As reported for the Florida Odyssey:
At 18 years old, Hrishi Kumbhojkar moved to Gainesville to begin attending the University of Florida. He didn’t know much about the campus, but he did know one thing—he wanted to go Greek.
He took his first step by attending rush events held by different organizations in the Interfraternity Council.
“I just felt like I didn’t fit in,” he said.
The presence of fraternities and sororities can be traced back to 1776, when Phi Beta Kappa was originally formed at William and Mary College.
Racially, these organizations have always primarily catered to the Caucasian population.
While diversity is increasing over the years, paralleling the increase at UF, there is still a large gap to fill.
The National Panhellenic Council was founded in 1906, but once again, primarily catered to African Americans.
After a few months, Kumbhojkar was introduced to Sigma Lambda Beta, a Latin fraternity in the Multicultural Greek Council. He joined, and four years later he is serving as president of MGC.
It wasn’t soon before Latino-American and Asian-American students acted upon the need for greek organizations that encompassed their needs.
“I can say a lot of things that distinguishes MGC from the other three councils,” said Dhara Patel, historian and social chair of Delta Phi Omega sorority. “But a few of my favorite things are: how culturally diverse each member is, how close our organizations are and the love and respect each member has for each other. Culture has always been big thing for me and by joining MGC, you open your mind and heart up to welcome all the different ones around you. Not just by large, but by individuals as well. For instance, Sigma Lambda Beta is known as a fraternity with a Latin background, but when you get to know each brother individually, you see that they come from different backgrounds such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Ecuador and they even have a brother that is of Indian descent. You learn so much about different cultures and backgrounds on a more personal level, something that not everyone can experience first hand.”
In the 1980s, there was a rapid increase Hispanic-based greek organizations. Soon after, Asian and South Asian organizations were also formed.
“MGC is definitely growing in size, which is amazing,” said Patel. “We have many members who are skilled in different aspects of life. For instance, we have those who can act, those who can dance, those who can lead, and those who can articulate their words so beautifully. Because of how diverse our members are, I believe it is easier for others to see individuals and decide if MGC is right for them. In that sense, MGC is a growing trend because even while it is comprised of 13 different organizations, we all come together to show support for all the members we have grown to love and care for.”
Currently, the UF MGC Council encompasses seven fraternities and six sororities, with over 175 active members.
“I would say that our pledge classes are growing at a steady rate,” said Patel. “As far as interest goes, I do see that increasing and that is mainly because you see new members who are not just freshmen but are sophomores, juniors and sometimes even seniors. Through active participation in various other organizations, we do reach out to more potential members, and this does go for the other 12 organizations on our council as well.”
Each year, the organizations are gaining more and more new members.
“We currently have 19 active sisters through MGC,” said Patel. “Nationally, we have over 1800 sisters and are the strongest, largest and fastest growing sorority of its kind.”
This month marked the beginning of probate season for these organizations, which is where the new members are introduced as official brothers and sisters of their prospective groups.
On November 8, anxious friends and family members gathered around the FIne Arts C building at the UF campus to cheer on as masked figures emerge into the crowd during the Sigma Beta Rho new member presentation.
“It’s such a cool experience,” said Sally Hamami, a student who came to see the probate from Tampa, Florida. “You get a call saying one of your friends is going to be part of the fraternity, and then from that point on all you can think about is who it could be. The atmosphere is so amazing, and this year they had so many great new additions.”
One by one, their masks were uncovered by elder fraternity members. After months filled with kept secrets and hard work, the new members were finally able to reveal their new brotherhood or sisterhood.
This year, Delta Phi Omega revealed five new members.
“I absolutely love them,” said Patel. “Each one of them fits in so perfectly into our sisterhood. They have worked hard already attending events and getting recognized as our newest cubs. I see so much potential in them as individuals and as a sisters. They are also a very diverse line which means that they will spread our sisterhood into other organizations as well.”
Patel was one of the sorority members who gained a little sister this semester, sophomore Zenub Parupia.
“The only thing I thought I had in common with these girls are the letters I wear across my chest,” said Snehitha Kethireddy, service chair of Delta Phi Omega sorority. “I wouldn’t have imagined that my sisters from Georgia State University or the University of Georgia would make a drive to come see me for the day. These girls had never met me or anything, but the instant I did meet them, I felt like I have known them for years. I love to travel, and whenever I do, I always let sisters in the area know I am coming into town and it’s remarkable to see them drop what they are doing, or incorporate me into their plans. All these incidents are just so heart-warming and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to spend my holidays with these diamonds had I not crossed into my sisterhood.”
Marlene Lasa, who owns a local Greek store called Greek Divine and More, says that she has seen growth in her business over the years as far as customers looking for MGC products. She says she sees more people come in every year, from different parts of Florida and even across the country.
“The MGC products take up one of the biggest sections in my store,” Lasa said.
This semester, MGC has voted upon adding an additional sorority to the council. Sigma Sigma Rho, a South Asian sorority, will soon be on campus.
“I highly encourage students to join MGC,” said Dhara Patel. “If you really are looking to get in touch with your own heritage and are open to learning about other ones, then MGC is truly the way to go. You will create endless memories, friendships, have a study buddy in almost every class and learn so much in the process. You will see yourself grow. You become close to people you would have never have met if you had not gone through the new member education process for MGC. At the end of the day, you still join the organization you wanted to, but in the long run, you join the Multicultural Greek Council and that truly becomes your family.”