UW-Madison breaks ground on Divine Nine plaza to honor legacy of Black fraternities and sororities

MADISON, Wis. – In one of the first campus events since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, UW-Madison took a step towards creating visible spaces for Black involvement on campus.

Chancellor Becky Blank joined student leaders from within the National Panhellenic Council in breaking ground on what will become a plaza to honor the Divine Nine, or the nine black fraternities and sororities within the organization.

The plaza, located between East Campus Mall and Vilas Hall, is expected to be complete by the fall of 2021.

This space is going to anchor one of the busiest corridors as you can see on campus,” Chancellor Blank said in front of an invite-only crowd Saturday afternoon. “Thousands of people who pass through here are going to learn about the history and impact of NPHC chapters.”

For the students who advocated for the project to happen, it’s a step towards creating a campus that is inviting and reflective of Black students.

This campus is predominantly white, so when I first came to campus, I didn’t see people that looked like me,” said Nyla Mathis, a UW-Madison Senior and chapter president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. Sorority.  “I didn’t have a sense of belonging, a home, people I could really relate to.”

Mathis says by creating this space, the university is giving Black students a place to call their own.

It feels amazing to know that the next freshmen will be able to come here and see a space and know that the Divine Nine are here on campus,” Mathis said. 

Other students behind the project say the representation makes a difference to new students searching for a place to belong.

Being able to have representation through these spots will be huge,” said UW senior Israel Oby. “Now, students of color, when they’re looking at UW and they’re considering trying to come, they’ll see the university does have a black student population that’s thriving.”