Northwestern’s Panhellenic Association will establish diversity and inclusion chairs in each chapter in response to controversy last month surrounding Kappa Kappa Gamma’s “Jail N’ Bail” philanthropy event, PHA president Frances Fu announced Monday.
In a statement, the SESP senior apologized for the Kappa event, which the sorority canceled two weeks ago, after students criticized it online for being insensitive on racial and socioeconomic grounds. Zeta Beta Tau, which was co-sponsoring the event, withdrew its support during the controversy.
The event, which planned to feature Kappa members in a mock jail asking for “bail” money as donations, was organized to raise money for Kappa’s national philanthropy Reading is Fundamental, a children’s literacy nonprofit.
Students commented on the public Facebook event page and wrote in letters to the editor in The Daily that the event, which used a photo of women in the sorority quad dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, was offensive in light of systemic issues of mass incarceration in the United States.
“I know that it is unfair that our prison systems are disproportionately filled with black and brown bodies while Jail N Bail is advertised by white people in outfits that represent large-scale oppression,” Fu wrote in her statement. “Our Greek community used someone else’s narrative to raise money for our philanthropy, and although we did not act out of malice, we should be ashamed of our ignorance.”
In a letter to the editor published in The Daily in October, Weinberg sophomore Ajay Nadig noted that PHA groups are 71 percent white and favor wealthier students, while about 40 percent of prisoners are black and many are poor. Nadig called the event “a blatant belittling of the realities of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex.”
Critics also said children who are supported by Reading is Fundamental are often affected by having family members incarcerated.
In her statement Fu announced that PHA groups will host talks with Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, executive director of campus inclusion and community, or host Sustained Dialogues in each chapter. PHA will also host an association-wide Sustained Dialogue in addition to establishing a diversity and inclusion chair in each chapter. It was not immediately clear when the changes would take effect.
Fu asked NU students to forgive the Greek community and said in her statement PHA’s goal “is to change the culture of Greek life, the culture of Northwestern.”
Fu did not respond to a request for comment Monday evening.
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