Northwestern Greek institutions start diversity, inclusion initiatives

Alice Yin, Development and Recruitment Editor

The Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council have set new positions for diversity and inclusion in motion this quarter.

Following winter recruitment, all 12 PHA chapters either added a new diversity and inclusion chair or added similar responsibilities to an existing position, said Medill junior KK Doyle, PHA president. All PHA sororities released applications this quarter, Doyle said, with the goal of each sorority reaching its final decision about who will take their position before spring break.

Doyle drew from weeks of roundtable discussions with presidents from each PHA chapter and PHA adviser Karen Pryor to determine what would qualify someone for the new diversity and inclusion position, Doyle said. PHA sent preliminary emails to the chapters with recommendations on what would make someone a good fit for the job, she said, but the decision is up to the individual sororities.

“When people try to talk about diversity and inclusion … (there’s) the complexity of 12 organizations who operate differently,” Doyle said. “Everybody picks these people differently … We really are just trying to find someone with energy and enthusiasm about having different conversations and sensitivity towards varying levels of engagement.”

Although the new position will focus on diversity and inclusion, Doyle said the official title of the position varies among the chapters. Some sororities decided to establish a committee instead of one chair because they had multiple people qualified for the job, Doyle said.

After all decisions are made, PHA will send guided questions for the new chairs to reflect on “where their chapters are at now,” Doyle said. PHA plans to set up meetings with them afterward to discuss their hopes for the new position.

“This is a new position and it’s important. It’s got to stay around,” Doyle said. “It’s only as strong as the effort you put in putting it together. You don’t want to rush this and have it be a hasty project.”

Doyle said she spoke with students and faculty outside of PHA as well, including SESP senior Austin Romero, Associated Student Government vice president of accessibility and inclusion, and Michele Enos, assistant director of campus inclusion and community.

“It would be so, so counterintuitive if this becomes an exclusive club for a conversation on inclusion,” Doyle said. “This is an open door for different community members, student leaders and other faculty members.”

A push for emphasis on diversity and inclusion began last November under former PHA president Frances Fu, a SESP senior, following the canceled Jail N’ Bail philanthropy event. Amid criticism that the fundraiser put on by Kappa Kappa Gamma and Zeta Beta Tau was racially insensitive, Fu initiated a plan to address such concerns as she was wrapping up her term as president.

Meanwhile, IFC added a new director for community engagement this quarter, officially appointing Medill junior Andy Linder on Monday. Linder, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, will serve as IFC’s contact for the rest of the NU and Evanston community.

The initiative for this new position started in the fall, according to IFC president Mark Nelson, a Weinberg junior and Sigma Nu member.

“It’s a very exciting time to be part of the Greek community because so many changes are made,” Nelson said. “I think we’re very cognizant of that right now. We’re progressive minded and recognize there’s a lot of things wrong. We need to work on that.”

Linder said one of his main goals of inclusion is to “break down barriers between Greek and non-Greek students,” and to increase interaction with Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council. He also said he hopes to grow community service opportunities in IFC, “both on and off-campus, between Greek students and non-Greek.”

In the past, IFC has focused on relations among different chapters and with PHA, Linder said. Now, he said it hopes to go beyond the Greek community.

“Why is it some people have a negative view of Greek life?” Linder said. “I think one of it is the exclusivity of the Greek process.”

IFC also met with executive director of Campus Inclusion and Community Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, Nelson said. The executive members had a dialogue with her on what it means to be Greek and its effect on the rest of the campus.

“She was so incredible,” Nelson said. “She understood the passion that we had which is always tough to convey. Walking out of that, we realized all these things we never thought about before.”

Linder said he envisions a future where being in a certain organization doesn’t define anyone.

“This is why I’m at Northwestern,” Linder said. “I love to build community. … We do have six different schools and there are a lot of different people at this campus. But there’s one official color at this school.”

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Twitter: @alice__yin

Previous stories on this topic:

    After criticisms of Northwestern’s majority white Greek community, leaders look to make chapters more diverse, inclusive
    PHA to establish diversity, inclusion chair in each chapter after ‘Jail N’ Bail’ controversy
    Kappa ‘Jail N’ Bail philanthropy event canceled after criticism
    Letter to the editor: Response to KKG and ZBT’s ‘Jail N’ Bail event