by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
With the arrival of the 2020 fall term just around the corner, it’s without question that the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and its 26 member organizations are facing unparalleled challenges. As we make the necessary adjustments required by COVID-19 and to also address the conversation taking place within the sorority community about the legacy of racism within the Panhellenic system and the nation at-large, it’s a time that calls for unprecedented self-reflection.
Yet, as NPC continues to advocate for the sorority experience and works to preserve the single-gender experience, we need to remind ourselves that we are stronger and more powerful together as we face the new academic year head on. This is not the first time NPC and its member organizations have faced challenges and rapid change.
NPC and our member organizations have stood in solidarity and overcome the challenges presented by two world wars, The Great Depression and The Great Recession, waves of traditionalism and anti-fraternity sentiment and many other threats our existence. (To learn more, check out Adventure in Friendship on the NPC website.)
Today, the Panhellenic community is confronting new challenges including importantly taking stock of how we can and must more substantively and candidly engage about race, while actively confronting racism within our community. NPC’s new Equity and Access Advisory Committee will recommend and guide the Board of Directors on how to increase access to the sorority experience and equity across our policies and procedures. This shall include consideration of norms and practices that create barriers facing potential members based on racial identity, LGBTQ identity, religious beliefs, ability and socioeconomic status, among others. The committee’s recommendations shall be designed to complement efforts led at the member organizational level regarding membership policies, programming and practices.
Additionally, the COVID crisis has forced us to experience a very different way of living and learning, and has once again challenged us all to be flexible and innovative. As students return to campus in the fall, the safety of our members, volunteers and campus professionals with whom they interact is a primary concern and focus for NPC. We are developing a return to campus health promotion campaign which will including social media videos and accompanying educational resources for use by College Panhellenics and individual chapters in an effort to ensure our members will be illustrating care for all students of our campus communities.
Given that fraternities and sororities can often set the tone for campus social life, a return to “business as usual” is not acceptable and we are committed to empowering Panhellenic women to be leaders in helping to maintain healthy campus communities. By adopting safer behaviors, NPC members and chapters can help reduce the likelihood of outbreaks and help shape the behaviors of the broader campus community.
Further, as our College Panhellenic Associations and officers prepare contingency plans for hosting a safe recruitment on their campus, NPC is providing counsel on virtual recruitment platforms and expanding outreach and engagement activities to potential new members (PNMs). The Promotion of the Sorority Experience (2020) – POLICY, approved by the Council of Delegates in May, was adopted so all sorority members, alumnae and collegiate, were able to attract potential new members to the sorority experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Promotion of the Sorority Experience (2020) – POLICY
All sorority women including collegians, alumnae, College Panhellenics, Alumnae Panhellenics, inter/national organizations and the National Panhellenic Conference should actively promote the overall sorority experience and membership opportunities in organizations. This should be done through all forms of communication (e.g., print, digital, in person) in the spirit of Panhellenic unity and desire to reach out to all women to share the opportunity for sorority membership. College and Alumnae Panhellenic rules should not infringe on the rights of individuals, chapters and/or organization in the content or forms of communication to promote the sorority experience.
Since its approval, the implementation of this policy has resulted in many questions, concerns and examples of how members and chapters of our organizations are communicating with potential new members beyond the spirit of the new policy.
Communication should continue to be in line with positive Panhellenic contact and not promoting one organization as “the best.” The policy is intended to promote communication between members and potential new members about the overall sorority experience, not for members and organizations to promote solely their own organization and experience.
Chapters should engage women who have not yet registered for recruitment, not those who have already registered. College Panhellenics will continue to engage and keep PNMs informed about recruitment logistics and schedules as well as keep them engaged with recruitment counselors and other Panhellenic personnel.
The policy also provides the ability for collegiate and alumnae members to actively show their sorority affiliation and not be forced to delete social media accounts, cover up their membership or be penalized for talking about their sorority experience. It is not giving members the opportunity to host events or Zoom calls to engage PNMs with the purpose of getting to know them during recruitment-like events.
For more than 115 years, NPC and its member organizations have remained relevant because of the deep friendship offered by individual fraternity and Panhellenic life. As we have demonstrated many times over, together we will face our challenges head on, rise to the moment and adapt to changing times – and we will be better and stronger for it.