Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A cause for celebration

Multicultural sorority marks 10th anniversary at MSU

Accounting senior and Zeta Sigma Chi President Jennifer Tindle spray-paints the rock on Farm Lane with her sorority's logo during a barbecue held in honor of the sorority's 10-year anniversary on Thursday evening. —

When founded in spring 1996, the multicultural sorority Zeta Sigma Chi had just four members.

The group's membership dwindled to as few as two people a semester later.

Now, as the sorority celebrates its 10th year at MSU, Zeta Sigma Chi's membership has expanded to 15 members, current President Jennifer Tindle said.

"It's really special," Tindle said of the anniversary. "We're a young sorority, and we're really small, too. I can call up our founders anytime, and just by talking to them, they say it's amazing that it's been 10 years.

"They're really excited to see how it's grown."

Melissa Hernandez, who founded the MSU chapter with three other women, said she didn't understand the long-lasting effect Zeta Sigma Chi would have on the university.

"I didn't realize the magnitude of what we were doing," Hernandez said. "I didn't think that 10 years down the road we may not be there. I was living in that year and just trying to get a few people interested."

Gabriela Saenz, adviser for the Independent Greek Council, an advisory board for multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus, said there is more interest in these groups now than there was when Zeta Sigma Chi was founded.

"Multicultural greek organizations have really grown in the last 20 years, along with other racial- or ethnic-specific organizations," Saenz said.

Hernandez decided to be part of the new sorority when Dominica Rojas-Dixon, who helped found Zeta Sigma Chi in 1996, went to a Culturas de las Razas Unidas meeting and recruited women to join the new MSU chapter of the national sorority.

"With the mainstream sororities, we really didn't feel like we fit in there, and we were looking for an organization that met our needs," Hernandez said. "We saw that it was multicultural, not just focused on one culture, but (focused) on how the world is, with different cultures."

Tindle said the organization is one of three multicultural sororities on campus. She said the group calls itself multicultural to let the greater community know it is accepting of all cultures, races and ethnicities — especially through the programs the sorority sponsors — and to distinguish itself from the mainstream greek organizations.

There are a number of ways that multicultural greek groups can meet their standards of multiculturalism, Saenz said.

Each group has its own constitution, which spells out the requirements that need to be met in order to be considered a multicultural sorority or fraternity — such as accepting people from all backgrounds, completing community service projects geared toward multicultural issues and educating society on gender, class or racial matters, she said.

Eight multicultural greek organizations make up the Independent Greek Council, but Zeta Sigma Chi isn't a member and is not required to join.

The University of Michigan has eight multicultural greek organizations — five sororities and three fraternities — and Central Michigan University has two multicultural sororities.

Jaclyn McAfee, the national president of Zeta Sigma Chi, was one of the founding members of the U-M branch. She said the sorority has expanded because of a need for a multicultural group for women.

"Most of our chapters were founded on campuses where there were no other cultural sororities," she said. "They needed an organization for women who didn't want to be in their own group, but in something that broadened their horizons and (taught them) more than just what they could learn in the classroom."

Hernandez said she still has a hard time realizing the influence she and three friends had on campus by following through with their idea, even 10 years later.

"It's not until someone points it out to me that it really hits home," she said. "It's like, 'Wow, we did this,' and it's a really powerful feeling."

Laura Misjak can be reached at misjakla@msu.edu.

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