In the midst of heightened global attention on anti-Black racism and police violence, many of Penn’s Greek organizations have pledged to support the Black Lives Matter movement and improve diversity and inclusion efforts within campus Greek Life.
Penn’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council have publicly condemned racism in Instagram statements. While several organizations have released statements and raised money towards anti-racist and community-oriented organizations in recent weeks, some Greek organizations, including Tri Delta, Sigma Delta Tau, and Phi Gamma Delta, have committed to addressing racism and a lack of diversity within their own chapters on campus.
Rising Nursing junior and Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment Jenny Chang said that Panhellenic raised and donated over $8,000 to Black Lives Matter Philly, the Philadelphia Bail Fund, which was co-founded by a 2018 College graduate, and Attic Youth Center, Philadelphia’s only independent LGBTQ youth center.
Chang said Panhellenic will hold new educational workshops on microaggressions and implicit bias, create affinity groups and book clubs, and share anti-racist educational resources with its members. She said Panhellenic will also encourage each chapter to develop its own educational programming.
Chang said Panhellenic will also create a confidential reporting system for potential new members who experience racism during recruitment. She also plans to review the scoring systems and results of the recruitment process in each chapter to verify that implicit racial bias is not the reason behind sororities’ recruitment decisions.
“A lot of people of color, especially Black people, go through recruitment and they’re like ‘no, this isn’t for me’ because honestly, we are predominantly white, and I feel like that has been the case throughout history,” Chang said.
She said it is important to start a dialogue about racism within Greek life and have productive discussions about why Black membership in Panhellenic sororities is low, and hopes the efforts of Panhellenic can help chapters progress towards creating a safe and inclusive space for women of color.
Rising College senior and Tri Delta President Caitlin McNamara said that in response to recent events, Tri Delta has expanded the operations of the chapter’s diversity and inclusion committee to include external advocacy, internal advocacy, and activism subcommittees.
McNamara said the chapter also raised over $10,000 for the Anti-Racism Fund, a fund co-founded by 2018 College graduate and Tri Delta alumna Sesana Allen. The Anti-Racism Fund, she said, provides donations to organizations that support criminal justice reform, education access, health and wellness, and community outreach and social justice advocacy.
She said that although Tri Delta has made strides in furthering diversity and inclusion in recent years, she recognizes that the chapter has room for improvement.
“We are really committed to creating a legacy of diversity in the chapter,” McNamara said. “I think particularly this moment has really spurred momentum to take a critical look at how we run everything.”
McNamara said Tri Delta will also expand its philanthropy efforts to include fundraising for local causes, and has launched a book, movie, and podcast club for members to learn more about issues related to anti-Black racism. Tri Delta leadership will also strengthen existing programming of educational workshops and diversity training during recruitment.
“We are going to take this opportunity to reiterate that the values we are using to recruit women visibly and tangibly include diversity, equity, and inclusion of people of all walks of life,” McNamara said.
Rising College junior and Sigma Delta Tau Vice President Emma Van Zandt said SDT organized a social media fundraising campaign for the NAACP that raised approximately $12,000, and that they were able to have three companies match their donation for a total of $36,000.
SDT has had a diversity committee in the past, Van Zandt said, but the committee has taken on more efforts in the past month. The chapter plans to continue conducting diversity workshops remotely during the summer for its members.
Van Zandt said that SDT has held workshops on microaggressions, stereotypes, and other similar topics in the past, but they have recently shifted to focusing more on racial diversity and on understanding privilege and systemic racism in the context of current events and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans.
Phi Gamma Delta President and rising Engineering senior Majesty Uwagerikpe said that FIJI has encouraged its members to donate to organizations fighting racial injustice. He said that the group also made a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative.
Uwagerikpe, who is also Executive Vice President of the IFC, said that in light of current events, FIJI has created opportunities for members to share their own experiences with racism, and has given members the opportunity to ask questions and learn from each other about acts of racism and discrimination.
“We believe that as a social organization on our campus, we have a responsibility to do what we can to set a standard for how these issues should be addressed,” Uwagerikpe said.
Zeta Beta Tau Treasurer and rising Wharton junior Blake Guillaume said ZBT donated nearly $30,000 to the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and other related organizations.
Guillaume said ZBT has focused on fostering informal discussions about racism and diversity among members in the chapter. He added that ZBT has focused on members of color sharing their experiences.
“Leaders of Greek Life should be a little more aware of the fact that having a welcoming attitude and encouraging people, who are not like the typical demographic of your space, to feel welcomed and to feel like their cultures are also welcomed is really important,” Guillaume said.
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