The Interfraternity Council announced last March it was looking to introduce a diversity chair position to its executive board. A year later, however, the IFC board is still without a diversity chair and is no longer searching for one. Instead, the group is looking to address diversity in other ways.
Following a racially-charged incident at Phi Gamma Delta — a member named his beer pong team “VietPong" and later faced backlash from the Asian community at Penn — the former IFC president and current College senior Bradley Freeman told the DP that the IFC was “looking towards accelerating" the process of establishing a diversity chair.
However, the IFC board later decided that they would not establish a diversity chair last fall, current IFC President and College junior Reginald Murphy said. Instead, the board elected to make diversity considerations a “bigger component” of each elected officials’ positions. This decision is now being carried out, Murphy said. One of the board's biggest focuses this fall will be the New Member Education program.
Freeman declined to comment on this article. Former IFC Executive Board members College senior Tobias Milligan, College junior Maxwell Abram, and Engineering senior Ben Riedel also all declined to comment on this article. Former IFC Executive Board members Wharton senior Nico DeLuna, and Wharton senior Andrew Kerber did not respond to multiple requests to comment.
Murphy said that he felt "outside forces" were "pressuring [the IFC] to do it" because the Panhellenic Council created the position of a diversity chair in 2017.
Murphy explained that he believed the role of a diversity chair would not be the most efficient method for the IFC. Having one point person responsible for diversity would require that person to coordinate the implementation of diversity efforts with other members of the executive board, Murphy said. Instead, the Council wants to develop a system where each member of IFC board will be responsible for implementing diversity.
“Our goal was not to have a diversity chair just because people asked us to have one. We wanted to make sure that we had something concrete for that person to do,” he said.
However, Murphy also noted that the discussion of this position brought the issue of diversity to the forefront of the IFC.
"Before those weren’t things we thought about and I think that having been pushed to make this diversity chair was something that made us focus on diversity more," he said. “Now in the future, if we think it becomes a need, if we think that each specific person is not able to handle it as part of their duties, then we’ll relook at possibly adding a position,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he and the rest of the new IFC executive board are planning to do this with a revamped New Member Education system for the fall, following a newly expanded program that piloted this spring. He said he believes that new member education is the “most important place for diversity,” as it can help guide members to make Greek life more “accessible” to minority communities by teaching them how to make minorities feel comfortable.
College sophomore and Vice President of New Member Education Michael Pearson echoed this sentiment. Pearson, along with Assistant to the Vice President of New Member Education and Engineering sophomore Daniel Leiser, plan to reach out to different cultural groups and host presentations during the fall semester to make IFC fraternities more accessible.
Leiser said that the board is making a “more concerted effort” to “include a more diverse demographic.” The board is planning to work with Makuu, the University’s Black Cultural Center, and the LGBT Center to educate members on how to best ensure that potential members do not feel nervous or isolated while attending rush events.
Pearson and Leiser also said they hoped to reach out to other cultural centers like the Pan-Asian American Community House, La Casa Latina, and the Greenfield Intercultural Center.
Current IFC Executive Board member Engineering senior Kevin Hayes did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article, and Current IFC Executive Board member College junior Noah Gelles declined to comment on the article.
Responding to the news of the IFC's decision in a message, the current Vice President of Diversity for Panhel, College sophomore Alexis Broussard said, "My position within Panhel has launched a very important journey in terms of increasing diversity and inclusion initiatives within Panhellenic, and I feel it will have a great impact on the Panhellenic community. It's too bad that IFC does not feel the same."
Murphy said that while many may take the decision to forego adding the diversity chair position as an indication that the IFC does not care about diversity, this remains an important issue for himself and the rest of the board.
“I think I am a good person [to be IFC president] for the current state of Greek life, and I think that because I think I am not the status quo. I think when you think of an IFC president, my picture doesn’t pop up into your mind,” Murphy said. “I’m obviously a minority, so I care quite a bit about it.”
Murphy said he thinks the main reason most minorities decide to not rush is because of misconceptions about Greek life.
“There are not many barriers to entry for minority students into Greek life … most of the hindrances are the stereotypes about what Greek life is, and those are the things we’re looking to change," he said.
While acknowledging that the Intercultural Greek Council — "the umbrella organization for the historically African American, Latino and Asian Greek letter organizations at the University of Pennsylvania," its official description reads — offers opportunities for students to make their cultural identity the focus of their Greek experience, Pearson also hopes that students of color will feel comfortable in IFC fraternities as well.
“The IFC is a growing body. We try to change and adapt based on the years previous,” Murphy said. “We’re going to continue to do our best. We’re not where we should be, but I always say this — there’s a place for every student at Penn to be a part of Greek life.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this article inaccurately wrote that IFC Executive Board members College junior Matthew Moore and Engineering and Wharton sophomore Lucas Almada-Sabaté said diversity was not a central part of their roles. While Moore and Almada-Sabaté did not happen to mention diversity in general descriptions of their roles, they did not in fact remark that diversity was not part of it. The Daily Pennsylvanian regrets these errors.
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