Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council recently implemented a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcouncil in an effort to welcome a wider range of backgrounds to the Greek community.
The Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council’s goal is to start a conversation about inclusion issues that persist in sororities at Lehigh.
“Each chapter has different inclusion education requirements, so it is our job to make sororities aware of the inclusivity resources Lehigh has to offer and figure out what is working and not working,” said Ariana Simms, ‘23, Lehigh Panhellenic’s vice president of access and advocacy.
The council has begun this process through collaboration with the Pride Center and Students Promoting Equality, Awareness, and Knowledge (SPEAK), Lehigh’s gender and sexuality peer education group. The goal is to create stronger allyship for Greek life members.
Simms said the council’s team hopes to continue having open conversations with organizations that promote a nurturing on-campus community for every student.
Chad Williams, director of Lehigh’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, works to ensure every student is welcomed within Lehigh’s many communities. Williams said there has historically been a negative perception of inclusivity within Greek life, however, he is optimistic that change is possible if an active effort persists.
“Greek life is taking the opportunity to open up to more discussion and change, and understand that there have been long-standing inclusivity problems,” Williams said.
Tanya Andino, ‘23, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Alpha Gamma Delta chapter, recognizes that the issue extends far beyond racial inclusivity. It encompasses inclusivity of religious, sexual, and any other identities that students may embody.
“We are at the base foundation of inclusion, and DEI has to work towards building that strong base,” Andino said.
Greek life at Lehigh is a prominent part of the undergraduate experience. Despite nearly 40 percent of Lehigh undergraduates being involved in Greek life, there is a pattern of underrepresentation of minority students.
The council wants to open up the chance for students who feel dismissed from the Greek life community to be welcomed and respected. For Simms, this means easing the process of joining a sorority in every possible way.
With sorority chapter dues costing upwards of $700 per semester, Simms sees a pressing need to alleviate the cost barrier for those who cannot afford to even consider joining Greek life.
“The main hurdle for accessibility in Greek Life is the financial component,” Simms said.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council has set forth plans to create new Panhellenic scholarships to combat this issue. Because most chapters do not provide access to scholarships until initiation or upperclassmen status, Simms sees this as the council’s most pressing issue.
As for the future of Greek life, Simms, Williams and Andino are optimistic that change will continue to occur.
Williams hopes the future includes abolishing formal recruitment and shifting towards relationship based membership that will be more open to diversity.
“Formal recruitment creates an environment that is unwelcoming to BIPOC,” Williams said.
Andino made a similar statement, drawing back on her personal experience when joining a sorority.
“I didn’t speak to a person of color during formal recruitment until the third day,” Andino said.
Ultimately, Andino’s goal is to feel represented across all chapters in Greek life. Her goal is shared by many at Lehigh, and the council hopes to take strides towards a more diversified Greek community.