In April 2018, Loyola student Ashley Alvarez attended a “formal” put on by the sorority she belonged to, Alpha Delta Pi. As she and her date hit the dance floor at the off-campus dress-up event, they were both shocked to hear some of her fellow sorority sisters using the “n-word.”
Alvarez said one member directed the slur at her boyfriend, LeRon Norton — who’s African American — as they entered the dance. Norton graduated from Loyola in 2019 with a degree in political science.
Throughout the night, Alvarez and Norton said they witnessed around half of the other attendees singing along to the lyrics of the hip-hop songs playing through the speakers — “n-word” and all.
“I was horrified,” said Alvarez, a senior biology major.
She said she quit the sorority because of the incident and other instances of alleged racial insensitivity, which she laid out in a lengthy Facebook post Jan. 21 — just days before Loyola’s seven sororities began recruiting new members.
The post — which currently has over 150 reactions — prompted two other Alpha Delta Pi members to quit the sorority, and other former members to speak out. Alvarez said she didn’t intend to create friction within the sorority, but wanted to share her story with students considering joining Greek Life at Loyola.
The sorority said now it’s taking a hard look at how it operates — including cracking down on the music played at formals and bringing in diversity training for current members, according to Devin Myers, the current president of Loyola’s chapter of Alpha Delta Pi.
Myers said a representative from the international organization, who acts as the chair of the sorority’s International Diversity and Inclusion Committee, has joined a representative from Loyola’s Department of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA) to work with the chapter to provide training and programs around diversity for “this spring.”
SDMA could not be reached for comment.
Alpha Delta Pi’s international organization is based in Atlanta and oversees all of the sorority’s chapters at different universities.
The Loyola chapter also said it will reconsider how it runs its “big and little” program — which assigns each new member a mentor within the sorority. This comes after Alvarez’s post saying she felt she was being racially “grouped.” She said she was paired up with one of the “few” other Latina members as her “big” — although she expected to be paired with another member she felt she connected to, who was white.
“You can imagine my surprise when I was paired up with the only Latina that I had written on … my survey, and I literally have not spoken two sentences to her,” Alvarez said.
Greek Life at Loyola has found itself in the midst of controversy before. In 2018, the university’s chapter of the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority was suspended after claims of hazing. In 2014, the fraternity Sigma Pi was suspended for three years on similar grounds, The Phoenix reported.
Loyola currently has 20 recognized sororities and fraternities on campus, and 17 percent of students are a part of Greek Life, according to Loyola’s Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA) website. Unlike most universities, there are no fraternity or sorority houses on or off-campus.
Of the 1,826 students in Greek Life at Loyola, about 73 percent are white, according to a survey conducted by SAGA in spring 2019. African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and Multiracial students make up about 25 percent of Greek Life, data from SAGA shows.
As a whole, Loyola’s student population is 59.8 percent white, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness 2018-19 diversity report. Minority students make up 40.2 percent of the university, the report said.
While Alpha Delta Pi is taking responsibility by implementing diversity training for all members, Myers — who wasn’t the president of the sorority at the time of Alvarez’s incident — said individual accountability for the member who directed the slur at Norton was “nearly impossible,” since Alvarez didn’t share the name of the member with the sorority.
Alvarez said the member was a senior at the time of the dance, and she was too afraid to share her name since the member was “popular” within the sorority.
Norton, 23, said he overheard that member say, “she brought the n-word” as he entered the dance with Alvarez by his side, and immediately felt “really, really uncomfortable” at the event.
Norton didn’t confront the woman he overheard and moved to the dance floor — but decided to speak up when people around him continued to repeat the word while singing songs.
“At one point I even said, ‘If you’re not black, that’s not a word that should be coming out of your mouth,’” Norton said. “And obviously, nothing happened.”
Norton said after he spoke up, attendees continued using the word, and he and Alvarez left the event early.
Alvarez said she told the sorority’s leadership about the incident in 2018, about a week after the dance. She said she went to the standards board — a leadership group in the chapter made up of students and a volunteer advisor. They promised “inclusivity workshops,” and never fulfilled them, according to Alvarez.
Alpha Delta Pi didn’t comment on these inclusivity workshops after The Phoenix asked about them multiple times.
Norton said in order for things to change within the sorority, the leadership needs to look further than just changing things such as their music choice.
“The music shouldn’t be the problem,” Norton said. “It’s people feeling super comfortable in using words that are offensive and leadership in the organization not feeling the need to do anything about it.”
After hearing about Alvarez’s experiences, Harleigh Goodman, a junior at Loyola studying Spanish, posted on Facebook saying two of her sorority sisters — who held leadership positions in Alpha Delta Pi — once entered her room in their off-campus apartment without permission and took photos of her “personal items.”
Goodman, 21, caught the “privacy violation” on a security camera and posted it to her Facebook page a day after Alvarez’s story went up.
“My personal life is put on display,” Goodman said in an interview with The Phoenix. “That’s just my life and my privacy, I have a right in my own home to feel safe.”
Myers responded to both Alvarez and Goodman’s situations in an email to The Phoenix, saying she was “heartbroken” the sorority didn’t initially respond to the allegations in a way that made Alvarez and Goodman feel confident in the chapter.
“The experiences that I’ve heard Ashley and Harleigh go through are inexcusable,” Myers wrote. “No one should ever be made to feel excluded or have their privacy invaded.”
Alpha Delta Pi didn’t comment specifically on whether the women in the video maintained their leadership roles within the sorority — however, a former member, who The Phoenix isn’t naming, said the women held their positions up until regular elections were held.
Alpha Delta Pi’s international organization was made aware of Alvarez and Goodman’s situations and continue to communicate with those involved, according to Beth Wright, the director of marketing and communications at the international organization.
Wright said sororities are a reflection of college life as a whole, and unfortunately “subconscious bias and racial insensitivity, roommate issues, unkind interactions” can be found in people’s college experiences, whether or not they belong to a sorority.
An advisor who volunteers for the international chapter “recommended a cooling off period” on social media after the posts on Facebook went up, according to Wright. Alvarez and Goodman are both currently blocked from Loyola’s Alpha Delta Pi Instagram page.