The Panhellenic Association is pulling together a group of leaders focused on improving diversity and inclusion in sororities.
Sorority leaders are currently recruiting women to serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Board, a group of chapter leaders who will educate members on how to be more cognizant of members of different religious, racial or socioeconomic backgrounds. Panhellenic Association President Izzy Griffith said the board will allow sorority women to voice issues “that need our community’s attention,” including the cost of recruitment or dues.
Griffith said the board will be comprised of each chapter’s diversity and inclusion chair, who will undergo training on issues like cultural competency or implicit biases. She said diversity and inclusion chairs will pass their training along to general sorority members in education sessions that could be offered for all women or members of specific chapters.
The board will officially launch by the end of the semester, she said.
“We will educate chapter leadership and then they will disseminate to their chapters, and we will offer opportunities for chapter members to come and hear that firsthand,” she said. “There are a lot of different opportunities for them to get involved and hear about issues and get a variety of levels of information and training.”
Diversity and inclusion became top priorities in fraternity and sorority life last February when a racist Snapchat post involving three sorority women spread across campus. The Panhellenic Association also released a statement earlier this month apologizing for several images of blackface involving sorority members that appeared in dated Cherry Tree yearbooks.
Griffith said she also wants leaders in the new group to educate women on campus-wide issues like food insecurity and a lack of diversity among faculty and staff. She said educating women on the topics will allow sorority women to be more aware of concerns affecting the entire student body.
Hannah Blandon, the Panhellenic Association’s vice president of membership development, said the organization opened an application this month for sorority members to apply to be the board’s chair, and she will run interviews next month. Once the group is fully established by the end of the semester, members will decide its structure and create short- and long-term goals, she said.
“With this, we hope that education, mediation and awareness to these issues would help highlight and create a call to action for our chapters and members,” Blandon said.
Blandon said she has been meeting with diversity and inclusion officers from the 11 chapters while the committee is being created. She said the meetings serve as a check on diversity and inclusion initiatives in each chapter and determine areas where the organizations can improve their diversity and inclusion goals.
“It is my goal to bring issues related to diversity and inclusion to the forefront, allowing for real and long-lasting development to be accomplished,” she said.
Former Panhellenic Association President Elizabeth Jessup, who began informal discussions about the group last year, said she wanted to start the board so Panhellenic leaders could pool their resources and develop strategies to promote diversity and inclusion. She said that during her tenure last year, Greek leaders surveyed each chapter to evaluate how sororities work to make their chapters more inclusive.
“Each chapter faces unique manifestations of similar problems in these issue areas and has developed different approaches to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion within their chapters,” Jessup said in an email.
Jessup said she wants the board to regularly meet and provide updates on how individual chapters are implementing diversity and inclusion goals.
“This would also be a great group of people to draft policy for the Panhellenic Association as a whole,” Jessup said.
Sarah Roach contributed reporting.