Looking Back on Panhellenic Greek Life

Though my time as a collegian is nearly over, another call to action is necessary for Greek life to evolve into an equitable space for marginalized sisters. I ask myself, “Now that marginalized sisters have been heard, how will our privileged sisters do this work without being nudged?”


Ileana López-Martínez, She/Hers

Ileana is a 4th-year in the College studying Sociology and Health and Society. She has been a member of Alpha Omicron Pi since 2017 and has served on the international fraternity’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work Group since August 2020. She plans on completing a Masters of Public Health after graduating.

My first year of recruitment was exciting. I met women from all over the world. I was dazzled by their accomplishments. Being able to speak to women who shared my enthusiasm for plantains or who came from similar cultural backgrounds was comforting. Before recruitment, I felt like I was drowning in white culture at UChicago while losing my own. I ultimately chose my organization because I felt like I would belong — that my identity would not be something I would be fighting to protect or to have acknowledged.

After my initiation, however, I realized that Panhellenic Greek Life was not structured to recognize or protect their marginalized sisters. At that time, one of the hot debates was if the Panhellenic organizations would once again socialize with FIJI and invite them to our philanthropy events. Yet, the story of what happened was not spoken of, and the burden of retelling fell on sisters of color. Even when the history was shared, the negative, painful experiences of sisters of color were overshadowed by some of the positive experiences of others.

Now, I am tasked with passing on that history to other sisters of color in the hopes that we are not too kind to fraternities which refuse to be kind to us or other students.

Despite not having been on campus during this time, I share the collective memory of my sisters. Now, I am tasked with passing on that history to other sisters of color in the hopes that we are not too kind to fraternities which refuse to be kind to us or other students.

This experience — of marginalized sisters having to do the education for the chapter — was more common than I had expected. I clung to my Latina and Black sisters, relying on them to help me navigate a space that had revealed itself to be white, rich, and privileged. When they left, I found myself in their shoes. I was leading the way for the new Black and Brown initiates while also being seen by the broader chapter as a bridge between Multicultural Greek Life and Panhellenic by sheer virtue of my race. It felt like there was always work for me and others to do, but it was never clear if what we were saying was being internalized or appreciated by our privileged sisters.

Ultimately, what kept me from leaving was that my kicking and screaming started making waves.

I’ve considered leaving my organization many times. I was tired of doing work for my organization while still being made to feel like I didn’t belong.


Ultimately, what kept me from leaving was that my kicking and screaming started making waves. Instead of informal groups of marginalized women, we finally were able to organize and demand more changes. A diversity, equity, and inclusion working group was created with high participation. For once, this wasn’t a conversation being held in secret. We were speaking about this with advisors. There were more women who spoke about what they had experienced and what had kept them from fully participating. They were being taken seriously. More importantly, their experiences and voices were finally being centered. Tangible action and behavioral change was made that allowed them to finally feel comfortable and to ensure that they could be the Panhellenic members they had wanted to be.

Alpha Omicron Pi took a shy girl who suffered from impostor syndrome and transformed her into someone so sure of herself that she is willing to question anyone, even them.

My organization is not perfect. But, there is no perfect organization. However, I was able to take up space for myself and other sisters. After I leave, I know that there will be other sisters expanding that space to make it more inclusive. I also know that our dedication to making a more inclusive sorority means that we will outgrow others and their harmful and exclusive behaviors. I welcome this growth and welcome the members who will take our place to continue to help my organization grow.


As I look back on my experience in Alpha Omicron Pi, I am more grateful than angry. While I had to fight to be valued, the outcomes have made the journey worth it. I now serve the international organization. My voice has gotten stronger, and I no longer shake — even when I am afraid to speak up. Alpha Omicron Pi took a shy girl who suffered from impostor syndrome and transformed her into someone so sure of herself that she is willing to question anyone, even them.

One of Alpha Omicron Pi’s core values is college loyalty, and, thus, we must ask, “How are we ensuring that we are committed to the success of our classmates instead of being loyal only to the success of those within our ranks?

Though my time as a collegian is nearly over, another call to action is necessary for Greek life to evolve into an equitable space for marginalized sisters. I ask myself, “Now that marginalized sisters have been heard, how will our privileged sisters do this work without being nudged?” My sisters have opened doors for me in unexpected ways. In turn, I’ve opened doors for others, regardless of their affiliation in any organization. Greek life has historically guarded knowledge and access to opportunities for social mobility, both on campus and off of it. Part of ensuring that the harms of Greek life are healed is eliminating the elements which make it an exclusionary space. This includes taking what privileges are afforded to us and extending aid outward. One of Alpha Omicron Pi’s core values is college loyalty, and, thus, we must ask, “How are we ensuring that we are committed to the success of our classmates instead of being loyal only to the success of those within our ranks? As we look towards the future of Greek organizations, not just on UChicago’s campus but internationally, these are the questions that must be answered to ensure that we do not return to what has been the norm for too long.

A alternative newspaper run by and for students of color at the University of Chicago. 

Exploring Race