Allegheny holds open community meeting to discuss potential addition to campus Greek life

Multiple members of the Allegheny College community and representatives from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. held an open meeting Wednesday, April 4, to discuss possible expansion of the sorority at Allegheny.

Jamilia Gates, vice president of the sorority’s Erie-based Rho Sigma Zeta graduate chapter, introduced the sorority. She said it was founded in 1920 at Howard University and was the first organization to have a chapter in Africa.

“We’re a very inclusive organization,” Gates said. “We accept all creeds, all nationalities. You’ve just got to be a woman, that’s the requirement.”

Gates said graduate chapters such as Rho Sigma Zeta filled a supervisory role and were not affiliated with a specific university.

“Graduate chapter doesn’t mean you have to be in grad school, it means you’ve already graduated,” Gates said.

Meko Gray, president of Rho Sigma Zeta, explained undergraduate chapters had to periodically report to graduate chapters, such as Rho Sigma Zeta.

“Every undergraduate chapter, they have to report to the graduate chapter yearly and make sure that they’re implementing programs according to how they should be done on campus, make sure you’re following protocol as necessary,” Gray said.

Gray said Zeta Phi Beta, in accordance with Allegheny policy, required students to complete twelve credits and maintain a 2.5 GPA in order to hold membership.

“We are looking for women who are already active in organizations, so programming, service-oriented, classy women that have some type of quality to them. That’s something that we would be looking for,” Gray said.

Gray discussed Zeta Phi Beta’s Zetas Helping Other People Excel national mentoring program. While chapters can do some of their own programming, Gray said ZHOPE is a national initiative which provides outreach programs targeted to five populations: international women, the elderly, women, youth and men. Each campus would have programming focused on different topics for each campus, according to Gray. For a campus such as Allegheny, these programs might range from topics such as breast cancer awareness to job interview tips, Gray said.

“What we would do is we would find programming that fits the needs of the campus,” Gray said. “So there are programs that fit specifically for campuses.”

Gray said each chapter’s programming was approved beforehand by its respective graduate chapter.

“We need to know what you guys would be doing on campus,” Gray said. “You can’t just do something on your own. It has to be approved. You’re required, as a graduate chapter that would oversee the undergraduate chapter, somebody has to be present.”

Gray stressed the importance of a potential Allegheny Zeta Phi Beta chapter collaborating on events and service initiatives with other organizations on campus.

“We would look for that collaboration,” Gray said. “We’re not coming to be separate from everything else.”

Tanisha Morgan, treasurer of Rho Sigma Zeta, said the initial pledge class of a potential Zeta Phi Beta chapter would require at least five members. After the first year, however, there is no set number.

“Sometimes it’s three; sometimes it’s one. It could be fifteen, it could be ten. There is no set number after the chapter’s initially chartered,” Morgan said.

Gray said the discussion about Zeta Phi Beta starting a chapter at Allegheny was initiated when the organization was asked to consider expanding to the college.

“When we get reached out to in Zeta, you answer the call of Zeta,” Gray said. “That’s part of our national hymn.”

Gretchen Beck, associate dean of Student Leadership and Involvement, said in order for a fraternity or sorority to start a chapter at Allegheny, there had to be mutual interest from not only the organization, but also from students on campus. Once there is mutual interest, the parties involved hold discussions and give students a chance to voice their opinions.

We’re a very inclusive organization.

— Jamila Gates, Zeta Phi Beta Vice President

“And those conversations, as you can hear, they’ve been happening for a while, and each of the organizations that have come back recently, those conversations have taken place,” Beck said. “And once we realize those things are in place, then we start the process.”

Ultimately, Beck said the organization needs the approval of the Allegheny Board of Trustees in order to come to campus. Beck said Zeta Phi Beta plans to submit a request for approval during the upcoming meeting in May.

Steven Heine
Interested Allegheny community members sit in an open meeting to discuss possible expansion of Greek life on campus in the Henderson Campus Center on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.

Beck said she has not experienced a case in which an organization was specifically denied an expansion bid.

“Usually what happens is an organization asks to be put on the agenda, and they’re told ‘not now,’” Beck said. “But this organization is on the agenda for the meeting. So we’ve got to that point.”

Beck said the expansion policy required any Greek organization on campus to be nationally affiliated.

“You can’t just wander into the office one day and talk to Brittany and I and say ‘we’re going to start our own sorority,’” Beck said.

Isis Offutt, ’19, said she attended the talk because she was interested in learning more about Zeta Phi Beta. Offut said she first became interested in the organization when exploring their website and reading about their commitment to character and service.

“I’ve already looked online a few times, and it was really cool, so it’s always interesting to see other organizations come on campus and the possibility of that,” Offutt said.

Gates said Zeta Phi Beta values members who can demonstrate their unique ability to enhance the organization.

“They’ve been around for 98 years,” Gates said. “So what can you bring to Zeta to make us better, you know what I mean? To grow this organization and grow the love that we have in it.”

Gates stressed the lifelong impact membership in organizations affiliated with the National Panhellenic Council, such as Zeta Phi Beta, can have on a person.

“When you go to a new job, and you see someone with letters that are NPHC, that makes your whole day,” Gates said. “It could be nobody in there. But seeing that one person, automatically, you have a mutual understanding of what you may have done, or how you got to this point or whatever in the organization.”