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UC Berkeley Panhellenic Council must address diversity problems

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DECEMBER 08, 2017

When the UC Berkeley Panhellenic Council, or PHC, waters down important presentations on equity and inclusion, it shows that it still doesn’t take diversity issues as seriously as it should.

Earlier this year, former PHC vice president of community development Jacqueline Bueno created a presentation that PHC members gave to each of the 13 different Panhellenic chapters on topics ranging from implicit bias and transphobia to sexism and racism. But the morning before the presentation, Bueno was informed that some members went in and modified the slides without her permission, in some cases removing important information about how to address inequality and interact with marginalized communities. This is unacceptable.

Here are just a few changes:

  • An original slide advised community members to be aware that the makeup of houses reveals that people of color are discriminated against in the Greek system. In the modified version, this point was deleted.
  • Another original slide stated that people should not assume that everyone shaves their legs or wears heels for events. In the modified version, this too was deleted.
  • One other original slide acknowledged that some chapter policies and social norms are heteronormative. In the modified version, this point was deleted.

These original slides are critical examples of how to use diversity education to improve the community — it’s on the council and other members of the Panhellenic community to call out specific instances of inequality and bias. The original presentation tried to do that, but members of the council shut it down. The council needs to learn to apply the presentation’s lessons and advice to the microaggressions that happen every day in Greek life.

Bueno said members argued that the original presentation’s subject matters were “too strong.” But sweeping these issues under the rug minimizes how prevalent they are, both in Greek life and on the UC Berkeley campus. The PHC has a responsibility to make sure that house members are being inclusive of others. In this case, it missed the mark.

The presentation shouldn’t have just been stronger — it should also be conducted more often. Members of PHC should review this presentation throughout the year, not only during recruitment. Issues relating to climate and diversity cannot just be solved in a 20-minute presentation, as was the ultimate result here.

PHC established the vice president of community development position in 2016 in the hopes of increasing diversity in the community. In the role, Bueno began an unprecedented undertaking to confront Piedmont Avenue’s diversity problem — the collection of data on the demographics of the Panhellenic community. With this preliminary data, hopefully the council will be able to make changes to improve its diversity. Clearly, the position is well-suited to bring badly needed change to the Greek system, but it won’t work if others continue to interfere with the office’s work.

Addressing the lack of diversity in Greek life will not happen overnight, and if PHC wants to have a conversation about diversity, it shouldn’t hold back.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

DECEMBER 09, 2017