Following a racially insensitive incident at a fraternity last semester, the Interfraternity Council said it would add a diversity chair to its executive committee. Nearly seven months later, it has yet to finalize the position even though various other leaders in the Greek community agree that having a point person for diversity and inclusion is important for the IFC.
Last February, an incident at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity received backlash from students after a member and his date named their beer pong team "VietPong," and dressed in camouflage gear with war paint on their cheeks.
“VietPong” is a reference to the Viet Cong, a guerrilla army that aligned with North Vietnam and against the United States during the Vietnam War. Members of the Vietnamese Student Association criticized the students for treating this history "as a joke."
In response to the incident, IFC President and College senior Bradley Freeman announced the organization's plans to create the position of Diversity Chair, which would be similar to the Vice President of Diversity position created by the Panhellenic Council last semester.
In an interview on Oct. 10, Freeman, who is a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, said the IFC has not yet decided upon the chair's responsibilities or formally created the position.
“It’s just been hectic this semester with the task force and registered events. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s not a priority for us, but at the same time there’s been lots of other things going on," Freeman said. "Now that things are settling down it’d be a good time to reopen and reexamine that topic."
He added that the IFC is currently observing other diversity initiatives in Greek life and that members of the board have discussed the possible position with Sesana Allen, the first-ever vice president of diversity for Panhellenic and College senior, as well as the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
Allen, a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Greek Diversity and Inclusion Board, said her position was a "grassroots" creation as sorority members saw the need for an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within their organizations, and implemented the position without prompting from the University.
She also founded the Diversity Chair position in Tri Delta as a sophomore.
As VP of Diversity for Panhellenic, Allen organizes events with student organizations including, but not limited to cultural groups. She added that she wants to be mindful of different "identifiers" such as socioeconomic status and gender identity when planning inclusive events.
This month, Allen helped to coordinate a panel for members of the South Asia Society to discuss their participation in Greek life.
“When you get them in the setting, [people] actually do care about diversity,” she said. “Getting people there is kind of the hardest thing, especially when people are focused on academics or social life.”
Freeman said the IFC was also observing how the Diversity and Inclusion Board is progressing as an initiative. According to Allen, the board, which was created in spring 2016, works closely with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life within the preexisting Greek community to promote diversity and plan an annual retreat.
“Obviously we care a lot about diversity but right now we’re waiting to see how the Diversity and Inclusion Board develops. If they start becoming more active and the amount of initiatives they are doing would warrant a new position on the IFC, we’d be totally open to it. Because [DIB] is so new, we’re just feeling things out,” Freeman said.
Freeman said that the IFC has not organized or participated with DIB in an “explicit event just for [diversity].”
Chair of the DIB and College senior Conrad Mascarenhas said he encourages the creation of formalized positions concerning diversity within Greek life and that he thinks it would be beneficial to have a specific “point person” to reach out to in the IFC.
“If we’re recruiting for DIB, and there’s low turnout from the IFC, I can reach out to the diversity chair of IFC and he can bring it up at the next IFC meeting,” he said.
Mascarenhas added that the existence of a Panhellenic diversity chair has enhanced interaction between the two groups.
Allen also said that she thinks the creation of a Diversity Chair position in the IFC would be beneficial.
Eddie Banks-Crosson, the director of OFSL, said that ideally there would be representation for a diversity position for IFC, Panhellenic and Intercultural Greek Council. But he added that the efficacy of a diversity chair depends on the student in charge.
Banks-Crosson said that while OFSL advises the councils, it is ultimately up to them to regulate their board positions.
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