Two years after the Interfraternity Council announced its search for a diversity chair, the IFC is finalizing a new Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion position to its executive board. The move comes after the IFC previously said they would no longer follow through with creating the position.
Engineering sophomore Majesty Uwagerikpe, who was elected as Assistant Vice President of New Member Education and Recruitment of the IFC 2019 executive board, will assume the VP of Diversity and Inclusion role. He began working on projects under his new position in mid-February, although the position will be voted in officially on April 3 by the IFC executive board, presidents of all the IFC chapters, and Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life representatives.
Following a racially-charged incident at Phi Gamma Delta in 2017, then IFC president and 2018 College graduate Bradley Freeman told the DP that the IFC was “looking towards accelerating" the process of establishing a diversity chair. In spring 2018, former IFC President and College senior Reginald Murphy reversed this decision and told The Daily Pennsylvanian that a diversity chair would not be the most efficient method for the IFC. Instead of one person focusing on diversity, Murphy said all members of the executive board should be responsible for implementing diversity within their roles.
“Our goal was not to have a diversity chair just because people asked us to have one,” Murphy told the DP. “We wanted to make sure that we had something concrete for that person to do.”
The 2019 IFC President and College junior Brian Schmitt has shifted back to IFC's 2017 stance. As president, Schmitt reviewed all positions on the board in the beginning of the year and found that the ambiguity of the Assistant VP of NME and Recruitment could be refocused into a diversity and inclusion role because of the need to bring diversity into recruitment.
At the February 25 monthly forum where all fraternity chapter presidents and the IFC were in attendance, the student leaders passed Schmitt’s proposal to create the new diversity chair. The changes to the IFC constitution will be finalized at the next IFC forum on April 3.
As VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Uwagerikpe plans to hold a diversity summit this semester where executive boards of fraternities learn approaches to ensure people of all races and religions can feel safe and included at parties. He added that he wants to collaborate with groups such as the Penn Anti-Violence Educators, the LGBT Center, and the Penn Women's Center.
Uwagerikpe also said he plans to host a panel in the fall for potential new members to showcase diverse groups within the IFC that freshmen and sophomores may be unfamiliar with, such as co-ed chapters.
Schmitt said the VP of Diversity and Inclusion will also work to promote financial inclusion, as the IFC recently endowed their first scholarship to alleviate the financial stress of dues. The VP of Diversity and Inclusion will be responsible for reviewing applicants and granting the scholarship to more than 10 students.
“[Uwagerikpe] now has funds that he can use to help bring financial inclusion to Greek life as well,” Schmitt said. “Especially as a student on financial aid myself, I remember being very nervous about whether or not I’d be able to pay dues.”
Engineering sophomore Archit Dhar, a member of Sigma Alpha Mu, said while he is happy with the new VP for diversity position, he said the position should have been created "way sooner."
"People in Greek life are finally acknowledging and taking action on an issue that a lot of people weren’t really paying attention to which is the lack of diversity and inclusion within Greek life in general but also specifically the IFC," Dhar said.
College junior George Russell, a member of Alpha Chi Rho, said he applauds the new position and that diversity should be organic and not forced.
"I think it's kind of unfortunate that we do need a position just for diversity," Russell said. "You would think it would be included in all things we did, but it's nice to have a position to make sure we are adhering to a standard of diversity.”
"I can’t predict the future, but I don’t think it will be as impactful as they want it to be," said College senior Fakhri Abdullayev, who is also a member of Alpha Chi Rho. "There are definitely fraternities out there right now who are just like all white kids. There’s nothing wrong with that. It's just going to take some time. A lot of these fraternities are old and traditional."
OFSL director Jazmyn Pulley praises the current board for implementing the new chair.
"It’s not an easy decision to make for an executive board a month after their transition to make major changes, so I think it really shows they’ve really thought this out and had conservations before making any major steps,” Pulley said. The 2019 IFC Executive Board assumed their positions in late January.
IFC's VP of Diversity and Inclusion was established two years after the Panhellenic Council created a VP of Diversity in spring 2017. Panhel VP of Diversity and Wharton sophomore Sahitya Mandalapu said she looks forward to working with her new counterpart on the IFC and introducing her Panhel initiatives to the fraternity council.
Uwagerikpe added that he is excited to start a precedence that he hopes will shape Greek life at Penn.
“Being someone who is African American, being someone who comes from an immigrant background and having friends who are part of these other diverse groups, this has been a top priority of mine and I'm glad now I can start promoting these new efforts through this new role in the IFC," he said.