Creating a community, not a competition: New Panhellenic leadership focuses on Greek culture

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Molly Bankuti, ’18, was recently elected as the new president of Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council. One of Bankuti’s main goals as president is to promote inclusivity. (Courtesy of Molly Bankuti)

Whether they served on a chapter executive board in the past or were simply positive influences among their sisters, the new members of the Panhellenic Council’s executive board want to further implement change in the Greek community.

The new executive board, which consists of 10 members from different Panhellenic sororities, was officially passed on April 6.

Molly Bankuti, ’18, was chosen as the new president of Panhel. Bankuti’s interactions with students in and outside her chapter as well as outside of Greek Life encouraged her to apply for president. She hopes to be the change on campus in bringing all of the “social circles” together, something she believes the Lehigh community as a whole can benefit from.

Her goals align with those of the other new board members. Erin Garrity, ’18, the new vice president of Greek relations, said when students join Greek chapters, they often forget they are something much bigger than just their chapter.

Erin Garrity, ’18, was recently elected vice president of Greek relations on the Lehigh Panhellenic Council. Garrity previously served on the executive board of her chapter and is the coordinator of the Greek Emerging Leaders program. (Courtesy of Erin Garrity)

“We have the opportunity as Panhel to remind people that we are the biggest women’s group on campus and have the power to make changes,” Garrity said. “We have control over a lot of Greek life and are able to make sure the members are really becoming better people and leaders for tomorrow.”

Most of the women on the board chose to apply because the Greek community and their chapters have had an impact on their Lehigh experiences, Bankuti said.

“Being in a chapter, you have a bunch of resources for academics, clubs, social events – you really have your finger in everything,” Bankuti said. “It’s an avenue for people to grow as a person, and yeah, it sounds cheesy, but it gives you so many opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise”

Nicole McCarthy, ’18, is the incoming vice president of marketing and publicity on Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council. She previously served on the recruitment board of her sorority. (Courtesy of Nicole McCarthy)

Similarly, Nicole McCarthy, ’18, the new vice president of marketing and publicity, applied to be on the board because she has constantly been involved in her chapter and felt she wanted to be involved on a higher level.

She also joined because she sees some flaws in the Greek life at Lehigh.

“There has been a lot changing with social policies and rush rules, and after being social (chair) and on the rush board of Alpha Phi, I decided there are better ways to go about things,” McCarthy said. “I’ve had experience on the other side of things and having that insight as a social and rush board member made me want to apply.”

Bankuti expressed hopes to change several aspects of Greek life but specifically said the social hierarchy of Lehigh’s Greek system is its biggest flaw. The hierarchy is definitely heightened during rush as many chapters seek to talk badly about other houses to boost their own house’s image, Bankuti said.

“People are caught up in this idea that your value stems from your chapter,” Bankuti said. “Especially in recruitment, chapters feel the need to talk down on other chapters in order to have an edge over them and it can really ruin a PNM’s (potential new member’s) experience.”

Bankuti’s main goal is to refocus Greek life and make it less about the social hierarchy of chapters but more about empowering the chapters to build their members up to be themselves, instead of the chapter’s stereotype.

McCarthy’s goal as VP of marketing is to encourage the Greek community to be more inclusive, get the word out about events each chapter is having and seek to have other chapters attend each other’s events. It’s for the chapters’ benefits to have their events publicized through Panhel as it drives more people to attend their events, so McCarthy hopes to show chapters’ public relations chairs these benefits.

The new Panhel executive board has its own goals and hopes to take action on those as well as the goals the current board has set, Bankuti said.

“A culture shift isn’t going to happen that quickly and there are a lot of factors that play into all of the goals we have (as a board),” Bankuti said. “But the most important part is making sure we’re continuing to make these efforts for change.”

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