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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

DEI requirements challenge organizations’ goals

Caroline Kominick ’24 is the first and current DEI chair of Phi Sigma Sigma. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

Following a national reckoning over racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 by a Minneapolis police offer, many national organizations that oversee Greek life implemented diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) chairs at the chapter level.

At St. Joe’s, a number of Greek organizations added DEI chairs to their executive boards and councils beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, according to Susana Hresko ’24, the first and current vice president of DEI on the panhellenic council. 

As part of her role, Hresko oversees DEI activities within each sorority on Hawk Hill by communicating with the DEI chairs of each sorority to help provide ideas and creativity for possible DEI events.

“It’s important to include whoever and everyone and anyone, because again, you could learn something new that you may have never known without just being open to different perspectives,” Hresko said.

Out of the five social sororities on the Hawk Hill campus, four now have DEI chairs, and the fifth, Sigma Sigma Sigma (Tri Sigma), is working to create the position, said Hresko, who is also a member of Tri Sigma.

Some organizations, like Phi Sigma Pi, have a DEI chair as a part of their executive council and require all members to attend a DEI related event or activity each semester to fulfill their requirements. Others like Phi Sigma Sigma also have a DEI chair but operate on a point system, so while members do not have to attend a DEI event per semester, it is an option to help fulfill their point requirement.

While some Greek organizations are still working on creating DEI requirements, Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi), has made BeCivil training mandatory for their members since the addition of a DEI chair to their fraternity in the spring 2022 semester, according to Isaac Schwartz ’24, DEI chair of AKPsi. 

The BeCivil Campaign is a University Student Senate (USS) initiative that “encourages open dialogue involving diversity, equity and inclusion striving to normalize difficult conversations,” according to the @becivilsju Instagram bio. BeCivil training is available for student organizations and educates students on their own identities regarding DEI.

“I think it’s sometimes a hard topic because some people are closed minded from the get-go,” Schwartz said. “We’re at an age where, if you don’t want to learn, you’re not going to learn.”

Still, Schwartz said there’s a chance that someone forced to attend a DEI event may change their mind.

“For the people who would never voluntarily go, it at least forces them to listen to stories where people are impacted on a daily basis,” Schwartz said.

Caroline Kominick ’24, the first and current DEI chair of Phi Sigma Sigma (Phi Sig), also said she thinks “it’s really important to educate people about other people’s experiences” — but not necessarily by mandating that education.

“I think the most important part of my job is not forcing people to do things,” Kominick said. “It’s more so just making sure that things that we do in general as a sorority aren’t going to offend anyone, are inclusive to everyone. That’s my first main job.”

But creating real change is not simple, according to Kaela Blanks, a corporate justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) consultant. She said organizations with DEI requirements should also be having conversations with marginalized communities rather than simply ticking off  “a diverse kind of checkbox.”

“The challenge becomes when things are a requirement without the appropriate knowledge or education and intention behind it, and it’s becoming performative,” Blanks said. “So if it just becomes something where the students are checking off the box, that can come across as very distracting and actually backfire and [cause] a lot more dissension than actually create inclusion.”

Wendy Foley ’24, president of the Asian Student Association (ASA) and member of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOPi), said she thinks Greek life organizations should not have DEI requirements for members.

“They wouldn’t make me feel better knowing that that person was forced to come compared to they wanted to come on their own,” Foley said. 

Another challenge at St. Joe’s is a lack of diversity in the organizations themselves. On the Hawk Hill campus, Greek-lettered organizations are predominantly white, according to Beth Hagovsky Ed.D, director of Student Leadership and Activities.

Hagovsky said from her perspective, St. Joe’s chapters of Greek organizations do not go out of their way to engage people in the kinds of conversations that both she and Banks said are crucial to genuine DEI work.

“They’re going to have to change in order to let other people know that they are welcoming and open to the conversations, and they just haven’t,” Hagovsky said. “They haven’t done anything outward to do that. It doesn’t mean that they’re not on the inside, but no one from the outside would know that looking in.”

Kominick said DEI work has to start with recruitment.

“I think that there’s a larger stigma with Greek life in general that is hard for one individual school to overcome, especially a school like ours, but I think that it would all really start with the recruitment process and making people feel like they would be welcome in organizations like these,” Kominick said. “Recruitment season is starting soon. I’m just really promoting the fact that it is an inclusive environment, and that everybody is welcome.”

Hagovsky said she is hopeful that the organizations are being held accountable for the DEI requirements they have recently put into place. 

“If they’re leading their position correctly, then that is creating a culture and an environment within the larger chapters where individual members understand that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and programs and events, and conversations should be central to everything that we’re doing,” Hagovsky said. 

Hresko said that is her goal.

“Truly for this past year, I’ve been trying my hardest when it comes to creating such events, and being able to tell St. Joseph’s as a whole, ‘Hey, us Greek life here, we are pretty inclusive,’” Hresko said. “We value each and everyone’s opinion.” 

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