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CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE:
This article incorrectly references the “National Panhellenic Association” as an umbrella organization for sororities at MIT. The “National Panhellenic Association” does not exist; MIT sororities fall under the National Panhellenic Conference.

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Staff Reporter

Plans are under way this spring to introduce a new sorority aimed at Asian women on campus. The new group would be MIT’s seventh sorority and the only Greek letter organization with an Asian focus. Kappa Phi Lambda, Sigma Psi Zeta, and Delta Phi Lambda are among the candidates.

Vivian A. Lee ’12, who has been leading plans for the Asian-interest sorority, felt the sorority was needed in order to spread cultural awareness. “Asian culture is still vastly under-represented on campus,” Vivian noted. “There is currently no student group at MIT that focuses closely on the sociopolitical challenges that Asians and Asian-Americans face everyday as the ‘silent minority’ in the U.S.”

The sorority’s recruitment process would be similar to the week-long fraternity rush, a departure from the standard sorority recruitment model. The events would be designed to allow potential sisters to get to know each other closely and to feel unified by the sorority’s specific values. The new sorority intends to be a smaller group, with no more than thirty members at any given time. In contrast, sororities currently on campus generally have over 100 members.

Unlike existing Greek groups at MIT, the sorority would be unique in its support of both Asian- and female-specific philanthropic causes and Asian sociopolitical advancement; current candidate national organizations support these types of causes. Sigma Psi Zeta works to fight violence against women, while Kappa Phi Lambda supports the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Delta Phi Lambda has been supporting osteoporosis research. Social and service events will focus on diversity and social issues in addition to the traditional emphasis on cuisine and pop culture emphasized by most Asian groups on campus.

The new sorority plans to fall under the umbrella of the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association (NAPA), in contrast to most Greek groups on campus, which fall under the National Fraternity Council or the National Panhellenic Association.

Since both NAPA and the potential sorority on campus are relatively new, the organization will offer numerous opportunities for leadership roles in shaping Asian-oriented Greek life at the local and national level, says Lee. The relatively small size of NAPA — it contains only seven sororities and three fraternities — also allows inter-collegiate events between member organizations to happen more often.

Sororities under NAPA follow a unique process in becoming a chapter. After spending a semester as an “interest group,” the sorority receives “colony” status for 1–3 years. After this period, the colony can qualify as a formal chapter. With the new group already seeking members, the nascent Asian sorority at MIT aims to become an official colony in time for the Fall 2011 rush period and to obtain chapter status by 2012.

The new sorority would not be the only Greek group on campus with a cultural affiliation. In addition to the fraternities with cultural affinities, Alpha Kappa Alpha is aimed at African-American women and Alpha Epsilon Phi is geared toward Jewish women. Like the new Asian sorority, neither AKA nor AEPhi participate in the conventional sorority recruitment process. There has been recent interest in re-forming MIT’s Multicultural Greek Council, which has been defunct since 2005, in order to provide support for these cultural Greek groups.

The Asian-interest sorority seems be moving quickly. There are already plans for the sorority to help advertise the first annual Boston Asian Performing Arts Festival on Apr. 23, featuring over twenty Asian dance, choral, musical, and theatrical groups from the Greater Boston area.