Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Advocating for the value of the sorority experience

More than 235 fraternity and sorority members, both alumni and students, were on Capitol Hill on April 25 advocating for sororities and fraternities and the value they provide to our members. Our organizations’ values of character and dignity guide our members in their daily lives as they serve their campus and local communities.

Each year since 2002, the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC), which is a collaborative effort between the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) and Fraternity and Sorority Action Fund (FSAF), has lobbied in Washington, D.C., in order to educate legislators on the value of sororities and fraternities and the advocacy issues important to NPC and NIC.


The FGRC represents 92 single-sex fraternities and sororities nationwide with more than 800,000 undergraduate members at over 9,500 chapters on almost 700 campuses, as well as more than 9.1 million alumni. The NPC and NIC set and execute the advocacy agenda for the FGRC. This year’s lobbying efforts, with more than 460 meetings between fraternity/sorority members and legislators or their staffs, focused on the value of the fraternity/sorority experience and our priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

This topic directly aligns with Pillar One of the NPC Government Relations Platform: Preservation of the sorority experience.

Working together with the NIC, FSPAC and FSAF, our goal is to gain support for protection of our experience through the reauthorization of the HEA. Our members have a constitutional right to freely assemble and associate, but there is a growing trend to punish single-sex organizations for existing by creating barriers and/or penalizing students who join such organizations. Harvard University is just one example as that institution is now blacklisting students who choose to join single-sex social organizations and seeks to force groups to become co-ed against their will. The Harvard policy affects this year’s freshman class and all future students, penalizing those who join single-sex organizations by rendering them ineligible for leadership positions in recognized student organizations, selection as a sports team captain and the Dean’s endorsement for a Rhodes, Marshall or Fulbright scholarship, where such endorsement is a prerequisite for consideration.

But, it’s not just Harvard that is seeking new ways to restrict freedom of association rights. It has become increasingly common for institutions of higher education to regulate and propose policies aimed at forcing single-sex social organizations to become co-ed or imposing burdensome policies and restrictions that undermine a student’s right to freely associate. Examples include blanket suspensions for all sororities and fraternities on a campus when one student or one organization is accused of misconduct and the adoption of operational restrictions that don’t apply to any other student organization on campus, such as not allowing first semester or first year students to choose to join a sorority or fraternity.

Students and alumni gather on Capitol Hill
to advocate for the fraternity and
sorority experience. More photos.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has taken the first step to protect every student’s freedom of association rights, including with single-sex social organizations. The committee’s HEA reauthorization bill – the PROSPER Act – includes language on this issue, but does not address or prevent actions taken by Harvard or a few other campuses that do not already recognize single-sex organizations.

That was our task on April 25 – to encourage House members to perfect the pending language in the PROSPER Act to include all students and to ask senators to include this same language in their own HEA reauthorization bill.

The value of protecting our single-sex experience now and for generations to come cannot be understated. Our organizations create a unique community of support. They are the one place on a college campus, where through a shared single-sex experience, young women or men can enjoy a sense of belonging, empowerment and personal development. NPC and NIC are committed to continuing to advocate for freedom of association rights for our organizations, and we invite you to join us by contacting your representatives here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thanking those who serve our Panhellenic communities

April is Advisor Appreciation Month for the National Panhellenic Conference, and April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week in the United States and Canada. These two events celebrate both the importance of volunteering and the value of volunteers.

Advisor Appreciation Month is a time to thank all those people who advocate for the sorority experience on a daily basis. Whether it’s a fraternity/sorority advisor on your campus, an NPC area advisor for your College or Alumnae Panhellenic or members of your chapter’s alumnae advisory team and corporation board, these individuals are making an important impact by nurturing and empowering women and supporting sorority life. (Looking for Advisor Appreciation Month resources to help you thank advisors? You can find them on our website.)

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their communities. There are so many organizations that rely on volunteer support, and NPC is fortunate to have the commitment of many volunteers who give selflessly of themselves. 

While volunteering is a form of service, many volunteers will tell you they get more than they give. Developing new skills, finding meaningful personal connections and helping collegians understand the value of service are all reasons to pay it forward to ensure the success of sororities for generations of women to come.

If you are volunteer, you have answered the call through your actions of service, support and generosity. You are helping to advance the future of sorority by giving of a precious resource – your time. Realizing how many different people and organizations are vying for your time, we at NPC express our sincere gratitude to you for choosing to spend time advancing the sorority experience.

For those of us who benefit from the guidance of advisors and volunteers, every little bit we can do to make them realize their time is well spent is an investment in the future of sorority. Showing appreciation during Advisor Appreciation Month and National Volunteer Week is important, but what about on a day-to-day basis? I encourage you to show your gratitude by writing thank you notes, sending birthday cards, greeting them by name, nominating them for volunteer awards, accepting their individuality and saying, “It’s always good to see you.”  

Volunteers are the lifeblood of NPC and our individual member organizations. Showing appreciation goes a long way in retaining those people who are committed to supporting our organizations and promoting the sorority experience. Please join me in thanking advisors and other volunteers during April as well as throughout the year.

Interfraternally,






Carole J. Jones
2017-19 NPC chairman

Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 Women’s History Month: Women of Courage and Conviction – Part 3

The National Women's History Project’s theme for the 2018 Women’s History Month is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The National Panhellenic Conference is spotlighting sorority women who have persisted with courage and conviction, particularly in breaking down barriers for other women.

The next sorority woman in our series is both following in the footsteps of other women as well as blazing a trail.

Shaesta Waiz, Theta Phi Alpha, is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine aircraft. She completed her travels in October 2017.

Shaesta Waiz is the first in her family to earn an
undergraduate degree, the first female civilian pilot
from Afghanistan, and the youngest woman to fly
around the world solo in a single-engine plane.

But, her journey has never been easy.

She was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan. Her parents immigrated to America, where she then grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Richmond, California.

To achieve her dream of becoming a pilot, she attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with the help of scholarships and donor support to fund her education.

Geraldine "Jerrie" Fredritz Mock
was the first woman to fly solo
around the world.
In an article in National Geographic, Waiz indicates Jerrie Mock, Phi Mu, the first woman to fly solo around the world – also in a single-engine plane – as her inspiration and mentor.

While Mock’s 1964 journey focused on speed, Waiz had a different mission: to empower women around the world to pursue STEM and aviation careers. Waiz used the stops along her journey to talk to women and children about pursuing their goals.

Waiz also has founded a nonprofit organization called Dreams Soar to help bring awareness of STEM careers and to eventually fund STEM and aviation scholarships for girls and young women. 

Today, only 24 percent of U.S. STEM professionals are female and there are only 450 female airline captains worldwide. Waiz hopes to change that.

As Waiz told the BBC during her trip around the world, her message is that you can be “from any background, you can have any set of challenges but what’s really important is that you have to dream, to dream big and work hard and go after it.”

Sources: Theta Phi Alpha, Phi Mu, Dreams Soar, BBC, National Geographic

See also: 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

2018 Women’s History Month: Women of Courage and Conviction – Part 2


The National Women's History Project’s theme for the 2018 Women’s History Month is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The National Panhellenic Conference is spotlighting sorority women who have persisted with courage and conviction in their efforts to help end discrimination and break down barriers for other women.

Brig. Gen. Margaret A. Brewer
United States Marine Corps

The next woman to be highlighted in this blog series is Margaret A. Brewer, an alumna of Zeta Tau Alpha at the University of Michigan. Brewer was the first female general officer in the United States Marine Corps.

After her college graduation in 1952, Brewer joined the Marine Corps, serving at a time when few women were Marines. She held a variety of roles in the Marine Corps, including rising to the rank of colonel in 1970 and serving as director of women from 1973-1977.




She then served as deputy director of the information division for the Marine Corps. When she was nominated in 1978 to lead the division, the director position was required to be a general – a role not available to women Marines at that time.

President Jimmy Carter made a special appointment to promote Brewer to brigadier general and it was approved by both houses of Congress. Under her leadership, the department was reorganized into the Division of Public Affairs.

Brewer was honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Michigan in 1979 and two Legion of Merit awards from the Marine Corps. She received Zeta Tau Alpha’s Outstanding Alumna Award in 1984.

Brewer retired from the Marine Corps in 1980 and passed away in 2013 at the age of 82. In her obituary in The Washington Post, Brewer is described as “legendary” and “one of the pioneers.” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said in a statement to the paper: “She served during an era when many thought that women had no place in the Corps, but she proved critics wrong time and again.”

Sources: Zeta Tau Alpha, The Washington Post


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Chairman's Message: Celebrating Women's History Month & the Sorority Experience

Celebrated during the month of March in the United States, Women’s History Month traces its beginning back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911. As celebrations of International Women’s Day increased throughout the years, both in public school districts and on college campuses, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation in February 1980 declaring the week of March 8,1980, as National Women’s History Week.

Women's History Month is celebrated
in March in the United States
and in October in Canada.

(Graphic source: National Women's History Project)
In 1987, due to the growing popularity of Women’s History Week and after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Since then, a presidential proclamation is issued every year honoring the achievements of American women. (Note: In Canada, Women’s History Month is celebrated in October to coincide with Persons Day on October 18. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and girls as trailblazers throughout Canadian history.)

This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” Most certainly, I equate this theme with the women of the National Panhellenic Conference. We are persistent as we advocate for the sorority experience and work to preserve the single-sex experience. And we are persistent in ensuring our sorority and fraternity communities stay vibrant and healthy.

Historically, our member organizations have survived two world wars, the Great Depression, drops in enrollment and public criticism of Greek-letter organizations.

In 1961, when negative opinion of social organizations was at its highest, NPC was persistent and adopted a twofold strategy: to reaffirm the constitutional right of fraternities to exist by virtue of freedom of assembly and to make an energetic stance toward re-educating the public about the value of sororities. 

For more than a decade, while many campuses became epicenters of social unrest for reasons that went far beyond the fraternity/sorority system, NPC walked a precise line in asserting the autonomy of its member organizations and maintaining constructive communication with host institutions. One triumph of collective, persistent action was NPC’s lobbying for the continued legality of single-sex status for fraternities and sororities. This status gained partial protection in 1974, when the U.S. Congress passed an exemption to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 to allow colleges and universities to recognize single-sex social organizations.

As new issues continue to arise and our member organizations evolve, new opportunities and challenges are presented that profoundly impact operations and strategy of NPC. We will continue to be persistent by working to protect students’ rights to freely associate with a single-sex organization and preserving the rights of single-sex student organizations—so women can continue to benefit from the sorority experience now and for years to come.

How you can get involved:
  • Use hashtag #HearHerHarvard to help support the women who are persistent in preserving their single-sex experience. 
  • Stay informed on the latest legislation impacting sororities and single-sex organizations by following your member organization and NPC on social media. 
  • When asked by your member organization, reach out to your congressional representatives about legislation designed to protect single-sex organizations at colleges and universities.

Interfraternally,

Carole J. Jones
2017-19 NPC chairman


Thursday, March 8, 2018

2018 Women's History Month: Women of Courage and Conviction - Part 1

Women’s History Month is celebrated each March, and the National Women's History Project has selected "Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” as the 2018 theme.

During Women’s History Month, the National Panhellenic Conference will spotlight of a number of sorority women who have persisted with courage and conviction in their efforts to help end discrimination and break down barriers for other women. This is part one in that series.

Since today, March 8, is also International Women’s Day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women, we are pulling from our blog archives to highlight the work of two sorority women who, in their lifetimes, have helped lead the press for progress for women.

Carrie Chapman Catt, Pi Beta Phi

Photo Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
In this 1883 portrait, 
Carrie Chapman Catt is proudly
wearing her arrow badge in the style of the day.
“In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.”

Carrie Chapman Catt, a member of Pi Beta Phi, was a notable women’s suffragist and founder of the League of Women Voters. To pay for her education, she worked as a teacher and she was the only woman in her graduating class in 1880. Later on, she became superintendent of schools, becoming one of the first women in the county to be named to such a position. She was involved in advocacy all of her life. In addition to her work at the League of Women Voters, she supported the formation of the United Nations.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alpha Epsilon Phi

Supreme Court Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Our goal in the ‘70s was to end the closed door era. There were so many things that were off limits to women: policing, firefighting, mining, piloting planes.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi, has served as a United States Supreme Court Justice since 1993. During her time as a law student and professor, she broke many barriers for women. In 1971, she played a major role in the creation of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). At the ACLU, she appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court with six landmark cases on gender discrimination. And, in 1999, she received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Getting to 50/50

Vision 2020, headquartered in Philadelphia at Drexel University’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, is a national coalition advocating for women’s economic, political and social equality in the United States. In 2011, the National Panhellenic Conference became a Vision 2020 National Ally. Since then, we have been supporting the work of the Vision 2020 staff to make equality a national priority through shared leadership among women and men with an initial focus on business and government, where decisions are made, policies set and resources allocated.

The national goals of Vision 2020’s Campaign for Equality are:

• Shared Leadership: Increase the number of women in senior leadership positions to achieve 50/50 representation of women and men by 2020 in targeted areas.
• Economic Security: Achieve pay equity and advance women’s economic security throughout their lives.
• Education: Educate young people to value women’s achievements, gender equality, shared leadership and civic engagement.
• Civic Engagement: Engage and educate women voters and increase women’s participation in the political process.

As part of the campaign efforts, Vision 2020 has joined forces with the organizing team at Let It Ripple, a California-based film studio that produces mini-documentaries often focused on social justice issues.

In May 2017, Vision 2020 held a 50/50 Day event in Philadelphia that focused on gender equality and included a screening of a short film from Let It Ripple. Through the organizers’ grassroots efforts, more than 10,000 individual events also were held across the U.S. and in 60 countries. Events were held from Times Square to Kenya – all viewing the same film at the same time. The first event also included coverage on the Times Square billboard, ABC News, NPR, Variety, Bloomberg and Time Magazine. What a powerful statement that makes! 

Early success of the film's screening inspired organizers at Vision 2020 to plan a second 50/50 Day event for April 26, 2018. As a National Ally, NPC is encouraging College and Alumnae Panhellenics to watch the 20-minute film followed by a facilitated reflection and discussion using the questions found here.



Sorority women can also join the conversation through the 50/50 Day social media campaign. I encourage you to write down your answer to this question, “In six words, what does a gender-balanced world look like to you?” With these six words in hand, take a selfie with your written answer and post it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #Gettingto5050. If you also tag @npcwomen, we’ll be able to share your posts too.

In January, at NPC’s College Panhellenic Academy, participants had the opportunity to view the 20-minute film. As I was walking out of the room with the young women and fraternity/sorority advisors, the comments I heard included: Powerful ... Emotional ... What a great film ... Why didn’t we know about 50/50 Day?

I asked a group of students, “What are your take-aways from the film?” Their responses included: We need to tell a new story of abundance … Female leaders go all the way back to the Roman Empire in A.D. 60 or 61 … Having a mentor makes a difference in the push to success.

Join me and thousands of other men and women as we rethink the past, present and future of women in leadership. The short film can be viewed here. If your College or Alumnae Panhellenic would like to sign up to host a 50/50 Day event in 2018, you can do so here.

Interfraternally,

Carole J. Jones
NPC Chairman 2017-19