UK official urges ‘segregated’ Greeks to cooperate

By Josey Montana McCoy

Mahjabeen Rafiuddin wants to end the separation between black and white Greek communities at UK.

“You can look at the way the Greek community is set up, and it is blatantly segregated,” said Rafiuddin, the director of UK student diversity engagement. “Nobody questions why the black and white Greeks don’t cooperate.”

Rafiuddin, who joined UK in November 2006, developed an Inter Greek Relations Project plan this summer aimed at bringing Greek leaders together for six roundtable discussions.

The project — It’s All Greek to Me — will challenge black and white sororities and fraternities to practice better cooperation.

“Student leaders aren’t inclusive,” she said. “How do you bring together a group of exclusive people and ask them to be inclusive?”

Separation of white and black Greek communities on campus begins at the top, Rafiuddin said. Each Greek organization has separate assistants who have graduated that oversee their community.

The Interfraternity Council oversees white fraternities, the Panhellenic Council oversees white sororities and the National Pan-Hellenic Council oversees both black sororities and fraternities.

Rafiuddin wants to see the leaders, along with student members, support and promote each other, while joining together more often for Greek events, she said.

Kimber Hatton, a committee chair at Delta Sigma Theta, a historically black sorority, has volunteered two semesters with student diversity engagement and believes one person’s initiative can spark a movement.

“Greek relations are very big at UK and very influential,” said Hatton, a junior nursing major. “I believe if (students) see black and white Greeks unite, then non-Greeks will also unite.”

Patrick Nally began working with multicultural student affairs in Jan. 2006 and said the Inter Greek Relations Project is meant to build relationships, not just provide a photo opportunity. UK should embrace the initiative, said Nally, a marketing and integrated strategic communications junior, because the university is meant to improve students.

In return, he said students should make the university better.

“As long as there are divisions between Greeks, the work is going to be cut short,” Nally said.

Jenni Von Deylen, Panhellenic Council leadership and diversity training chair at UK, said she believes it is important for Greeks to join together and get their name out on campus.

“We are starting what needs to happen,” Von Deylen said.

Diversity problems extend beyond race, Rafiuddin said, and also include differences in economic class and the culture in which students were raised.

Students who do not have enough money to join a Greek community are affected on campus, Rafiuddin said. Those not in a sorority or fraternity, or involved with another organization, should strive for more understanding and cooperation among cultures, she said.

“Student diversity engagement wants to know if you are not a Greek or an athlete, who are you on campus?” Rafiuddin said. “Does campus bring the world to you? Do you open your mind?”

Rafiuddin keeps a quote by Howard Zinn posted in her 5th floor office in Patterson office tower that reads, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train. You can and must act against injustice.”

“We are on a mobile train of globalization,” she said. “If we don’t prepare our students, we are doing a disservice.”