Over the past week, several groups within Yale’s Greek community have promised concrete measures to make the University’s sororities and fraternities more inclusive and welcoming to people of color.
All four of Yale’s sororities — Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi — have pledged to be allies of women of color and to improve Yale’s Greek life system. Among their Yale fraternity counterparts, both Sigma Nu and Sigma Phi Epsilon have announced that they will work to incorporate diversity and cultural sensitivity into their own fraternities as well. Steps the sororities and fraternities have promised range from creating reading groups to an anonymous reporting system for complaints against fraternity brothers.
“We do not condone racism or misogyny, and we pledge to be allies to the women of color at Yale, and everywhere, who deserve an inclusive place to call home,” read Pi Phi’s statement, which was posted to Facebook on Thursday.
Statements from the four sororities all came on the heels of a Panhellenic Council meeting last Tuesday, where the Council — a governing body that coordinates formal sorority recruitment at Yale — discussed its role within the ongoing campus conversation surrounding racial tensions and the marginalization of minority students, especially women. Over 100 members of the four sororities attended, and the organization issued a collective statement of solidarity after the gathering as well.
In line with these goals, Yale Theta president Jessica Leao ’16 said her sorority will form a finance committee to solicit donations so that financial concerns will not deter potential members from recruitment. She added that Theta will also start a book club to read some of the autobiographies, novels and essays suggested during a campuswide teach-in on racial issues at Yale that was held in Battell Chapel on Wednesday.
“We are having conversations that many often took for granted but are important to express outwardly,” Leao said. “I am a woman of color and have been proud to represent Theta as a woman of color, and it has been incredible to see so many of our sisters rising up to the events and really having these conversations and thinking how to make our campus better in every way.”
Sig Ep’s statement was not published on Facebook but was instead sent directly to a number of student groups, including the Black Student Alliance at Yale, Yale Black Women’s Coalition and Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale. With the collaboration of other groups on campus, the fraternity will implement cultural awareness training addressing the issues of race, gender and sexuality. While trainings on sexual respect, consent and bystander intervention with Yale’s Communication and Consent Educators have been mandatory for all new members since last year, the fraternity will also now require all of its brothers to participate in additional bystander intervention trainings conducted by USAY and other campus groups representing women of color. The fraternity will also work to make sure that brothers have access to support from mentors within the cultural houses and Office of LGBTQ Resources.
Similarly, Sig Nu has voiced its support for people of color, adding that it realizes “action is necessary.” According to the fraternity’s statement, published last Wednesday, it will work to expand recruitment efforts to bring in members from all backgrounds, regardless of race, sexuality or socioeconomic status. The organization will also implement an anonymous reporting system for students to report complaints they have regarding any incidents that occur within the house.
“We are enormously grateful to the women of color who broke the silence and catalyzed this dialogue for positive change on campus, especially given the emotional costs of sharing their stories,” Sig Ep’s statement said. “After several conversations within our chapter, we have decided to take a series of actions to create a safer, more open and more equitable environment within our fraternity and within the Yale community at large.”
Other sororities’ statements were broader, simply expressing their support and admiration for women of color. Yale’s chapter of Omega Phi Beta — a sorority that is not part of the Panhellenic Council and that aims to unify women of color — released a statement Thursday affirming its solidarity with other campuses gripped by racial tensions, such as the University of Missouri and Ithaca College.
“As the largest organization of women on campus, the Panhellenic community has the potential to alter campus dynamics and incite meaningful change,” Yale Pi Phi President Caroline Pringle ’16 said. “I believe that it is our responsibility to do so.”
Founded in 1985, the Yale chapter of Theta was the school’s first sorority.