Students at Iowa State shared why having an enormous group of sisters, brothers or siblings in the same organization that are going to the same school might be compelling.
Iowa State currently has 58 sororities and fraternities; 13 of those are of interest to students who belong in marginalized groups, including Black/African American, Latinx, Asian and students who identify as LGBTQIA+, according to the Iowa State Sorority and Fraternity Engagement.
For many marginalized students, the importance of these sororities and fraternities shines through in the community they build and the preservation of history it holds.
“Multicultural and historically Black, African American fraternities and sororities are important because there are a lot of traditions these organizations have that are important for them and their history,” said Shuang Li, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and member of Delta Phi Lambda. “… It’s important they exist, that there’s a diverse experience.”
Jeremiah Reed, a senior in biology and vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said historically Black/African American fraternities were originally formed at Iowa State because they weren’t allowed in fraternities already established.
“We were outcasted,” Reed said.
Brian Deo, a senior in entrepreneurship and president of Pi Alpha Phi, said the fraternity he belongs to was founded on the discrimination against Asians. They wanted to bring Asians on campus together and create awareness.
“It helps people who don’t feel like [they] fit in with normal fraternities … find a group of their own that they fit in and help them feel comfortable,” Deo said. “… It doesn’t matter what race you are, what culture you come from, we won’t care.”
Students also validate the importance of these organizations in a predominately white institute like Iowa State.
“Since the institution is predominately white, it’s definitely more important to have diverse organizations to feel supported for whatever they’re advocating for,” Li said.
“It’s important for people of color in a predominately white institute,” Reed said. “… [There’s] a sense of belonging being around people who look like you, share the same culture as you, share the same standards that you have.”
Many students said their experience in a multicultural or Black/African American sorority or fraternity is important for them personally, too.
“Knowing that I’m in a community where I know I’m supported to advocate for people, … it enriches my college experience, and for me, personally, to have a group of people who … support each other toward a common goal,” Li said.
Like Li, Reed also expressed the fondness of having a support system that bonds personally.
“I grew up around mostly white individuals,” Reed said. “I didn’t have a lot of black peers that I could look up or relate to. … I had a group of brothers that I could relate to, that I can rely on … and could understand the experiences you’re going through.”
Li continued to emphasize having a support system in college.
“It’s important everyone feels supported in their college experience,” Li said.