After a Snapchat post controversy spread across campus in February, students were quick to demand that the University implement sweeping changes to policies surrounding Greek life and how GW handles racist incidents. University President Thomas LeBlanc announced a list of nine changes in response to the racist post including mandatory diversity training for all incoming freshmen and other select student leaders.
LeBlanc initially said the incident would spark an examination of Greek life on campus, but more than six months later aside from mandating that recruitment chairs and new members are educated on diversity, no additional trainings or consequences have fallen on the Greek community at GW. As a member of a fraternity on campus, I want to see more proactive changes to GW’s Greek system in response to this unfortunate racist incident.
Providing diversity training for various groups like RAs, orientation leaders and other student leaders is important, but it doesn’t go far enough. Racism on campus is a systemic problem that requires constant attention throughout the year, and individual training sessions before school starts or only for groups that have leadership roles cannot ensure that education is properly disseminated.
If administrators truly want to curb racism in response to the racist incident that occurred last semester, they should focus their efforts where the incident occurred: Greek life. Mandatory diversity and inclusion workshops for all members of Greek chapters each year or even throughout the year will demonstrate a clear commitment to creating an environment in which everyone truly feels welcome.
Greek life is especially vulnerable to implicit racial bias and one of the most insidious ways it can occur is during the process of recruiting new members. To join a Greek organization, potential new members go through recruitment or rush and meet each chapter’s members. Members then vote on which potential new members to admit into their group, which creates the perfect storm for implicit bias to occur. If all members were required to take part in a diversity and implicit bias training each year, students might think twice about why they vote one way or another on potential members.
The Panhellenic Association, the governing council for sororities at GW, paid lip service to diversity and inclusion after the Alpha Phi Snapchat, but very few changes have materialized. After the incident occurred, Panhel posted a message on its Facebook page denouncing the incident and explaining that individual sororities planned to implement their own diversity measures. But individual chapter policies are subject to the discretion its national headquarters, which tend to be restrictive about local chapter changes, so individual chapters need the University to mandate changes.
Administrators should have acted swiftly to specifically make Greek life a safer and more welcoming place for students of color. But they haven’t.
In order to demonstrate a true commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, GW should recognize that mandatory trainings for incoming freshman and student leaders – while a necessary starting point – are not enough education. Working with fraternities and sororities to create long-term ways of systematically monitoring bias and educating members about diversity and inclusion will ensure that every student on campus feels safe and welcome in their learning and social environments.
Nate Muramatsu, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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