It is no secret that Greek life is a large culture on the UC Merced campus. Everywhere you go there are people wearing their letters, representing their organization whether it be professional or social. In the upcoming Spring our campus will be widening the doors of diversity by starting chapters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority from the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
The NPHC (also referred to as the Divine Nine as there are nine organizations in the council) was created on Howard University, Washington DC campus in 1930. It was founded during a time of intense racial segregation towards African American people. Black folks were not allowed to join the already existing Greek organizations, so they formed their own and created a separate council, despite the discrimination they faced. NPHC is an important accomplishment in the African American culture. The orgs were developed to instill African Americans with a sense of pride and belonging. It was imperative that they held each other to high standards and expected nothing but the best behavior from all members. They needed to prove that they had as much class as their white counterparts.
The NPHC fraternities and sororities also introduced “stepping” (a sort of dance that involves stomping and clapping to make a beat with your body) to the Greek world and used that as a form of expression. Stepping brought great pride and celebration to their community. The dance has now become a phenomenon across the entire African American community and is performed in showcases and competitions across the nation.
It is incredible to see organizations from this council come to UC Merced. As the most diverse UC campus, it is important to have resources for all the different identities that call the university their home. Through Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta having a presence within our Fraternity and Sorority Life, African American students will have more of a chance to embrace different parts of their culture and give students who do not identify as this race/ethnicity to learn about this particular culture.
Students have been pushing to bring black Greek life to campus for years. Their traditions and processes are different to what we have seen in the past from the organizations already present on campus. Having this diversity will be a great addition to our blossoming campus. It will be very wonderful to see what Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta will contribute to Greek life here at UC Merced.