The Panhellenic Council is working towards making sorority recruitment more accommodating for transgender students.
College junior Sesana Allen, the recently appointed vice president of diversity on the Panhellenic executive board, is currently working with Penn Non-Cis to host a roundtable discussion for all sorority chapters to better educate members on issues transgender students face in Greek life.
“Trans women who want to join Panhellenic — it’s not their job to be the spokesperson for trans women in sororities,” Allen said. “That’s something we should discuss and not force upon a woman that is out and wants to be in a sorority.”
Allen added that she hopes that members who have attended the roundtable discussions are encouraged to make changes within their own chapters to be more supportive of transgender members of their community.
“Maybe going back to their chapters and saying how they can change the rules within their chapters to make it more open to people,” Allen said. “For example, I guess this applies more to sexuality, when they say no men upstairs in sorority houses, it really means no … partners in sorority houses and just small things that you can change to help create a more supportive environment.”
While Panhellenic can attempt to make the recruitment process more inclusive for all students, individual chapters do not have complete control over potential membership.
“Membership in any Greek chapter is determined by the national organizations, not by OFSL or individual chapters at Penn,” director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Eddie Banks-Crosson said.
However, President of the Panhellenic Council and College junior Caroline Ohlson said that individual chapters can advocate for more inclusive policies.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with members of our community and I’ve definitely been encouraging people that if they feel strongly about it they should write letters to their national organization expressing that it’s something they’d like to see,” Ohlson said. “We are the members of this community and we are the future of this community and it’s a matter of being vocal about what we want to see from our national organizations.”
Currently, the national organizations of Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Phi have publicly acknowledged that they would like to make their chapters open for any member who identifies as woman. However, Allen noted that there is not a formal policy accommodating transgender students.
In a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Director of Communications for the national organization of Kappa Alpha Theta Liz Rink affirmed the organization's commitment to inclusivity.
“Kappa Alpha Theta welcomes as members, in accordance with the laws of the Fraternity, college women, without regard to race, religion, national origin, age, disability, or other characteristics protected by applicable law,” Rink said. "Those who identify as women are eligible for membership in Kappa Alpha Theta."
Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Phi did not respond to requests for comment.
Logan, a College junior and member of Penn Non-Cis who asked to be referred to by his first name out of fear of discrimination, said that while education on transgender students is a step in the right direction for Greek organizations, it may not address all the concerns of non-cisgender students who would like to join a sorority or fraternity.
“I don't think it's a complete solution by any means,” Logan said. “I think there are still a lot of barriers trans people will face when thinking about joining Greek organizations, and being aware of those barriers and discussing them is a good start, but it is still just a start.”
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