About

Creed

Mission
The National APIDA Panhellenic Association serves to advocate the needs of its member organizations and provides a forum to share ideas and resources within its members. NAPA supports the development of positive relations through open communication with interfraternal partners to enrich the fraternal experience.

Vision
NAPA organizations set the gold standard for APIDA fraternities and sororities. In addition to meeting the association’s base standards, NAPA member organizations are exposed to resources and expertise to help them continually improve and be the best they can be. Universities, Greek Councils, and students want the best APIDA fraternities and sororities on campus and they can find them in NAPA.

 

History

The National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association (NAPA) began in the summer of 2004 when a group of 14 APIDA fraternities and sororities joined together to form the APIDA Greek Alliance (AGA). Formed as a partnership in a grassroots “Get Out the Vote” campaign with APIDA Vote, an organization that promotes civic participation among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, the members of the AGA registered over 8,000 new voters. Seeing the successful collaboration’s potential impact on the APIDA community and on college/university campuses, the group collaborated on further projects, including Tsunami Relief and Hurricane Katrina Relief.

In the summer of 2005, with support from OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans, the AGA hosted the first-ever leadership summit between the various national APIDA fraternities and sororities. The summit provided the first in-person opportunity for these organizations’ leaders to engage in serious dialogue about the challenges and future of the APIDA fraternity/sorority community. By the end of the summit, recognizing the need for an umbrella organization for APIDA fraternities and sororities, the fraternities and sororities in attendance chose to form the foundation for what would become the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association.

APIDA Greek Origins
Many people are surprised to learn the rich history of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) fraternities and sororities dates back to the early 20th Century.

Between 1916 and 1930, the first APIDA fraternities and sororities were created as support groups for small ethnic minorities (Chinese or Japanese) on predominantly White college campuses. They mirrored their White counterparts by adopting Greek letters, forming a chapter, incorporating secret rituals, and developing their own traditions (Kimbrough, 2003). Organizations of this early era include:

  • 1916 – Rho Psi Fraternity at Cornell University (Chinese)
  • 1929 – Pi Alpha Phi Fraternity at University of California, Berkeley (Chinese)
  • 1929 – Chi Alpha Delta Sorority at University of California, Los Angeles (Japanese)
  • 1930 – Sigma Omicron Pi Sorority at San Francisco State University (Chinese)

The number of Asian Interest Greek Lettered organizations of that era are much smaller than our peer organizations, such as “white” and “black” fraternities and sororities. There may be many reasons for this, but one primary factor are the tight immigration policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, and the Immigration Act of 1924, which made it very difficult for those of Asian origin to come to this country and access the higher education system.

Pre-World War II
The first Asian-Interest fraternal organization was Rho Psi Fraternity, established at Cornell University in 1916 by a group of Chinese American men. Rho Psi grew substantially in the 1920s and 1930s, establishing chapters in places all over East Asia, such as Hong Kong, as well as multiple chapters in the United States. However, the organization began to focus on post collegiate experiences, and officially became Rho Psi Society, a co-ed professional organization, in 1976.

Pi Alpha Phi Fraternity was founded in 1929 at UC Berkeley by a group of Chinese American men. That same year, a group of Japanese American women formed Chi Alpha Delta at UCLA. Finally, in 1930, a group of Chinese American women established Sigma Omicron Pi, which stands for Sisters of Pedagogy, at San Francisco State University as an organization that would provide sisterhood to Chinese American women interested in teaching. With the establishment of this organization, the establishment of pre-World War II organizations was complete.

Loosening immigration policies, a rise in the APIDA student population, and the close geographic proximity of several universities and colleges in Southern California ushered in the next major period of Asian American fraternal development (Lee, 2003).

Post-World War II
The 1940s through 1970s saw the establishment of many organizations for both Asian American men and women in California. The first of these was Sigma Phi Omega Sorority, started by a group of Japanese American women in 1949 at the University of Southern California.

Organizations created a vibrant Asian fraternal community across Southern California. Chapters held numerous events across the region and developed elaborate customs and traditions. In 1982, 22 fraternities and sororities formed the Asian Greek Council of Southern California in order to promote, maintain, and regulate cooperation among its many group members (Asian Greek Council, n.d.).

Beginning in the late 1980s, an exploding Asian American student population, the rise in multiculturalism, and the advancement of technology combined to help usher in a fast-growing, national, Asian fraternity/sorority movement. For the first time since Rho Psi Fraternity began at Cornell University, Asian fraternal organizations were chartered outside of California. Existing organizations such as Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity, Pi Alpha Phi fraternity, and alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority began chartering chapters in states such as Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, and Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority were founded on New York campuses, and within 5 years, each had chartered several chapters. With the development of the Internet in the 1990s, it became easy for these new groups to find other organizations that shared similar ideals.

The mid-1990s also saw the birth of Greek lettered organizations focused on South Asian Americans. By the end of the 1990s, at least 35 organizations with over 140 chapters had been established.

In the 2000s, these fraternities and sororities sought organizational development with the goal of improving the fraternal experience for their members. In 2005, nine of the largest and most prominent APIDA fraternities and sororities created the National Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Panhellenic Association (NAPA) to promote and foster positive relations among its member organizations and the community.

As of 2013, there are over 65 Asian American fraternities and sororities exist totaling over 450 total chapters.

The culture and traditions of NAPA fraternities and sororities have many similarities with those of NALFO, NIC, NMGC, NPC, and NPHC, fraternities and sororities. Many NAPA organizations’ members will use hand signs, step, and place letters on clothing, jewelry, pins, and other paraphernalia. These customs convey a sense of pride and unity of membership. Many of the NAPA organizations are still in their growing stages of development, and therefore some traditions, such as stepping or greetings, have been adopted by some of their chapters in specific regions but have not transcended to other chapters in other regions. The following information was compiled from NAPA member organization responses to a qualitative survey conducted by the AFA Intake Workgroup in the summer of 2008.

Colors
Organizational colors play a crucial role in the identity and pride of many NAPA groups. Colors are used by organizations to distinguish themselves from each other. Additionally, colors often provide the basis for marketing of the organization.

Hand Signs
These are used as an outward expression of pride and organizational distinction. Hand signs can have significant meaning related to the organization and/or chapter’s founding and culture. These signs also indicate pride and unity among their membership.

Exchanges
These are activities where the members of one fraternity or one sorority visit the chapter of another fraternity or sorority for a social event. These events, also known as socials, mixers, kickbacks, etc. are sometimes scaled up to include multiple chapters of each organization.

Public Ceremonies
Some chapters do not allow public shows or presentations of any sort, while others choose to do a public ceremony, inviting members of the campus community to attend. These public ceremonies might also be called probates, new member introductions, presents, or installations (installs). The level of formality varies, from casual dress probate shows to formalwear events such as installs.

Stepping
Stepping is an elaborate performance involving synchronized, rhythmic steps, marching, and tradition. Stepping is performed by some NAPA organizations. Note that not all organizations recognize stepping nationally, but some local chapters may choose to adopt this custom.

Strolling
Strolling, also referred to as party walking, walks, struts, or halos, is a series of steps performed by new members, usually at parties or step shows. The differences between strolling and stepping are evident in that strolls are performed to music. The adoption of strolling varies among organizations and regions. Several NAPA organizations have both national and chapter strolls.

The culture of NAPA fraternities and sororities is constantly being defined through members’ actions and the influences of their
surrounding communities. Understanding the contexts through which these organizations derive their values and beliefs will help
advisors and other interested parties be more prepared to assist with the development of these unique organizations.