By Essence White
McKendree is a very proud university, full of proud students, faculty, and sports teams. The students happily sport clothing or accessories that display the teams and organizations that they are part of on campus. Although this university is filled with lots of pride, what does one do when the university does not offer anything to represent what you are truly proud of?
African-American students do not have a strong presence at McKendree. According to the McKendree Fact Book for 2016-2017, African-American students make up only 13.11%, which is 385 students, of the total 2,937 students at McKendree.
Because there is not a strong presence of African-American students and culture on campus, many of them feel alone. To combat this, African-American students here at McKendree frequently attend Greek life events hosted by black sororities and fraternities at other universities. These events vary and often center on charity, food, or dancing.
Based on various social media posts one can see how students express their love of going to these events, connect with other African-American college students, and be themselves. The Greek life events make the desire to have a black sorority and fraternity at McKendree even stronger.
Quite a few times students have mentioned to Greek live the desire to bring a black sorority or fraternity to McKendree. However, they always end up getting the same response: the university is trying their best to begin the process. How do we know that they really are?
To check on this, I interviewed Brandon Perjak, who is one of the coordinators of Greek Life at McKendree. I asked if Greek life was aware of the high demand for a black sorority and fraternity. There was no new information on black fraternity but he did have something to mention in regards to a black sorority: “Yes we’re aware, especially since there’s a group of women who are very interested in bringing one of the national sororities to campus,” said Perjak. “So we’ve been in talks with them and it’s our focus to bring one of the Divine Nine sororities.”
The Divine Nine is the collective name used to refer to the nine historically African-American, international Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities. The five fraternities are Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Phi Beta Sigma. The four sororities are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho. Out of these four sororities, one of them has the potential of starting a chapter here at McKendree University.
“We’ve been in conversation with some of them”, said Perjack. “We can only bring one new sorority or fraternity to campus at a time.” He went on to say that their goal right now, if possible, is to start the chartering process for black sororities interested in starting a chapter here at McKendree in the spring or fall of 2018. The process to bring a new sorority or fraternity to campus can take up to multiple years to accomplish. I wondered if there was anything students could do to help speed up the process. “The thing you could be doing now is continue to garner interest,” states Perjak. “The more women we have that are interested, the more likely that these groups are going to come here.”
After speaking with Perjak, it was a great to know that the voices of students have been heard but this does not mean that students should stop pursuing the demand. African-American students at McKendree should continue to spark interest by speaking up, especially in the case for getting a black fraternity here. It is important that African-American students have a strong presence on campus in order to make their mark here at McKendree. In addition to increasing the African-American presence on campus, the Divine Nine would bring more scholarships and job opportunities through networking within the organizations. Also, McKendree University would benefit from the donations that the organizations in the Divine Nine frequently donate to colleges. The Divine Nine would not only be a great investment for McKendree’s students but for the future of the university as a whole.