Since a racially-insensitive incident at Penn's chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity sparked backlash on campus 10 months ago, students have indicated that it is sororities, rather than fraternities, that are taking the lead on improving diversity and inclusion within the Greek community.
In recent months, the Interfraternity Council, which governs on-campus fraternities, has restructured the responsibilities of its board members to include diversity initiatives, but has yet to introduce a diversity chair to its executive committee — a provision that IFC President and College senior Bradley Freeman said the Council planned to work on in March 2017.
“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 in October.
More recently, IFC's Executive Vice President and Wharton senior Andrew Kerber said the board has rewritten the responsibilities for his position in the Council's constitution to include direct collaboration with the Diversity and Inclusion Board — a student-run board created in spring 2016 to promote diversity in Greek life.
However, DIB Chair and College senior Conrad Mascarenhas said he did not know about such changes to the IFC constitution and that the DIB had not been informed that they had been made.
Kerber also said in his emailed statement that the IFC would include diversity and inclusion in its recruitment sessions held in the spring, as well as part of new member education, which refers to the required training that all students must complete to join a fraternity.
Some students think that incorporating diversity education into the recruitment process should be mandatory, but a document provided to The Daily Pennsylvanian in September this year showed that only five of IFC's 27 fraternities fully completed mandatory programs laid out in new member education.
While it remains unclear how the IFC plans to move forward with the diversity chair position, the Panhellenic Council, which governs on-campus sorority life, has already elected its second vice president of diversity. On Nov. 14, Panhel elected College sophomore and Theta sorority member Alexis Broussard to succeed the first-ever Vice President of Diversity and College senior Sesana Allen. Panhel created the vice president of diversity position last year in response to calls for more dialogue on diversity and inclusion within Penn's sororities.
College senior and former President of Panhel Caroline Ohlson said she was happy with the success of the position's first year. In her position, Allen collaborated with different organizations and cultural centers on events that Ohlson said she hoped would encourage students of different backgrounds to consider joining a sorority. Earlier this semester, Allen also said she thinks the creation of a diversity chair position in the IFC would be beneficial.
In her tenure, Broussard said she hopes to increase the activity of the position by encouraging regular "chat sessions" within chapter houses to discuss current events or social justice issues. She also hopes to expand Panhel's recruitment efforts to all communities by partnering up with different multicultural organizations to promote rush.
"Even though each sorority has a signature fundraiser, I think it would be very beneficial to have chapter-wide community service outings where members could actually go to different places in Philadelphia and serve charity organizations that are out there," said Broussard, adding that she hoped to see sororities work to go beyond the "Penn bubble."
"I thought it would be beneficial to have members get into the community and get their hands dirty a little bit," she said.
Phi Kappa Psi member and College junior Anthony Williams said he appreciated an event that was organized by the DIB ahead of Halloweekend about how to maintain cultural sensitivity during the holiday. Williams said he saw the benefit of a diversity chair "who can make events and initiatives like that happen."
"We have fraternities that say, you know 'black lives matter,' to show that they want to be diverse. But at the end of the day, if all of your members are just all from the same background, you're actually not championing diversity at all," Williams said. "So we need to be more open and honest about ourselves with what we have done and what we should do."
Williams said there "definitely" should be a diversity chair within the IFC, but current initiatives planned for next year are better than a diversity chair "placeholder" who would not accomplish anything. He said he particularly liked the idea to include mandatory discussions about diversity in new member education.
"In order to change the tide, you have to start with new members," Williams said. "It actually sounds like they're making steps and that to me seems like they actually care."
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