In 2001, the first Asian-interest Greek organization, Pi Delta Psi (PDP) appeared at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). In the following years, other Asian-interest ones appeared. Compared to the Greek organizations that have existed at CMU for over a hundred years, these Asian-interest ones are like babies. So maybe it was expected that these young, Asian-interest Greek organizations would face initial resentment. But, being called racists by a writer on CMU’s student newspaper, was probably the last hostility that they expected to face.
In 2004, when I was a freshman at CMU, three other Asian-interest Greek organizations appeared, which included alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi), Kappa Phi Lambda (KPL), and Lambda Phi Epsilon (LPE). Most of these organizations’ charters were seniors or have already graduated. Therefore, I only heard through the grapevine about how the student body viewed the organization when they first appeared at CMU.
The comments about them revolved around the conception that Asian-interest Greek organizations did not welcome members who were not Asian. There were also stories about how other Greek organizations were hostile towards them. For instance, a charter of my sorority, Kappa Phi Lambda, told me that when KPL started at CMU, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority told them that they could not wear gears with “Kappas” on them. She said that “Kappas” referred to KKG so KPL had no right to wear gears that referred to KKG. Then, there was the non-grapevine source, the article published in The Tartan, written by Sean Mintus in 2002, that called Asian Greeks racists.
I first heard about it in 2005 when Alexander Su wrote an editorial on The Tartan that included his reaction to Mintus’ article. Su said, “Three years ago, as I sat in the UC black chairs, I could not believe what I was reading in The Tartan. I had been aware of the cynicism that the school newspaper had always expressed toward Asian student organizations, but this one was particularly hurtful. Although the editorial may have been written solely to deliberately elicit a response from the community, it was still published. Sean Mintus, a senior staffwriter, pointed out that Asian Greeks were groups that promoted exclusiveness and ran counter to the ideals of cultural diversity.”
Mintus’s editorial was not available online but a friend of mine who still works for the newspaper was kind enough to find it and scan it.
Parts of Mintus’s editorial (published on February 4, 2002 in The Tartan) stated, “Phi Delta Psi is seeking national recognition. I honestly have no idea how all of this ludicrous bullshit came to be, but I intend to strike it down here and now. As a member of the Greek system here, I have never seen – in my house or any other – any discrimination based on color, race, creed, religion, etc. Yes, fraternities and sororities handpick their members. We argue whether or not certain individual would fit into our organization…Selecting our members based on their apparent ability to bring something to our organizations is both our blessing and our curse. But we do NOT approve or deny membership based on heritage. PDP does. Sure, according to Tom Liou, president of PDP, his fraternity has no intention of discriminating in any way. Then why not address yourself simply as a “fraternity” seeking local and national recognition, Tom? Why do you feel the need to separate yourself based on your ancestry? If I were to go and start a white-bread/Irish/cracker/drunkard/Christian fraternity, I’d be accused of cross burning and have my testicles removed with bolt cutters in a public forum. We have a word for this, kids. It’s called “racist.” It’s just that nobody has bothered to use it because those committing the act aren’t white…”
The full part of his column that called PDP racist can be viewed below.
After I read it, I was really only bothered by one part of it – that Mintus spelled “Pi Delta Psi” with “Phi.”
Ok, really though, my initial response was similar to Su’s reaction. I also “fit the exact profile of the exclusive Asian [Mintus] was describing.”
Most of my friends are Asians and most of the organizations that I was involved in were about being Asian. Heck, I was even a member of one of the Asian-interest Greek organizations. Whatever my reasons are for having mostly Asian friends or being involved in organizations revolving around being Asian are not because I think my race is superior. I chose them based on how much I click with the people in them and my common interests with them. I can’t help it if whomever I enjoy spending time with happens to be people of the Asian descent.
“Asian Greeks” are not racists.
Pi Delta Psi is an “Asian Cultural Interest Fraternity,” not Asian exclusive fraternity. Although Mintus seems to acknowledge this, he does not believe in it. He implied this in, “Sure, according to Tom Liou, president of PDP, his fraternity has no intention of discriminating in any way. Then why not address yourself simply as a “fraternity” seeking local and national recognition, Tom?” Mintus was aware that Liou said PDP has no intention of discriminating anyone in any way but he does not believe that PDP conforms to this.
While I disagree with Mintus’s accusation that PDP is being racists because they are an Asian-interest Greek organization, I can see how easy it is to perceive Asian-interest organizations as Asian-exclusive. During the early years of these organizations’ establishment, their members were all or predominantly Asians. When people see the members of these organizations, it would be “natural” for them to assume that they only recruit members of the Asian descent. Hence, the conception that they are “Asian-exclusive” is formed.
But, did Mintus have evidence that potential members were denied membership to PDP because of their “color [or] race?” Being an Asian-interest Greek myself at CMU, I know that no potential members were ever denied membership to my sorority based on their color or race. Though, we did deny membership because we find that potential members wouldn’t click with our members. But, believe it or not, we are not racists.
I think that people join organizations in college to form new relationships, to work toward similar goals or to spend time with people with similar interests and backgrounds. So what if that common interest is to raise awareness of a certain heritage or culture? People’s interest in doing so does not mean that they believe that their race is superior.
Had Mintus researched more about these Asian-interest Greek’s missions or maybe talked to members of these organizations, he would have realized that they do not advocate Asian-exclusiveness or superiority of the Asian race.
This post is not intended for Mintus but intended for the active members of college organizations. Find out the process that the founders or charters of your organizations went through to establish the organization. What obstacles did they face? Why? Do these obstacles still exist? Does your organization’s action conform to its mission? If not, do something about it. Change what you’re doing. Change the organization’s mission. Or quit and join another organization.
Being falsely accused hurts more than being negatively (and correctly) accused. Or we could all care less because college students have better things to do like studying at the library or buying disposable shot cups for parties.
Lastly, in 2005, The Tartan, did publish an article informing others that Asian-interest Greek organizations are not “Asian-exclusive.”