by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
Last June, as our nation was filled with sadness and sincere reflection, the NPC Board of Directors made a commitment to more substantively and candidly engage about race and confront racism. It was past time that we acknowledged that racism, within society and within the Panhellenic community, was not an issue we could address simply through kindness or greater respect for one another. Instead, we made the commitment to carefully consider structural and systemic reasons that too many women of color did not view our organizations as places where they feel welcoming, understood or heard.
It’s important now that we take stock of the progress made in the past year, and of the work still to come, to identify reforms and eliminate structural and systemic barriers to the sorority experience.
To help us follow through on our commitments, one of the major steps the board took was to appoint the NPC Access and Equity Advisory Committee (AEAC) to provide recommendations on how to increase access to the sorority experience and equity across NPC policies and procedures. Building on the feedback from NPC’s listening tours and committee members’ experiences and expertise, you may recall this group has provided guidance, particularly in three areas:
- Auditing of Unanimous Agreements, policies and best practices. Based on the committee’s recommendations, several proposals for changes to these items were adopted by the Council of Delegates earlier this year.
- Consulting on inclusion of diversity factors for NPC workforce recruitment. As much as we focus on recruiting new members to the sorority experience so too must we focus on recruiting new individuals to the professional and volunteer workforce responsible for advocating for and supporting that experience, and the committee shared their expertise in this area.
- Identifying barriers to access created by norms and practices at the campus level. Here, the committee has helped identify additional areas for education and changes regarding recruitment and Panhellenic operations to further remove barriers to sorority membership.
The board also asked the AEAC to provide some additional guidance, including reviewing template documents and advising on marketing. The committee will be wrapping up its work and submitting recommendations for the board to review in mid-June after the publication of this message. So, more to come on that.
As the AEAC worked to fulfill its charge, NPC also engaged in parallel initiatives. As an example, NPC began a partnership with the Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform for two companion research studies that will evaluate cultural competency and diversity, equity and inclusion within NPC-affiliated sorority chapters. The two studies will measure the level of cultural competency among sorority women at both minority-serving institutions and at predominantly white institutions. Researchers will also identify best practices for strengthening competency and enhancing inclusion within sorority chapters and communities. This pair of studies reflect shared commitment from the Piazza Center and NPC to foster more inclusive sorority communities.
In addition, the challenges of the past year have offered us an opportunity to test changes to the ways in which we recruit members and begin eliminating more barriers to membership. Based on the work of the AEAC and the relevancy research conducted last summer, the Board of Directors has recently commissioned five recruitment reform projects that are a focus for the next year.
- As part of the larger Cost of Membership initiative, which I addressed in my April message, NPC is examining the costs associated with Panhellenic recruitment and has already begun to offer recommendations to address the growing concern. These recommendations include a policy addition to remove tiered registration pricing and late fees, as well as a new best practice that encourages a virtual first round whenever possible, helping decrease costs related to space rental, transportation, décor, attire, etc., while also focusing on substantive conversation between PNMs and chapter members. Additionally, an updated best practice encourages a minimal administrative fee to cover only essential recruitment costs.
- The Recruitment Reform Task Force has been charged to re-imagine fully structured recruitment allowing more flexibility and authenticity to further reduce barriers and create a more welcoming environment for prospective members.
- The Education and Transparency Task Force has been charged to make recommendations for a standard potential new member (PNM) orientation to provide consistent and accurate education to all PNMs and their caregivers. At the same time, NPC staff and the Panhellenic Recruitment Committee are working to execute recommendations focused on creating improved guidance and education for College Panhellenics on budgeting and dues as well as increasing emphasis on the PNM experience instead of competition with other chapters on campus over space and décor.
- The Panhellenic Recruitment Committee also will continue its work in developing new education and resources to better support alternative recruitment approaches and formats.
- A Marketing Advisory Committee will provide guidance to the NPC staff on projects such as developing new resources for College Panhellenics to widely promote the sorority experience.
Amid all of this activity at the NPC level, I also want to call your attention to the work being done at the member organization level. During the last year, NPC member organizations have developed their own structures to examine diversity, equity, access and inclusion factors in their organizations. As a result, many organizations have altered or removed legacy policies or changed requirements for letters of recommendation in order to create a more level playing field and make it easier to join a Panhellenic sorority.
Together we have accomplished so much, but there is still much work to be done to make the sorority experience more welcoming, inclusive and accessible. We will continue to share our progress with you in messages like this one and on our website.
As this is my last message as the NPC chairman, I want you to know it has been my honor and privilege to serve as NPC chairman and I look forward to great things ahead. My thanks to each of you–members of the NPC family, partners and colleagues. Without your dedication and attention, NPC could not and would not be the organization it is today.