DEI in Greek Life

Friends of the Anchor,

My name is Bella Pasha, and I currently serve as Beta Psi’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. When you think of the DEI space and its initiatives, what comes to mind? For most, it is just black and white, but it encompasses so much more—race, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, perspective, etc. To fully understand the topics of DEI, here are some commonly used words and their definitions:

Diversity: The blending of different identities, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives within an organization/community, all of which impact the way a person is perceived and received by others, as well as how they perceive and receive the world around them. 

Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. 

Inclusion: Creating an environment of open participation from all individuals with different ideas and perspectives where everyone feels they have a voice, are valued and feel validated.

Microaggression: Term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.

Microaggressions unfortunately find their way into many people’s daily conversations, and they turn a blind eye. “That’s so gay.” “You speak such good English.” “How can I be racist? I have Black friends.” People often neglect to realize that there is a deeper meaning behind the words they speak. “How do you pay dues?”, “You’re not going to straighten your hair today?”, “That’s what you’re wearing for recruitment?” are comments that circulate throughout the Panhellenic community on a daily basis. 

In order to create change and a path towards progress, it starts with addressing these issues head on. Three women at Harvard Business Review have adapted and designed a framework to help appropriately address microaggressions:

Discern. Determine how much of an investment you want to make in addressing the microaggression. Do not feel pressured to respond to every incident; rather, feel empowered to do so when you decide you should.

Disarm. If you choose to confront a microaggression, be prepared to disarm the person who committed it. Explain that the conversation might get uncomfortable for them but that what they just said or did was uncomfortable for you. Invite them to sit alongside you in the awkwardness of their words or deeds while you get to the root of their behavior together.

Defy. Challenge the perpetrator to clarify their statement or action. Use a probing question, such as “How do you mean that?” to allow people to check themselves. Acknowledge that you accept their intentions to be as they stated but reframe the conversation around the impact of the microaggression. 

Decide. Overall, you control what you will take from the interaction and what you will allow it to take from you.   The work of allyship is difficult, but life is sufficiently taxing without allowing microaggressions to bring you down. Protecting the joy of yourself and others can be the greatest form of resistance.  

To be diverse is to open your arms to members and future members of all backgrounds and origins. To be equitable is to break down barriers that prevent members and future members from reaching their greatest potential. To be inclusive is to respect and understand the people that make Beta Psi, Beta Psi, and to ensure our chapter is home away from home, for all.

By making it our goal to do good in the world, the result is our world becoming a better place for all people. Beta Psi is a home for hundreds of members in the present, and thousands of members to come. To continue the sense of belonging and welcoming, it starts with now. It’s no secret that Greek Life was built on a long history of discrimination. If we want to continue moving forward in a positive direction, it starts with holding each other accountable as a chapter and as a Panhellenic community. For more resources on how you can begin to educate yourself and your chapter on these sometimes difficult conversation topics, please visit Beta Psi DEI Resource Guide for a list of educational topics compiled by Beta Psi’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

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