Correction Appended: This article should say that Matt Stehney is the co-chair of the Native American Student Association

When three out of four of the Latino organizations in the Multicultural Greek Council discovered at the end of last semester that Jaya Soni, president of the council, had joined Michigamua — a secret society of University seniors whose historic practices have been called racially demeaning of Native Americans — they immediately demanded her resignation from the council.

“The council didn’t take it as seriously. So we decided that the council was not looking out for our best interest. (As a result) we resigned from MGC at the end of last year,” said Ricardo Ramos, a member of the Latino fraternity Lambda Theta Phi.

But when Soni refused to step down, the three Latino groups dropped out instead.

Now, the Latino organizations are exploring three options for their future, Ramos said.

One option is to only secede from the Multicultural Greek Council for a year, rejoining after Soni graduates. Another possibility is to team up with black fraternities and sororities in the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Finally, they say they may form their own council comprised of just the three groups.

Ramos, an LSA senior, said his fraternity, along with the Latino sororities Sigma Lambda Gamma and Lambda Theta Alpha, dropped out of the council out of respect for their close relationships with Native American students on campus.

“There were always good relations between the Native American students and Latino students. We collaborated a lot,” said Matt Stehney, Native American Student Association president and an LSA junior.

Still, some of the groups that remained loyal to Soni do not support possible reorganizations of the council. Gabby Nguyen, a Kinesiology junior and publicity chair of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, a member of the MGC, said she is opposed to the Latino organizations forming their own council outside of the MGC.

“We wouldn’t want them to weaken the multicultural Greek family. As a whole, we wouldn’t want to weaken ourselves by dividing when we are already a minority,” Nguyen said.

Latino organizations on campus have had a history of opposing Michigamua. In the past, many of them supported the Students of Color Coalition, a group formed to protest Michigamua, and the Native American student groups, who in 2000 took over Michiguama’s tower space in the Union in order to bring attention to Michigamua’s controversial practices.

These included housing Native American artifacts and using offensive names like “squaw” to refer to members.

“Throughout history there has been something consistently wrong with (Michigamua’s) discrimination against Native American culture. They really offended, injured and scared the Native American community in Michigan. … (Because of this) we didn’t feel comfortable having a Michiguama member represent us,” Ramos said.

Soni would not comment on her decision to join Michigamua. But William Marquez, alumni adviser to Sigma Lambda Beta, the only Latino fraternity that stayed in the multicultural council, said Soni’s decision to join Michigamua is in fact an honorable one, because she is trying to bring change from within the organization.

“Jaya is well aware of the history of Michigamua. But it’s either put up or shut up. She’s very brave to go against the grain and make a difference. It says a lot about a person’s personality,” Marquez said.

He added that all fraternities and sororities have shameful elements of their history, and that it is up to individual members to join and try to better them.

“Jaya decided to join an organization with a shameful history. She joined to alter it. People need to give her the opportunity to change it,” Marquez said.

Ramos countered that because Michigamua is a secret society, it is impossible to keep these individuals who advocate change, as well as the organization as a whole, accountable.

“Certain individuals like the president of MGC say they joined it to change it. They claim they want to change it from inside. But numerous individuals had the same objectives and have not been able to change it,” Ramos said. .

Nguyen of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi said that in the wake of the controversy surrounding Soni and Michiguama, her sorority remained loyal to Soni.

“We trust in her as a person. We decided she was qualified as a president. That’s what we based it on, not her affiliations,”

Nguyen added that Soni has actually gone above and beyond her duty as president of the council. She said she has made an active effort to work with other councils and raise the potential of the MGC as a whole.

Neal Pancholi, president of Alpha Iota Omicron, an Indian fraternity in the multicultural council, said his organization remained neutral during the conflict.

“We believe that Jaya is not embodied by one organization. She represents a few things. She can’t only represent one. Although she is the leader of MGC, it is not the only thing she is,” Pancholi said.

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