Diversity, equity, inclusion and access are all words that we have heard a great deal more of collectively or in some combination over the last several years from our member organizations. As a result of the tumultuous times during 2020, many of us have had an opportunity to reflect on our thoughts and actions as we consider the access and equity of those around us and how we incorporate diversity and inclusion in our organizations to better serve our chapters, campuses and communities.
In fall 2020, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) hosted an Access & Equity Listening Tour with various constituencies throughout the fraternal community. The NPC Board of Directors also initiated an Access & Equity Advisory Committee where one of the charges was to identify barriers to membership on our campuses. Through participation in these sessions and with recommendations from our advisory committee, one of the overarching themes was need to revise and redesign the processes, practices and policies of Panhellenic recruitment. It became evident that our recruitment processes and their costs created barriers to membership. Therefore, all of us must acknowledge the necessity and urgency of creating an accessible and equitable Panhellenic experience.
NPC has further taken the initiative to form five recruitment reform project workgroups. These recruitment reform projects were initiated early last year and have just recently completed their work. Eliminating and reducing barriers and opening the access to all women on our college campuses has been a focus of these reform projects. Removing these barriers that impede progress as a conference is a priority if we are to remain relevant and in alignment with our highest and best values. You can read a summary of the work of the recruitment reform project workgroups here.
Reforming recruitment practices may be difficult for many to do, but it is truly imperative. The traditions, customs and practices that many of us have participated in for many years no longer provide a platform that serves our changing membership, values and relevance to collegiate women. The fully structured formal recruitment process, costs of recruitment and sorority membership, alternative approaches to recruitment and promoting the sorority experience are all areas the reform projects have reviewed and made recommendations. The board appreciates the work of these project teams to study the issues and help us begin to take real action toward recruitment reform, and as their recommendations are implemented, we will share updates with all of you.
However, there is more we all can do right now. We must not stop here but continue to educate, listen and act to provide access and equity in our entire NPC community. Our collegiate members seek to hold NPC and inter/national leadership responsible for changing current policies and practices in response to the demographic and attitudinal shift in the collegiate environment, and we are doing so both at NPC and in our member organizations.
Specifically, over the last several years, NPC has prioritized the development of resources and educational sessions to develop a culture of care within our Panhellenics, and we’ve seen the addition of specific Panhellenic officers on many campuses focused on creating more inclusive communities. At the same time, many of our member organizations have taken this call to action to make changes within their own organization and integrate many initiatives that promote inclusiveness within our collegiate chapters on college campuses. Changing or eliminating legacy policies and recommendation letters, the establishment of chapter belonging/inclusion officers and transgender inclusion are just a few areas that our member organizations have examined and made significant internal changes.
Ultimately, the goal of all our member organizations is to provide an inclusive, values-oriented, affordable and relevant membership experience. Together we can make this happen. As I reflect on what I’ve learned about those four words—diversity, equity, access and inclusion—during the past several years, it demands that we collectively promote and provide action to break down the barriers and provide access and equity, thus providing a richer, more diverse experience for our entire NPC community.
Cheri M. De Jong
2021-23 NPC Chairman