The road to bring a new sorority to campus is a long one. After a push from students, Chi Upsilon Sigma, Elon University’s only Latina sorority, has emerged.
While 38 percent of female undergraduates are involved in a Greek organization, some women felt that they did not belong in any of the nine pre-existing sororities that make up Elon ’s Panhellenic Council (PHC). The start of a Latina sorority was just a thought for students and is now the introduction of Chi Upsilon Sigma is being celebrated.
A sorority like no other
Senior Ana Brambila has been working toward bringing Chi Upsilon Sigma (CUS) to campus since she was a freshman. She said she noticed a lack of diversity within Elon’s PHC and did not personally identify with any organizations in the National Panhellenic Council.
She began to search for other options, especially for students with Latina backgrounds.
“A group of girls and I did some research on Latina sororities and spoke with Shana Plasters, director of Greek Life,” Brambila said. “We then sent out proposals to Latina sororities nationwide that aligned with Elon’s values.”
According to Plasters, the process for a new sorority to become an official organization on campus takes longer than most students think.
“The Panhellenic Council must vote to add another group and once that happens, the faculty Student Life Committee must approve the organization,” Plasters said. “Then, the nationally recognized Latina sororities are invited to campus to make a presentation.”
In an article published by The Pendulum in September 2014, senior Nikki Payne, who has been working alongside Brambila since the beginning, said she saw the lack of diversity within the Greek community at Elon as well. She said the Latino population is rapidly expanding on campus, and she believes Elon must “provide for this community” by allowing diversity within PHC.
The official recruitment process will begin this coming fall. Although CUS technically falls under PHC control, its recruitment will differ from the nine sororities currently on campus. Plasters said that CUS will not participate in formal recruitment, nor will members be eligible to apply for PHC positions such as president or director of recruitment.
To join CUS, potential new members must attend interest meetings, individually research the organization and reach out to sister chapters, such as the one at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, by attending their events. Women can then become official OWLS, or Organization of Women Looking for Sisterhood. After becoming OWLS, women are initiated into the organization after a new member education process, the length of which varies by chapter.
The women newly interested in joining CUS at Elon have already begun fundraising for the chapter, a significant distinction from existing PHC organizations. Greek Life is known for high new member fees, a price that some students cannot afford or are not willing to pay, which discourages them from participating in recruitment.
CUS wants to make sure its members do not have to fully pay out of pocket.
“We are currently fundraising for the chapter so the girls will have access to those funds and have less of a financial burden,” Brambila said.
Seven Latina women founded Chi Upsilon Sigma at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in April 1980. Its goals were to educate and enrich the community, as well as to “promote and preserve the Latino culture,” according to CUS’s official website. Brambila added that CUS also emphasizes empowering women, and affectionately refers to its members as “women of wisdom.”
“CUS is all about building yourself up with your sisters and working together for the community,” she said.
In the hands of a new generation
Freshman Kaitlin Laureano searched for a Greek organization that would be a good fit for her, but the existing PHC and NPHC sororities did not suffice.
“I came from an all-girls high school, so I knew I wanted to join a sorority,” she said. “The sororities on campus are great, but what is special about CUS is that it is historically Latina. However, it also encourages diversity of all backgrounds within each chapter.”
Laureano learned about CUS after attending an NPHC interest meeting, where she inquired if there were any Latina-based sororities on campus. She discovered CUS and found that its values aligned with her own. Laureano’s appointment as president was made possible because of her enthusiasm and investment in CUS.
“I had attended several interest meetings for CUS, and the senior members were looking for a first-year who could take over and grow with the organization from the start,” Laureano said. “They offered me the opportunity to become president, and I immediately accepted.”
Laureano was initially attracted to CUS’ mission to “educate and elevate women through political and cultural awareness.” Through their work with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which seeks to help children in lower-income areas by providing tutoring and mentoring programs, CUS is doing its part to give back to the community.
Brambila said that each year CUS focuses on a specific event related to women empowerment. This year’s event was Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education. According to its website, CUS strongly believes in the education of young women, which will “break down the cycle of poverty.”
Leaving behind a legacy
The idea to bring a Latina sorority to campus was not pushed by administration or the PHC –– it came directly from Elon students. According to Plasters, Elon has been searching for a way for Greek Life to become more inclusive.
The dedication of Brambila and her peers has allowed the Latina community on campus to have a voice and an identity, attracting students like Laureano to be a part of CUS.
“For a long time on campus, there has been a divide, whether you are a member of PHC or NPHC,” Brambila said. “There was no organization that I identified with personally or that specifically worked with Latina and lower-income populations. I wanted to be a part of a group that works towards a ‘bigger something’ and have that common ground with who I am working with.”
CUS chapters across the country encourage education of members’ individual cultures. For example, a sister chapter recently held a cultural event on hijabs.
CUS’s promotion of diverse cultures correlates with Elon’s recent push for cultural diversity on campus. Through the “A Campus of Difference” seminar offered this Winter Term, freshmen learned to accept all backgrounds and diversity of their peers by learning to “identify strategies to respond effectively to bias.”
Elon’s current undergraduate population consists of 5 percent Hispanic or Latino students. As Laureano noted, students interested in CUS come from different ethnicities and backgrounds, creating a safe haven for those who feel they do not belong in other organizations on campus.
During the past four years, Brambila has worked to bring CUS to campus. Although she will not be able to become an official member, she hopes for a bright future for the organization.
“I believe CUS will succeed because of its openness to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences,” Brambila said. “That’s where the richness and inclusivity comes from, and that’s how CUS will make women feel like they belong.”
Correction 5/26/15: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the length of the new member education process for CUS. The process length varies by chapter; it is not five-six weeks, as originally stated. The Pendulum regrets the error.