Sunday, October 22

Founding Sisters


Asians and Pacific Islanders have long been a part of UCLA history, though they often had to fight for that role

  University Archives Members of Chi Alpha Delta, UCLA’s
first Asian American sorority, dress up for tea time in 1937.

By Marjorie Hernandez

Daily Bruin Reporter


When Doris Aiso Hoshide began her first year at UCLA in 1929,
she was looking for some direction.

A new student in a new campus, Hoshide and other women wanted to
join sororities, but were not allowed to join because of their
Japanese American heritage.

“We were more or less on our own, trying to get adjusted
to the campus,” she said. “We were absolutely strangers
during that first year.”

Since the Panhellenic Constitution did not allow Asians in Greek
organizations, Hoshide and other Japanese women decided to take
matters into their own hands.

They decided to pool their resources and create an environment
where incoming Japanese American students could turn for guidance
and a source for information.

Under the support of former University Dean of Women Helen M.
Laughlin, the 14 charter members took on the official name of Chi
Alpha Delta, which was recognized as a sorority on April 5, 1929.
Before its establishment at the current UCLA campus, the sorority
was called the “A.O. Society” on the former Vermont
Campus in Santa Monica.

Although Japanese women students began attending the university
in 1922, the formation of Chi Alpha Delta was the first attempt to
formally organize as a sorority.

But gaining recognition in the Greek system was not easy.

“During my years at UCLA, there was much discrimination on
the campus,’”said Kim Hoshide, 1929 graduate and Chi
alumna, in a 1994 letter. “Chi Alpha Delta was refused
membership in the Panhellenic Congress, therefore, we became a
member of the Campus Women Houses.”

Japanese students largely socialized within their own groups,
according to Hoshide. Most Chi social events were conducted with
the Bruin Club, the only Japanese men’s club at UCLA. Members
also participated in tea parties, dances, hikes and trips with
other Japanese students from USC.

Though she said she first objected the sorority system, Chi
Alpha Delta alumna Aki Yamazaki decided to join the only Asian
sorority along with her friends, and later became its president in
1942.

But anti-Asian sentiments continued to hinder the sorority and
its members.

According to Yamazaki, who was a second-generation Japanese
American, Asian groups were not allowed to have housing near
campus.

“We weren’t accepted ““ everything was closed
to us,” Yamazaki said. “None of the Asian groups had
housing. Asians just weren’t allowed to own property and real
estate.”

During Yamazaki’s years at UCLA, the sorority was still
unable to secure a position in the Panhellenic Society. Despite
these restrictions, though, Chi Alpha Delta still appeared in the
Southern Campus yearbooks.

“When we looked at the annual, there we were, even if we
never participated with the other sororities,” she said.

  University Archives The Pilipino Bruin Club, which was
established in 1930, comes together at a banquet, celebrating their
heritage. According to Yamazaki, no written part of the Panhellenic
constitution restricted Asian Americans from joining the Greek
society.

As war broke out in December 1942, Yamazaki and 175 Japanese
American students and their families were sent to internment camps
throughout the country. Just 16 units short of graduating with a
bachelors degree in dietetics, Yamazaki was forced to leave her
studies and was sent to a temporary camp at the Santa Anita race
track.

“It was a shock,” she said. “You don’t
expect anything like that. Since you are a citizen, you don’t
expect to be carted off to a concentration camp. If you had a drop
of Japanese blood, you were taken in.”

Chi Alpha Delta was effectively inactive during the Evacuation
Period of 1942 to 1945, but was reorganized in September 1946.

Fifty years after her studies were abruptly interrupted,
Yamazaki was retroactively awarded her B.A. degree in dietetics in
1992.

Even though the end of World War II marked the end of internment
of Japanese Americans, members of the Asian American community
still encountered hardships in American society.

When third-generation Japanese American Margaret Ohara entered
UCLA as a freshman in 1958, she was placed in a difficult
predicament.

According to archive records, Ohara was awarded the $200
Panhellenic scholarship for being the most well-rounded student
from her senior class.

But Ohara was unprepared for the shock she was about to
receive.

“To her surprise, she was the only Asian woman present in
the Sunday Tea gathering, which consisted of Caucasian
women,” according to the 1995 archive report.

Ohara quickly realized that she was mistaken for an Irish woman
because they thought her last name was O’Hara.

Although records indicated that the Greek panel “regretted
that the woman they chose could not be invited to join any of the
Greek society,” Ohara decided to organize a second Asian
sorority on campus.

From her desire to create a sorority that would “give the
opportunity for an Asian woman to select as they do on the Greek
row,” Ohara and eight charter members organized the framework
for Theta Kappa Phi. On June 5, 1959, Theta Kappa was recognized as
the second Asian sorority at UCLA.

Asian fraternities soon followed with the formation of Omega
Sigma Tau in1966 and Lambda Phi Epsilon in 1981.

Other non-Greek Asian organizations, however, started their own
groups on-campus. The co-ed Japanese Nisei Bruin Club reorganized
in 1945, while the co-ed Chinese group also organized Epsilon Pi
Delta in 1943.

Because of the amount of technicalities involved, members of Chi
Alpha Delta decided to not peruse membership into the Panhellenic
society, and instead joined the UCLA Asian Greek Council along with
Theta Kappa Phi sorority, and Lambda Phi Epsilon and Omega Sigma
Tau fraternities.

One of the oldest Asian American organizations on campus, the
Pilipino Bruin Club formed in 1930 and began to “promote good
fellowship among themselves and the students of other
nationalities,” according to the 1931 Southern Campus
yearbook.

Although appearing in the yearbooks, little recorded information
is known about the formation of these earlier student groups.

Nevertheless, current groups such as the Nikkei Student Union,
the Chinese Student Union and Samahang Pilipino continue the
traditions of fostering relationships among members and learning
about their culture, while contributing to the community and
fighting for social causes.

“These organizations reflect a lot of the work our
ancestors and alumni have done in raising the consciousness of our
members and giving them outlets to get involved and give back to
the community,” said Samahang Pilipino President Merrick
Pascual.

According to the UCLA Campus Profile Web site, Asian/Pacific
Islanders make up 33.4 percent of students, while Pilipino
enrollment is 4.6 percent.

As alumni look back at the turbulent start of the first Asian
groups at UCLA, many still recall fond memories and the camaraderie
they formed with fellow members.

“It was a very important to get to know one another those
first years,” Hoshide said. “Being a Japanese American
during that time was tough and we wanted to bring support to each
other. We all had a place to go to complain about any
discrimination or whatever was on our minds.”

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