of alpha Kappa Delta Phi and a junior business administration major.
?It?s a family,? agreed junior Eric Hong, president of Lambda Phi Epsilon. ?It?s about who you get along with.? According to Hong, the University of Kansas chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon is 50 percent Caucasian-American.
?We?re not exclusive ? we accept everyone. We feel that cultural diversity is one of the traits of our fraternity, and within our fraternity there?s a lot of diversity. We have brothers from all around the world,? said Suh, whose fraternity includes a brother of Indian-Italian descent and a brother from Mauritius. Suh also explained that the pledging process of Pi Delta Psi fosters learning and understanding about the brothers? roots.
Recruitment and pledging for the groups is largely on an initiative basis. The brothers and sisters put up flyers, hand out pamphlets, and rely on word of mouth for attracting members.
?In that sense, it?s harder for us. The other groups have FMR. We work hard to get to know girls on an individual basis,? said Guo. ?We do try to get to know people, but it?s a two-way street. If they think we?re exclusive, it hurts us. It would be better for us if people tried to get to know us too.?
?I think we?re perceived as being exclusive because it?s easy to visually see us as being Asian and looking very similar. People tend to jump to conclusions that we?re just a bunch of Asian girls without really giving us a chance and getting to know us,? said junior business major Na Young Joe, president of Kappa Phi Lambda.
The members of the Asian-interest Greek groups expressed hope that time will bring acceptance. ?We want to integrate more,? said Hong. To initiate this integration, Hong represented his fraternity this year in Kappa Alpha Theta?s ?Mr. Fraternity? fundraiser. ?I think it will take some time since we?re still new.?
Kappa Phi Lambda has also made plans to integrate with the community, which include co-sponsoring a campus-wide blood drive and being the first cultural Greek organization to build a blitz booth at Carnival.
?It has to do with us getting to know the community and having the community get to know and accept us,? said Guo.
In the meantime, these Greeks will continue to educate and celebrate Asian heritage.
?The Greek system should be representative of the whole population. It should fill the needs of everyone in the community,? said Suh. ?Once we get to know other people in other organizations, they?ll realize that we aren?t that different. We?re all CMU students.?