Black sorority to bring greek diversity

Baker University will soon have a few more letters in its greek alphabet.

Senior Kelly Vaughan said she and several other Baker women along with university officials have been organizing to petition for the induction of a chapter of the national sorority Zeta Phi Beta, a historically black organization. She said the attempt to bring Zeta Phi Beta to Baker's campus was initiated by junior Michelle Burton.

"The interest has always been there," Vaughan said. "(Baker and some of its students) have been trying to get different sororities here, but it hasn't worked out."

Vaughan noted many times in the past a lack of numbers has prevented new sororities from making it to Baker's campus.

Each national sorority has different criteria that must be met in order to begin a new chapter at a university. It includes factors such as prospective members, letters of recommendation and grade-point averages.

Vaughan said only five members are needed to start a Zeta Phi Beta chapter at Baker.

Vaughan said she and other interested women spoke with a representative from Zeta Phi Beta.

"We asked her a bunch of questions like, 'What has Zeta (Phi Beta) done for you?'" Vaughan said.

Zeta Phi Beta was founded in 1920 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and is one of nine historically black greek letter organizations known as, "The Divine Nine."

Director of Greek Life Bryan Van Osdale has been working with the Baker women interested in joining Zeta Phi Beta, and said the sorority would bring a rich history of culture to Baker's campus.

Van Osdale said though the sorority is historically black, it is open to all races and ethnicities. He also said Zeta Phi Beta is a social organization, but its focus is less on social activities and more on service.

"Their background is more rooted in aspects of community service and service learning," VanOsdale said.

According to the Zeta Phi Beta Web site, the sorority's establishment during a time of national distress caused by the Great Depression helped to form the progressive ideals the sorority hopes to uphold.

According to www.zphib1920.org, "Zeta Phi Beta was founded on the simple belief that sorority elitism and socializing should not overshadow the real mission for progressive organizations - to address societal mores, ills, prejudices, poverty and health concerns of the day."

"One of the things I like, for me personally is that they are so big on community service," Vaughan said. "I mean they are completely and totally dedicated to serving their communities."

Vaughan said she believes Baker has a need for an alternative sorority on campus.

"I know that a lot of freshmen girls participated in rush," Vaughan said. "Of the minority women who participated, the majority of them only got asked back by one house."

VanOsdale said having a historically black sorority would be beneficial in attracting minority students to the university.

"Baker wants to recruit minority students," VanOsdale said. "This can help with keeping them here - it can help retain those students."

VanOsdale said he thinks students will be able to relate to Zeta Phi Beta.

"Everyone likes to feel a sense of their culture and identity," VanOsdale said. "I think Zeta Phi Beta can bring a missing niche to the university."

Vaughan said she and the other interested women were hoping to have all of their forms and application materials completed as quickly as possible.

"We are really dedicated to getting this done," Vaughan said.

VanOsdale said the charter should be received within the next two to three weeks.

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