Updated: Oct 28, 2021
By: Christina Semeraro
COVID-19 caused Greek Life gatherings and activities to come to a halt, but with this idleness arose a long-standing issue in the community; a lack of diversity.
Sororities were put under scrutiny this fall semester after reports of past incidents of racism were made public. The Panhellenic Council (Panhel) quickly put out a statement on Instagram addressing the issue, only to be met with strong backlash from the campus community at large. During this tense time, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) remained silent.
Many students felt that radical change was needed in order for Greek organizations to be held properly accountable. Some even expressed support for the #AbolishGreekLife movement to completely remove Greek life from campus due to its historical discrimination by its members as well as written in its bylaws.
Following these events, both Panhel and IFC had to quickly reevaluate their current frameworks.
Avery Newcom ‘23 and Federico Mata ‘23, serving as president for Panhel and IFC, respectively, are newly tasked with ensuring that Greek life acknowledges its faults and moves towards a more accepting environment.
Panhel added the role of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to their council and advised sororities to create a DEI committee within their own chapters. Similarly, IFC now has a DEI role on their council, in addition to mandating fraternities establish DEI committees. These DEI committees are responsible for internal chapter education which entails diversity workshops and programs, ideally utilizing professionals.
This first action taken occurred in the spring semester, prior to sorority recruitment. Chapters were required to attend a DEI presentation hosted by the Director of DEI. The presentation intended to educate sorority members on inclusive language to use while recruiting, with a focus on using non-assuming questions while meeting potential new members.
When asked about Panhel’s goals for the future, Newcom responded, “Specifically, we plan to rewrite the bylaws and newly write the DEI team's position expectations. We hope to become a platform that advocates for marginalized communities rather than isolates them.”
“We understand that what can and has been detrimental to marginalized communities stems from our organization’s history so we are currently trying to uncover that history and rewrite the current bylaws for Panhel to change our organization permanently- from the inside and out,” Newcom added.
Mata explained that IFC is working on a scholarship for international students and students of color in order to increase accessibility.
“Historically, the financial commitments of fraternities have served as a barrier to entry to less-privileged students,” said Mata, “We're not only aiming to make greek-life an inclusive community socially; we want to make it accessible to all as well.”
His interest in increasing diversity in Greek life stems from his own perspectives prior to joining, “I myself am a Venezuelan student that was skeptical about belonging in a community. Now, I am a Latino President that is actively engaged in the community,” commented Mata, “From a fraternal standpoint, it is imperative that wonderful people, regardless of their background, race, or sexuality, join the greek life community so that we can have more joyful experiences that bring us closer together.”
While Greek life has already taken a hit because of financial stressors from COVID-19, the campus demanding accountability for diversity in these organizations has caused Greek Life to completely re-evaluate their plans moving forward. Altering discriminatory policies will be a key component of progress, however, educating the members of these organizations on being anti-racist has unspokenly been the first step by the campus Greek community. Changing the community will ultimately require action, yet the action taken must be informed for it to be beneficial.