Making Greek life more inclusive one step at a time

Over the past year, the University of Utah Greek life has been working on diversity and inclusion in all of its 18 chapters. 

Story by MADISON KULEDGE 

After the events that took place in the Spring of 2020 most people in the U.S. had their eyes open to the issues in our society concerning race and the foundation of many institutions. One of these institutions was fraternity and sorority Greek life.

Nationally, several social media posts went viral in the spring pointing out the racial issues with how fraternity and sororities were established. Members shared their own experiences and brought light to changes that needed to be made. 

Many called for the abolishment of Greek life. However, there is room for growth and change instead. The University of Utah Greek life chose a path of growth and has since implemented many new policies. 

The current social issues that have been highlighted are not to be taken lightly by academic institutions, and Greek life is no exception. Therefore, members who are a part of marginalized communities have had their voices amplified in order to learn what change can be implemented.

Conversations about implicit bias, microaggressions, and mechanisms through which marginalized voices can be uplifted have been prioritized. These conversations are crucial toward spreading awareness and making initial steps to achieve real, measurable change. 

This statement was posted on May 31, 2020, by Utah Panhellenic on its Instagram.

The Panhellenic Council oversees the six National Panhellenic Conference chapters and two affiliate chapters at the U. “The Panhellenic community consists of over 850 empowering women who value the excellence of scholarship, leadership, and service,” reads the Panhellenic website

At the U, diversity and inclusion are highly valued, and Panhellenic activities should reflect these values. So to do this the council began by adding a diversity and inclusion chair to the Panhellenic executive board.

It is a stronghold goal that marginalized members of this university feel comfortable to join Greek life, and that current members feel heard and valued in their Panhellenic activities. 

Along with other chapters at the U, including Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Delta Gamma, Pi Beta Phi followed Panhellenic’s decision. In the Fall of 2020, added a director of diversity and inclusion position to its executive council. 

Katia Vu is Pi Phi’s current diversity director. She said believes that within Greek life it is incredibly important to promote diversity and inclusion. “We need to make sure that everyone, no matter their race or if they have a disability, has an equal opportunity to participate within Greek life,” Vu said during a Zoom call. 

Through Vu’s position, she gets to help her peers grow and learn every week during Pi Phi’s chapter meetings. She also holds virtual workshops throughout the semester to promote learning and an open conversation about current topics in society. 

“I’ve held information sessions during chapter in which I will usually talk about current events, holidays, or topics like accountability and implicit bias. I think I can do so much with this position and we have much more planned for the future starting with this fall’s recruitment,” Vu explained. 

Pi Beta Phi sorority house at the University of Utah. Photo by Madison Kuledge.

Greek life has always placed importance on teaching its members how to be better members of society and the community at the U. The homepage of the Fraternity and Sorority Life website for the U reads, “to provide educational programming in the areas of program development, risk management, and the promotion of leadership development.”

“When I was a DG (Delta Gamma) I remember going to many educational presentations and teachings concerning the issues that happened in Greek life such as sex, drugs and alcohol, but I never once attended anything on racism which was also an issue within Greek life,” said Chloe Greep, a former member of Delta Gamma. 

“I’m really happy to see that the U has added additional educational efforts on this topic (racism) because I know during my time these talks and presentations were so helpful and informative, so hopefully this can create change,” Greep said. 

Not only is Greek life as an institution stepping up, but members within chapters are as well. 

During the summer Pi Phi member Emily Pelligrino held an open educational conversation for all to participate in. The discussion was focused around the George Floyd murder and the following Black Lives Matter movements across the nation. 

Taylor Madsen, who attended the discussion, said in an email interview, “It was nice to be able to talk to my peers about our feelings and frustrations with what was happening and it was also nice to know that you aren’t alone and to know that we all cared about the events that were taking place.”

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) is the governing body for the 12 inter/national fraternities at the U. It has implemented it own teachings and policies to promote the diversity and inclusion within fraternities on campus. 

In February, IFC teamed up with the U to celebrate Black History Month and held extra educational events for members on top of the programming that the university held for all students. 

Several chapters at the U have or are working toward adding a position focusing on diversity and inclusion to their respective executive council. 

“We may not have a designated diversity chair but Sigma Nu has held a handful of educational Zoom calls and meetings focused around diversity and eliminating stereotypes and microaggressions,” said Johnny Foster, a Sigma Nu member. 

So how do we continue to build on what has already been done? Katia Vu, Pi Phi’s diversity and inclusion director, said, “We can always do more research and educate ourselves. No matter how much we think we know, or how many workshops we attend we can always learn and improve. We can always be more welcoming by checking our implicit biases and making sure to engage with everyone so that they feel included within the community.”