One Honest Conversation at a Time


UNC Charlotte  

Here at UNC Charlotte, we have created the space for students in all fraternities and sororities to understand and pride themselves on being different. We are not a perfect community, in fact, we are far from it. But we have recognized the community we are and realized the one we want to be. We know that without diversity and cross-council interaction, our campus would not thrive. UNC Charlotte strives to continuously make this change the best way we know how: one honest conversation at a time. It is not about being the same; it is about embracing our differences in order to pursue a larger goal. We want to be known for cohesively uniting under one “Niner Nation,” and this is something we strive for one council after the other.


Never Ending Process

A campus and a community is never going to be fully unified. There are always going to be new people and new perspectives. But we celebrate that. We have identified that to further excel in this process, there are times when necessary self-examination and reflection needs to take place. We use the following steps in this self-examination:

1. What do we, as an organization, stand for? Are we living the values laid out in our ritual on a daily basis?

2. How are we portraying ourselves to the rest of the community?

3. When you look at your own organization, does it feel like a system or a community? If it is more of a system, why? How do we create that space for our members to feel they are respected and included?

4. Are we taking the time to understand what it means to be a member of fraternity/sorority life first, not just a part of your specific organization or your council?


Intentional

As students, and as human beings, it is easy to complain. We complain about schoolwork and studying, roommates and dorm rooms, and the daily task of parking on campus. A fraternity/sorority students, we complain about mandatory events, leadership training, and a double standard. There is no lie that fraternities and sororities are looked at differently. But we, as a community, ask for this double standard.

Fraternities and sororities were founded to create “better men” and “better women.” These organizations were not founded to haze new members, binge drink Natty Light, or sing sorority chants as potential new members walk through the door. When your founders came together, their hopes for their future organization were not to focus on hazing and alcohol. These organizations challenged the status quo when they were founded, so what are you doing to honor that today?

At UNC Charlotte, fraternity/sorority life is looked at and treated differently. We say that we are better than the other student organizations because we have the resources and history of helping members enhance and balance spirit, mind, and body. We complain that we are set at a higher standard than most other organizations on campus, but isn’t that what we were founded on?

As Panhellenic women, we talk about the different types of members in our organization: the t-shirt wearers, the average gals, and the leaders. When our members complain about mandatory events, this is a direct reflection of the chapter not fully explaining the role and expectations of their chapter members. Members may only understand that their role in the chapter is to show up to weekly chapter meetings and wear a t-shirt around campus. So in response to the “I didn’t know” chapter members, respectfully explain the promise they made during initiation, and if they do not believe they can uphold that promise anymore, there is no space for t-shirts wearers.

What are we doing to combat the double standard? Probably nothing. And that is okay, but we have to recognize that something, no matter if it is big or small, has to be done. We have to be intentional about what we are doing and not blaming the media for our issues. The media brings to light what our organizations have been doing for decades, but now someone has decided to post it on social media.

It is easy to say that we, as a fraternity/sorority community, will no longer haze during our new member process or will not consume alcohol in unmeasurable quantities, but we need to step back and reevaluate if these actions are honoring what our founders worked so hard to build.


Truth

Truth is an interesting word, and one that carries a lot of weight. What was said above might not be true to your campus and your culture, but this is a national problem that we need to bring to light. National organizations need to reevaluate if and how they are relevant to college campuses today.

What do these organizations want to accomplish on college campuses? How are we going to get there? If we are only concerned about the expansion and national popularity of an organization, and not about the quality of the current organizations, the result could be detrimental. In reality, organizations on a national level are businesses, and they run day and night to produce various outcomes. Until we start treating the leaders of these organizations, on a local level, as students, each chapter will only be looked at as money making machines.

During the self-examination process, there is a need to redefine and reiterate what the values of the organization are and how we portray them to each member. Each organization’s platform is different, but essentially we are all standing for the same purpose, and we all believe in the fraternity/sorority experience. If we are all striving for the same goals and on the same team, why is it so difficult for councils to unify?

At UNC Charlotte, we, as leaders, have taken these steps to help cultivate a unified community. We have provided the space for all of our council’s executive boards to gather and converse about pressing topic matters. A New Member Institute has been opened to the community, where the newest members of each organization will talk about what it means to be a part of the community as a whole and how to adjust to wearing your letters all the time. But most importantly, our council presidents have recognized the importance of talking to students outside of our own council to better understand their organization and why they decided to become Greek.

These are not huge changes, and to be honest, required meetings and programs are not necessary to create this environment. It does start with the leaders, so be the leaders who speak the truth.


“Yeah”

The “yeah” attitude is a sense of complacency, lack of drive, and minimal effort.  This allows many students in our community to claim that we are “making strides towards a better, more diverse, and positive space,” but in reality, we are only trying to check off a box on a piece of paper.

On our campus, there are 14 basic requirements for all of our fraternities and sororities to meet each calendar year. These requirements include educational programs, diversity programs, programs with another organization outside of your council, and programs with an organization outside of the fraternity/sorority community. Conversations about diversity, sexual assault, inclusion, and alcohol/drug abuse are necessary to the success of any organization, especially fraternities and sororities.

How many times has diversity, inclusion, and/or unity been talked about and the audience has a “yeah” attitude? How many times have you said “yeah” in response to one of these conversations? Probably at least once, I know I’ve done it. I am writing to you as a white, middle class woman who serves as Panhellenic President. I came to college only knowing of Panhellenic and the Interfraternity Council, so I joined what I knew. After getting involved, I became more knowledgeable of the other councils. My chapter, and my council, worked towards partnering with other councils for programs, events, and stroll competitions. I don’t know everything, but I realized responding with “yeah” is a simple and easy way to dissolve the voice of a fellow member of the fraternity/sorority community.

To me, saying “yeah” does not even validate what the other person is saying. When the space you’re in has a “yeah” attitude, anything and everything that is being talked about is instantly dismissed. Having these conversations is hard, but be bold in your questions. Be bold in your responses. Stop saying “yeah.” Gather organizations from different councils on your campus and sit down and talk it out. This is the only way your community is going to overcome the challenges it has. I can say from personal experiences, sitting down with students with so many different perspectives allowed me to further open my mind to how the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Interfraternity Council (IFC), and Diversified Greek Council (DGC) view topics, like diversity. They were honest, and they created a space for us to be open and honest with them. Our “yeah” environment quickly changed into  “yeah and…” This small change allowed students who would have never interacted before to talk about something personal, in the most respectful way, and because of that, we are making the change because we are the change.

So, are you and your team going to come together, be bold, and start making changes on your campus?

Yeah. I thought so.

_____
Cheyenne Gest is a junior studying Organizational Communications at UNC Charlotte. She is a proud sister of the Eta Psi Chapter of Kappa Delta Sorority, and currently serves as Panhellenic President. Additionally, she is involved in the Center for Leadership Development and the Student Government Association. Cheyenne aspires to continue working with college students as a student affairs professional, meet Shonda Rhimes, and own a big dog.

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