The Student News Site of Illinois Wesleyan University

The Argus

The Argus

The Student News Site of Illinois Wesleyan University

The Argus

The Student News Site of Illinois Wesleyan University

The Argus

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Zeta Phi Beta, IWU’s first Black Greek Letter?

President Cross (left) and Dr. Gibbs (right) at Zeta Phi Beta’s informational event

Last week was Rush Week at Illinois Wesleyan University and students interested in Greek life met with sororities or fraternities on campus. This year things were a little different and IWU invited Zeta Phi Beta, a historically Black sorority, to campus. 

The week is organized with the help of IWU’s College Panhellenic Council, which is mainly concerned with recruitment. CPH also emphasized the importance of being a safe and open environment for students during the recruitment process. “Greek life has declined nationwide,” President of CPH Lindsey Haan ‘24 said. “My goal for this recruitment is to open up the community for all students.”

But perhaps the most important change to Greek life at IWU is the potential addition of Zeta Phi Beta, which originated at Howard University in 1920. Working with CPH, Zeta attended the RSO fair at the beginning of the semester and the “Meet the Greeks” event on September 14. 

IWU’s very own Dr. Michelle Gibbs, head of the Theatre Arts program and an Assistant Professor, has been a Zeta since 2016. She is currently a member of their graduate chapter in Bloomington-Normal and holds the title of Third Anti-Vice President. 

“Our goal for establishing a chapter at IWU is to foster the energy of strength, unity and goodness that our communities today need,” Gibbs said. “Black Greek Letter organizations are vital to the cultural and social character of a campus.”

The Black Greek Letter organizations, also called the Divine 9, date all the way back to the early 1900’s. “These organizations represented a deeper meaning of community to Black Americans,” Area Director Lex Epps said. 

Epps, a graduate of Illinois State University, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, another historically Black sorority. 

“The value is having options for people to choose the right organization for them that aligns with who they are,” Epps said. “The impact of having Zeta is not only creating a safe space but having their commitment to scholarship and service.”

Zeta held an informational meeting on Thursday, September 21 and welcomed interested people. Among some of the bonding activities were creating secret handshakes, personal introductions and getting to know the sorority’s values (and their signature blue color). 

“Finer womanhood is about recognizing that as Black women, we have value and a responsibility to uphold one another,” First Vice President Shwanda Cross said. “What we’re striving for is to be good, to each other and our community.”

Attendees responded positively and with curiosity, asking about future events and engaging with the present leaders from the sorority. Many of the attendees have close relatives who were a part of Zeta during their collegiate years and were encouraged to pledge. 

“At first I wasn’t gonna pledge, but since it’s people of color — we gonna do it,” one of the attendees said. Zeta Phi Beta would be the first historically Black Greek life organization at IWU. 

“Despite sororities being open to all groups on campus, it is more than understandable to want to affiliate with a sorority of your own community and every woman on campus deserves that opportunity,” Haan said. 

Zeta Phi Beta needs five members to establish a chapter at IWU and has over 125,000 members nationwide and internationally. 

“A common misconception about our group is that we only accept Black members. This is completely untrue,” Gibbs said. “We are a historically Black sorority of predominantly Black women who are committed to diversity and inclusion, but we have women of all races and ethnic backgrounds who desire to be part of our collective mission.”

Zeta will host events over the next several months to help create a community at IWU and strengthen bonds with interested members. Their next event will be on October 4, in IWU’s maker space, where attendees will be making bracelets together and getting to know one another. 

“When you join Zeta, you’re a sister for life,” Cross said.   

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