Correction: Alexa Rasmussen co-led Alpha Xi Delta's workshop on how to be a white ally with Srija Dutta and Erin Healey. Elon News Network regrets this error.
Elon University's three greek councils are working to educate their communities about racial injustice and are making plans for the fall to promote diversity and inclusion following national protests against racism in the United States.
Like many organizations across Elon University’s campus, the Elon Panhellenic Council and the Inter-Fraternity Council released statements condemning the actions of the police involved in the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed earlier this month by a white police officer. Elon’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, which governs the seven historically black sororities and fraternities, has taken to social media to provide resources and education for protesting, donating and contributing to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Elon Panhellenic Association, which governs nine female fraternities and sororities, released their statement via social media saying the “tragedies at the feet of our police forces across this country are unacceptable,” as well as acknowledging that the greek community has not always been “a perfect example of respect.”
In addition to their statement on social media, Panhellenic also emailed their members a statement acknowledging the privilege of the Elon Panhellenic community and how members can use that privilege to aid others and educate themselves.
“To not acknowledge the privilege that our community has, as a vastly white organization at a primarily white institution, would be to ignore the power we inherently have to create change in our communities,” the email said.
President of Elon Panhellenic Council Alexa Rasmussen said the community-wide email included resources about the Black Lives Matter movement, the history of systemic racism in the United States and links to organizations where members could donate money to the movement.
“As seven white women on the executive board, there was a lot of time and precision that went into that statement process because we did not want to speak on the experiences of black women in our community,” Rasmussen said. “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that we are acting as an ally, and a source of assistance in whatever way that looks and in whatever way we [can] be.”
According to Rasmussen, Panhellenic is in the process of creating a committee for Diversity and Inclusivity and accepting applications now through June 26. Rasmussen said she hopes the committee will have a representative from each chapter.
Panhellenic will create a Vice President position for diversity and inclusion in the fall. Because adding a new position to the executive board requires an amendment to the Panhellenic Constitution, Kennan said the committee will be an effort the organization can start now to “hit the ground running” in the fall, when the position can take over goals of the committee.
Jarrod Rudd, advisor to both Panhellenic and NPHC, said he is supportive of the new role and hopes the position can lead efforts such as workshops, talking to chapters about where and how they recruit, and act as a “liaison between Panhellenic and other organizations.”
In addition to the committee and vice president position, Rasmussen co-led a workshop with Srija Dutta and chapter president Erin Healey for their chapter, Alpha Xi Delta, on how to be a white ally, something Rasmussen has passed along to chapter leaders in Panhellenic.
Rasmussen and Sarah Keenan, vice president of standards for Panhellenic, said they hope to implement diversity and inclusivity training for every chapter in the future as well.
Both NPHC and Panhellenic “stepped up on their own” to determine what they could do as organizations, according to Rudd. Rudd said he was proud of Panhellenic when the executive council approached him to make a stand in solidarity not only with NPHC, but all those involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They took it upon themselves to say ‘we want to put ourselves out there as an executive board to say that the things that are going on are wrong and we realize that as a council we haven't been as supportive of other councils as we might have hoped,’” Rudd said.
While Panhellenic has received positive feedback from their statement, both Rudd and Keenan said not all people will agree with their stance.
“We feel very strongly and we know for a fact there is no space for racism or hate in our community,” Keenan said. “It's difficult when we come across an individual who may not agree with our views, but they have the right to speak them. We just encourage all of our members to drown out the hate.”
IFC, which governs ten fraternities on campus, released a statement following Floyd’s death, condemning the actions of the police officers involved and all police brutality. Condemning police brutality was an important portion of the statement for IFC President Sam Murphy, who said it was something he wanted to make clear after reading the university’s statements, which he said “stepped around key issues.”
IFC is working to start monthly donations to organizations such as NAACP Legal Defense Fund and bail funds for protesters. Murphy said while these organizations need money now, he also knows they will need money going forward, as well.
IFC is also planning educational programming on racial injustice in the fall for members and the public, such as bringing speakers to campus and collaborating with organizations across campus. As the organization recently received a new adviser, implementing action right now is difficult, Murphy said.
“We want to provide a way to educate our members because we know that in the past we haven't necessarily lived up to the expectations that our organization has of us,” Murphy said.
NPHC has used social media to provide resources for education and ways to donate to initiatives like the Pimento Relief Fund, a fund that aids black-owned businesses as they handle damages inflicted during protests.
“NPHC right off the bat started a really good social media campaign where they posted resources for where people can go to donate, how could they use their social media voices. If you are going to go to a peaceful demonstration, what do you need to know, what are some of your rights,” Rudd said.
NPHC President Chandler Vaughn sent an email to the Student Government Association, IFC and Panhellenic, detailing action steps each organization can take. Vaughn included prompts for leadership to help them better understand what their position can do to educate members about racial injustice, links to organizations where members can donate, petitions as well as a list of black-owned businesses were among the many options.
“While it is nothing new, the veil sheltering the realities of black America is plummeting as technology usage rises,” Vaughan wrote in her email. “Yes, I did see your statements on Instagram, but to fulfill the said promises you've made, I suggest taking solid action steps.”