By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
The Student Activities staff has released a plan that lays out aspirations for improvements on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in Greek Life on the Baylor campus within the next three to five years.
Matt Burchett, director of Student Activities, describes it as one of the most transparent reflections on Greek life in the country.
In its Greek Life vision, the university has laid out five pillars to affect this change. These pillars aim to tell the story of Greek life, celebrate diversity, engage advisers, provide safe spaces to gather and continue training and advocacy.
Student Activities has used data analysis in recent years to analyze what areas they need to grow in and what areas they need to remain consistent. There was first a national Fraternity and Sorority Experience survey as well as an External Review of Greek Life and a Greek Life Visioning Survey.
“We hired four external consultants to come in and do a three-day interview with our collective community, alumni and administrators, and then we had a survey,” Burchett said. “The survey experience said ‘Hey, I think we should focus energy on these things that our students are telling us are concerns of theirs.’”
He said Student Activities also hopes to highlight the history and tradition of organizations within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which is home to traditionally African American fraternities and sororities, as well as the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC).
Fort Worth senior and internal relations chair for the Baylor NPHC chapter, Mariah Goodspeed, said while many people know who NPHC are, they don’t fully know their mission.
“We’re trying to serve people, so if more people know about us, that’s more people to serve,” Goodspeed said. “That’s the whole reason we have this organization, so that we can serve others.”
Burchett identified that there are some limitations for underrepresented student groups in the NPHC and MGC to be able to participate in events such as Homecoming, Diadeloso and Christmas on Fifth Street.
Burchett said that they have already addressed, over the past three years, a resource disparity between these organizations. While some organizations have strong historical resources, smaller groups don’t have the same national resource allotment.
“We began as an institution to step into that gap to provide institutional resources on a yearly basis to support organizations that are traditionally underfunded,” Burchett said.
Jackson, Miss., senior and president of the Baylor NPHC chapter, Emani Sullivan said that her two top goals are to gain more visibility on campus as well as in the community. Sullivan said that she thinks this is a great idea.
“I really can’t stress enough how important it is to me the things that are being talked about,” Sullivan said. “Those are things that are in the works.”
Sullivan said with opportunities like this, they are able to showcase the things people may have questions about.
“Opportunities like this give us the chance to actually show people what we’re about and show people we really do care about service,” Sullivan said. “We have commitment, hard work, substance and so much more behind us that we want to show people.”
There will also be a campus-wide step show to celebrate African American fraternities and sororities during Homecoming festivities.
“It’s going to be highlighted, or elevated, similar to a bonfire or Pigskin Revue,” Burchett said. “It’s going to be co-hosted by NPHC and Phi Beta Sigma.”
Stafford, Va. junior and vice president of the Baylor NPHC chapter Kelcey Parks said that while it was originally an in-person show, it will now be on Zoom.
“Each sorority or fraternity is going to compete with a routine and the public will watch, and that’s going to be our Homecoming event,” Parks said.
In addition, Student Activities aims to ensure that predominantly white organizations are more welcoming by starting with a broad education on cultural humility.
Student Activities is working to ensure that all Greek life members are a part of race equity training.
As the fall semester begins, sororities Pi Beta Phi and Chi Omega have decided to host bias training sessions throughout the first semester for their members as well.
Arlington senior and president of Baylor’s Chi Omega chapter, Riley Mohorc, said that her chapter is giving members the opportunity to participate in discussions about either social identity or understanding implicit bias.
“I think our chapter in general has always done really well with hard conversations,” Mohorc said. “I feel like that’s something we’ve never passed over in the past. We’ve had our chaplains speak at every meeting and we’ve had some really awesome girls that are bold and talk about their personal struggles.”
Dominique Hill, director of wellness and founding president of Baylor’s Black Faculty and Staff Association, said that while having conversations about equity and inclusion can be uncomfortable, it is important to not avoid them.
“Eventually, broad out and start talking to people of color and just listening, do a lot of listening,” Hill said. “You will have your own perception, but it’s good to hear from people of color, what their perspectives are.”
He also suggested that students read books and articles on the topic of equity and inclusion.
“Finding literature that you can read to help educate you in this conversation about DEI work will help also so when you are having that conversation with your loved one, it could be a little more informed,” Hill said.
While the current plans in the Greek Life vision are only aspirations at this point, Burchett is confident that they will become a reality in the coming years.
“Where this will be really critical for us is if we continue to pursue those aspirations and meet them in some way shape or form,” Burchett said.