The Panhellenic Association recently announced that potential new members will be allowed to use elevators instead of the stairs during the organization’s six-day-long recruitment process.
Potential new members, or individuals going through the recruitment process, were previously required to take the stairs while sisters could ride elevators to avoid conversation between the groups outside of the formal recruitment parties.
The new elevator policy is a step in the right direction. While the discriminatory practice should not have existed in the first place, it is encouraging that the Panhellenic Association took student concerns seriously and worked quickly to make recruitment more accessible for all members and the community that was also affected by this policy.
In the past, elevators were labeled “sisters only,” which affected potential new members and non-affiliated students during the recruitment period.
Sorority recruitment, which takes place in the Marvin Center, fills the student center with hundreds of sorority members and more than 600 potential new members over the course of five days. While the Marvin Center is overtaken by sororities during this time, other students use the space too, so elevators labeled for only sorority members could leave unaffiliated individuals to believe they can’t use the elevator.
For students with disabilities, whether they are going through recruitment or not, this can be especially prohibitive and isolating. Students may feel like they have to explain themselves or justify their use of the elevator, which can discourage them from accessing spaces like the Marvin Center or participating in the recruitment process at all.
Senior Olivia Eggers said in a Twitter message she was spurred to take action against the elevator policy because of her own experience as a student with a physical disability. Seeing signs on the Marvin Center elevators that said “sisters only” contributed to her decision to avoid joining a sorority as a freshman, she said.
“For me, the thought of having to disclose my disability in order to be able to participate physically in recruitment felt humiliating and isolating,” Eggers said.
Eggers said she reached out to the Panhellenic Association via email on Saturday and was pleased when the outgoing president, Elizabeth Jessup, was “sensitive and validating” and took her concerns seriously.
“Panhel leadership was incredibly receptive to my concerns and immediately took action to remove the signs,” Eggers said.
Emphasizing accessibility and inclusivity in recruitment is an important step toward making Greek organizations more diverse and welcoming to all students. Greek organizations should use this situation as a lesson to think of the needs of students with disabilities beforehand, rather than waiting until someone speaks up to make needed changes.
While the Panhellenic Association made important and necessary changes, it is possible that future iterations of recruitment will continue to enforce official or unofficial rules that discriminate against certain groups of students. Greek organizations should be proud of this change to be more inclusive – and must continue to work to accommodate all students and ensure that the recruitment process is equitable.
Matilda Kreider, a junior majoring in political communications, is a Hatchet opinions columnist.
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This article appeared in the January 24, 2019 issue of the Hatchet.