The Panhellenic Council has added a Vice President of Diversity position to its executive board after sorority members requested spaces and dialogues that deal with issues of diversity and inclusion.
College junior and Delta Delta Delta member Sesana Allen was appointed to the position after creating a diversity chair for her own sorority.
“If we educate members already in Greek life what is lacking in terms of diversity, they’ll feel like it’s a home within Greek life,” Allen said.
She added that she thinks diversity goes beyond a question of race, but it touches on gender and sexuality as well.
“So when I talk about diversity it’s important not to be only race,” Allen said. “There are a lot of different identifiers.”
College junior and Panhellenic President Caroline Ohlson said she thought it would be helpful to create a position that caters to students’ needs for an environment that allows them to explore gender, race and sexuality.
“I thought that it would be a good idea to make a position for it so that there was someone whose whole position on the council would be dedicated towards creating those spaces and those dialogues and promoting that within our community,” Ohlson said.
The Panhellenic Council had been considering creating the position since last semester and the executive board sent Allen an email asking if she was interested. Allen readily accepted the offer, because she said she felt that increasing discussion on diversity would heighten a sense of community within and between sororities.
Wharton freshman Wendy Lee accepted a bid from Chi Omega this spring, and said she appreciated Panhellenic’s decision to add the position, adding that she felt it showed the organization’s recognition of the importance of diversity in Greek life.
“It’s awesome that Panhellenic has introduced this new executive position, and that there will be someone dedicated to ensuring that sororities are representative of Penn at large,” Lee said.
Ohlson said the specific responsibilities for the role are not yet laid out, but that she hopes to see it evolve into a role that can best serve Penn’s Greek life community.
“I see it definitely as something that will develop throughout the year. I don’t see it as a closed set of responsibilities at this point,” Ohlson said. “As things come up and we figure out how best this position can benefit the community, we will adapt it as it goes.”
Allen said she is hoping to start cultural competency workshops and has plans to collaborate with groups from the 5B, the Women’s Center and the LGBT Center. She said she also hopes to create a diversity chair position in all of the Panhellenic chapters.
“I will be reaching out to the chapter presidents and making a diversity chair position within each sorority,” Allen said. “I think different sororities are very different, so making sure the position molds to the different chapters is very important.”
Ohlson added that she thinks this position enhances the Greek experience by allowing for a discussion of the “intersectionality” of female identities.
“[The position] is part of an understanding of the kind of diversity of identities that already exists in our community,” Ohlson said. “I think that increasing dialogue so that women within the chapters feel like they can talk about all of the different parts of their identities is very important.”
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