PHA and IFC explain diversity in MU Greek chapters

Most agree diversity is the responsibility of individual chapters.

At the University of Alabama earlier in September, a controversy sparked when an article from the school’s newspaper, “The Crimson White,” revealed that some sororities on campus were being discriminatory when recruiting members. Two African-American women were denied the opportunity to pledge to 16 of the sororities on campus, all of which were historically white.

Since the article was published, sororities at the University of Alabama have offered 11 pledges to African-American women and three to women of other minority groups, according to the Tuscaloosa News.

Jory Mick, the Panhellenic Association vice president of public relations, spoke about comparing MU to Alabama.

“It’s hard to compare us to the University of Alabama, because our campuses are so different,” she said.

PHA and the Interfraternity Council are the two councils within the Greek community that unite all of the individual fraternity and sorority chapters together into two groups.

“We don’t tell chapters how to operate” Mick said. “Our job is to unite the chapters together and to make sure that they communicate and that they support each other. We’re just the helping hand.”

Peter Birk, the IFC vice president of public relations, said the key to breaking down racism in fraternities and sororities around the country is education.

“As long as the PHA and IFC continue to provide a resource for the individual fraternities and sororities on campus, I think that that will be able to stop any type of prejudice within our communities,” he said.

One of the main debates presented after the article at the University of Alabama was printed was whose responsibility it was to regulate diversity in recruiting new members to sororities and fraternities: the individual chapters or on-campus groups like the PHA and IFC.

Greek Life coordinator Stefanie Zimmerman said that it is the individual chapters’ responsibility.

“When it comes to membership selection, we’re not going to get involved in that, because that’s not the right of the PHA, IFC or Office of Greek Life,” she said.

Birk agreed with Zimmerman.

“We are responsible for educating the individual chapters, but in the end, they are responsible for enacting what they’ve been taught,” Birk said.

Another debate that began after the Alabama controversy was whether or not minority Greek groups, like the National Pan-Hellenic Council, were necessary on campus.

“Every student on campus has a right to be a part of any group that they feel comfortable in,” Mick said. “It’s not our job to say that certain organizations get to be on campus or not.”

Birk said the NPHC is necessary at MU.

“It presents a very good opportunity for African-American students on campus to explore their heritage in a particular way,” Birk said.

The foundation is a program of standards and requirements for fraternities and sororities at MU. Among the many things required of the sororities and fraternities at MU, one requirement is to uphold unity and diversity. One of the optional ways of fulfilling this requirement is to hold a diversity education presentation to at least 60 percent of the chapter on either multiculturalism education, racial/ethnic education or LGBTQ Safe Space training.

“The Mizzou Greek community strives to be one of inclusion for all members of the University of Missouri and Columbia community,” according to the foundation program packet under the Unity/Diversity heading.

Birk said he was confident that diversity within Greek Life now and in the future would continue to improve.

“We value diversity,” he said. “Going forward, as long as we can continue to educate members, then diversity will continue to provide a strong initiative for all of our chapters here on the University of Missouri campus.”

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