Assistant Arts Editor
Greek life at La Verne is different than the expectations set by the media, and some other universities – partly because La Verne is a relatively small university.
While several Greek organizations have thrived here for a while, the University has until this academic year lacked it’s own African-American fraternity or sorority.
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, part of the National Panhellenic Council of the Divine Nine historically black fraternities and sororities, is the first African-American Greek organization to be chartered at the University of La Verne.
The sorority, which currently has two members, is actively seeking additional members for spring 2017. Women of all races and ethnicities are welcome to pledge this sorority.
Sophomore criminology major Keyera Collins and sophomore speech communications major Kyerra Green are currently the only active Sigmas on campus, leaving them to hold the roles of Basileus and Anti-Basileus, or president and vice president of the sorority at ULV.
“It’s been a long road but it was worth it,” Collins said. “I’m so proud to wear these letters and I’m so glad I made the decision to join.”
Other historically black organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity have had ULV members via city-wide chapters, but none had been chartered specifically at ULV previously.
The ULV Sigma Gamma Rho chapter has been in the works since 2014, when ULV administration was looking for ways to improve diversity by this year.
Sigma Gamma Rho was also previously represented on campus as an all-city chapter including Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino as well as La Verne in the mid 2000s.
The only member of that previous chapter, Brittney Collins, graduated from ULV in 2009 without recruiting any members – preventing the legacy from being passed on at ULV.
In 2010, the sorority’s western region president granted the members at Cal State San Bernardino their own chapter at their school per their request.
Cal Poly Pomona followed, chartering the Pi Rho chapter exclusively at that school. This got rid of the citywide chapter, leaving Sigma Gamma Rho obsolete at La Verne until 2014.
Meanwhile, a woman who was a senior at La Verne that year reached out to the Pomona Alumnae Chapter, Lambda Gamma Sigma, seeking membership with the sorority.
“That was the beginning of a new chapter,” graduate chapter member Zeretha Washington said.
The vice president Lambda Gamma Sigma presented the idea to Director of Student Life Barbara Mulligan in 2014 and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ruby Montaño-Cordova, who both saw the sorority as a good fit for the campus and were interested in learning more.
Almost a year later, the final meeting was held.
“To see the seeds the graduate chapter has sown is amazing,” Green said. “When I first saw those ladies they were so nice, professional and genuine – they genuinely care about us.”
In 2015, Collins gave a testimonial at the meeting explaining why ULV needs Sigma Gamma Rho and what its own chapter would mean for students. After she spoke, the University granted Sigma Gamma Rho an invitation to charter a chapter on campus.
There is still work to be done to officially charter the first historically black Greek organization at La Verne,Washington said. The sorority requires five members to charter a chapter, but only two of the 15 women recruited actually went through to membership.
Sigma Gamma Rho will function differently than the other sororities on campus, bringing more culture to the La Verne community. The sorority will not take part in the College Panhellenic Association recruitment, as the women go through an intake process instead. Traditions such as stepping, strolling, chants and their poodle call, “ee yip!” are done regularly.
“A lot of these students have never heard of the Divine Nine,” Collins said.
She believes that this will be a needed cultural awakening for La Verne, and hopes that students and faculty will broaden their own knowledge about black Greek life. Collins said that some students didn’t know what was going on at her and Green’s Neophyte presentation, or new member step show, in November, but they were excited by it and wanted to see more.
Sigma Gamma Rho is the only historically black sorority that was not founded at Howard University, but at Butler University, a predominantly white institution.
The sorority was founded in 1922, while the Klu Klux Klan was also emerging, making it extraordinary that black women were able to start an organization on a predominantly white campus during that time.
“Many think the NPC orgs won’t be successful because of the low African-American population, but if they see we can do it, they should be motivated to charter other orgs,” Collins said.
Lambda Gamma Sigma, Green and Collins are optimistic about the future of Sigma Gamma Rho at La Verne. One of the chapter’s goals is to be for the La Verne students, whether that be mental, physical or academic help according to Collins. Recruitment events are expected to take place this January.
Tyler Evains can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.