by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
This time of year is usually filled with Alumnae Panhellenic scholarship luncheons and end-of-year celebrations for our collegiate chapters as they say goodbye to their senior members. Instead we find ourselves at home striving to keep connections with each other while practicing social distancing. For the first time, many of us are working or attending class remotely and dealing with the challenges of work and family in the same physical space.
The women of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), both collegiate and alumnae, know how to manage through difficult times. You already know how to dig deep and you know that the steps we take individually are for the greater good. The COVID-19 pandemic that is causing challenges all over the world is also causing challenges for NPC and its 26 member organizations. But our volunteers and staff have been working diligently to support our College and Alumnae Panhellenics as well as member organizations. For example, the Disruption to Panhellenic Operations Task Force considered potential impacts the pandemic will have on our Panhellenic communities, particularly if disruptions to class schedules or campus operations continue into the fall semester. NPC is now working to act on many of the task force’s recommendations in order to get additional processes in place and tools in the hands of College Panhellenics. That work also includes the formation of the Recruitment Contingencies Task Force to examine a myriad of scenarios that could impact recruitment in fall 2020, and potentially beyond, to help College Panhellenics plan accordingly. (For more information on NPC’s COVID-19 response, visit our Coronavirus Resources page.)
We don’t know exactly what the days ahead will look like, but we do know that financial damage inflicted on our organizations could force a change in workforce plans and organizational structure. We also know NPC has met and overcome every challenge we have faced over the years. The Conference spent the better part of 30 years dealing with the upheaval of two world wars and the Great Depression. Financial considerations were of enormous impact, and after the collapse of the American economy in 1929, NPC’s message of belt-tightening took on unprecedented seriousness.
In the mid-1950s, as a result of a wave of traditionalism, female college enrollment dropped to its lowest level since before 1920 and our organizations fought to survive amongst public criticism of Greek-letter organizations. The 1960s and early 70s took a toll on every fraternal group. However, a time of severe pressure – when the sorority world might easily have splintered into self-serving factions – proved to be a time of magnificent solidarity.
This pandemic will be no exception. Without question, we will be living a new reality as students return to campus, and this new reality will affect our organizations’ recruitment and retention of members. The nature of higher education and the environments in which students will be operating most likely will be drastically changed, so how do we preserve valuable sorority experiences while adapting and evolving to meet new needs?
NPC’s focus on the future of sorority is now more than ever the organization’s most important role and the most valuable contribution we can make to the sorority community. The NPC Board of Directors is focused on what the sorority landscape will look like this fall and into the year 2021. At this time, there are so many more questions than answers. We are listening to what you are feeling, fearing and experiencing so we can project what the sorority community will look like tomorrow and in the next 12 to 18 months. By drawing on our collective strength and rich history, the Conference and our member organizations can meet this latest challenge together.