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Student brings first Black sorority to NYU

Courtenay Brown | 8/29/2013, 11:02 a.m. | Updated on 8/29/2013, 11:02 a.m.

According to New York University (NYU) junior Tiana Morrison, her university has been in want of a Black Greek organization for far too long.

“NYU has sororities and fraternities from all different cultures, but none that represent the Black community,” said Morrison, who has always been interested in joining a Black sorority. “That lack of an option is detrimental to promoting diversity and allowing support for the minority community.”

While NYU boasts more than 20 Greek organizations, including “multicultural” chapters such as a South Asian sorority, an Asian Pacific fraternity and Hispanic sororities, none of the historically Black fraternities or sororities, known as the “Divine Nine,” have yet to be recognized by the university. 

Now, that has changed. Sigma Gamma Rho, one of the four historically Black sororities that has more than 500 chapters around the world, will be considered an “interest group” in the fall, which is the first of a three-step process for organizations to become official charters at NYU. Morrison has been working on chartering Sigma Gamma Rho for a year now, and NYU’s process can take anything from a few semesters to a few years.

According to the NYU fraternity and sorority life recognition policy, each step requires that the organization submit applications and extensive paperwork from the national organization’s headquarters, and host three events. With already more than 20 girls interested, Morrison hopes to reach full chartering by spring of 2014.

“I am surrounded with driven individuals who want this to happen, so we will be plowing through these stages,” Morrison said.

At Gallatin, NYU’s school of individualized study, Morrison focuses her studies on empowerment models that will help integrate youth so they will be able to contribute positively to society. She juggles that along with her involvement in many Black organizations on campus, including the Caribbean Students Association, Black Student Union and the Diversity Internship and Career Preparation through NYU’s Center for Career Development.

Minority-focused organizations like these do exist on campus, even though the university sports a fairly low rate of Black enrollment. According to the official enrollment demographics released by the university in 2012, Blacks represented 4.4 percent of the undergraduate and graduate student population, while whites represented nearly 40 percent of the entire student population. Morrison hopes that the establishment of the first Black organization on campus will serve as an incentive for more minorities to apply to and attend NYU.

“Sorority life is an important part of a college experience, and I know that it plays a big role in a high school student’s college decision,” Morrison said. “They would come into NYU knowing they are getting the best professors, resources and support system.”

Several NYU students are happy to see the university take a step toward having more diverse groups on campus.

“NYU has never really seemed open to the idea [of a Black sorority], so the fact that there is something of this sort on campus now is awesome,” said Mariah Rodgers, who is involved in other clubs for minorities on campus. “It’s a great move in the right direction, toward progression.”

Morrison wants the chartering of Sigma Gamma Rho to amp up the minority participation on- and off-campus while showcasing another culture and tradition that other NYU students may never have been exposed to.

“Bringing Sigma Gamma Rho to NYU will also dissolve the tainted picture of Black Greek organizations and hopefully open the doors for more sororities and fraternities to come to NYU,” Morrison said.