FORMING CHI OMEGA’S SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
Prior to Convention 2020, former S.H., Shelley Potter, announced the appointment of a Special Committee for Diversity Equity and Inclusion. Sister Joslyn McGriff, Psi Delta/Wyoming, agreed to chair the committee with support from Sister Gena Runnion, S.M., and Sister Leslie Herington, CEO. Sister Sarah Moore, Zeta Lambda/Wake Forest, agreed to design and facilitate the process. Chi Omega hired industry renowned consultant, Marlon Gibson. From there, Chi Omega launched an application process for those who wanted to serve on this Committee. Of the 114 who applied, the below 25 were selected to serve.
THE ABOLISH GREEK LIFE MOVEMENT
During the committee’s early months, the Abolish Greek Life movement took hold on more than a dozen campuses. The attacks on the Greek System, in general, and sometimes Chi Omega, specifically, were pointed and painful. It was difficult to be judged with broad strokes and hurtful language, and discouraging to read of members whose experiences were antithetical to what Chi Omega stands for. Chi Omega lost members, and some universities lost faith in Greek systems and seized the opportunity to support abolishment.
This movement shined a light on privilege, history, and lack of trust in systems – both perceived and real. For some, it seemed impossible to face forward and believe in the possibilities of Chi Omega and lifetime membership in our Fraternity. For many collegiate leaders, the burden of leadership was overwhelming and negatively impacted their mental health and their academics. Chi Omega will always be grateful for the stamina, courage and commitment shown by these Sisters and that this movement allowed us all to examine what is valued in Chi Omega and how to work to ensure that she evolves and remains relevant.
COMMITMENT TO EVOLVING AS AN ORGANIZATION
The Governing Council set a forward-facing goal for the biennium – “To ensure Chi Omega’s continued relevance through intentional organizational evolution.” A few years ago, 96% of alumnae said that Chi Omega was still relevant to them. That’s quite a high bar and the Council is committed to ensuring that level of relevance continues. Organizational evolution. Evolution is defined by important and irreversible change vs revolution that can be instant temporal and episodic.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE DEI COMMITTEE
The Special Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion convened on October 24 after 6 weeks of planning by the Leadership Team, led by Sister Joslyn McGriff. They were tasked with the following goal: “Make recommendations to the Governing Council after a holistic review of policies, procedures and practices to ensure an ever-evolving, more inclusive Chi Omega”.
In our Symphony, Chi Omegas are challenged to “choose thoughtfully that course which occasion and conscience demand.” Our membership is some 268,000, who hold viewpoints across the spectrum; therefore, our intent for DEI work is to embrace the “Inclusion” portion and ensure that all of our current collegians and alumnae are educated and moved to improve as a whole. Thus, the emphasis on evolution.
The work of the DEI Special Committee is ongoing – not all of this can happen at once, nor should it. The work of this committee will continue and evolve. Included in the committee recommendations are small adjustments that will make a big impact over time, as well as big changes that will make an immediate impact.
MODELING DEI EDUCATION ON CAMPUS AND AMONG FRATERNAL GROUPS
There is an important opportunity for education and collaboration as there are significantly more ways to being “Greek” than just the various members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and Interfraternity Council (IFC). Chi Omega wants to be the leader in showing the world all the ways one can be “fraternity”.
Chi Omega will gift a video to all our host institutions on the broad fraternal landscape to educate and encourage how to effectively partner with the National Multicultural Greek Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council and National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations groups, among others.
Chi Omega’s CEO will sit down with the Executive Directors from these groups to model collaborative conversations as a training tool.
The Executive Headquarters will provide education and resources on how to be leaders in the local collegiate Panhellenic community to reduce the frills and soft costs sometimes associated with sorority members.
CHI OMEGA SPECIFIC TOOLS AND EDUCATION FOR MEMBERS
Chi Omega will provide tools and education that help members learn to promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and civility.
A DEI Training and Resource Team of Sisters will be appointed to support programming and education.
Member Education will be created over time in the context of the Symphony.
Further, each collegiate chapter will be required to appoint a DEI Chair. Education for that leader began at Firesides Leadership Training 2021
DEI training will be woven throughout all officer training at the annually held Firesides Leadership Training.
Chi Omega plans to make it a priority to “promote civility” and expects our Sisters to lead with civility, including in DEI discussions internally in our chapters and outwardly on our campuses. Chi Omega hopes through chapter-tailored DEI education, as well as national endeavors promoting inclusivity, our members can be leaders in this regard. Civility need not be a lost art, and Chi Omega will teach it and value it.
INCREASING AFFORDABILITY AND PROMOTING LIFETIME VALUE OF MEMBERSHIP
Chi Omega must take the lead on each of our campuses to increase transparency around costs, improve affordability and expand access.
Like most professional, academic, and affinity groups, it costs money to be a Chi Omega; however, Chi Omega believes the value of membership should far exceed the price. The DEI Committee acknowledged that Chi Omega national dues are reasonable, particularly for the lifetime value of membership. However, where they found the greatest opportunity for monetary impact is at the chapter level.
The Executive Headquarters will provide guidance, tools and best practices for publicizing and reducing the burden of soft costs. Examples of soft costs include specific wardrobe requirements, little sister favors, other required t-shirts, merchandise and event tickets, etc.
Additionally, the pandemic has further stressed that Chi Omega has members who leave permanently due to short-term financial hardship. Therefore, the Governing Council would like to encourage local chapters to create emergency dues funds for members in need. Of course, the Executive Headquarters will assist in helping chapters create this infrastructure through templates and best practices.
Further, to model the way of Sisters Helping Sisters when it matters the most, the Governing Council has agreed for the Fraternity to donate $500,000 from long-held savings reserved as a result of good fortune and careful stewardship over a number of decades as a seed endowment for a National Scholarship Fund through the Chi Omega Foundation. Though the scholarship dollars will be for educational purposes, these funds will be distributed directly to the member and will free up personal resources for our members to pay dues and remain in Chi Omega.
INCREASING PATHWAYS TO MEMBERSHIP THROUGH RECRUITMENT
Chi Omega cannot incorporate DEI changes without also including adjustments to recruitment and the goal of improving accessibility and equity. Unlike many of our sorority peer groups, Chi Omega’s recruitment practices and decisions have largely resided at the chapter level for decades. This is an important tenet as the proposed changes are outlined below.
First, Chi Omega will remove barriers on the front end of the recruitment process to ensure women from diverse backgrounds feel and remain welcome in Chi Omega.
Chi Omega plans to rename the RIF from “Recruitment Information Form” to “Recruitment Introduction Form” which will better describe our existing approach: introducing women of all walks of life to Chi Omega. Further, interested PNMs will be able to directly request RIFs and submit resumes through a clearly identifiable link on the Chi Omega website, meaning if they are unable to locate a Chi Omega in their personal network, they can request a connection to a Chi Omega in their area.
Chi Omega’s Area Recruitment Introduction Chairs (ARICs) will renew their existing focus acting as alumnae brand ambassadors for Chi Omega, helping all PNMs find a path to Chi Omega locally.
Additionally, should other pathways be undiscoverable, a chapter advisor may continue to sign a RIF for a PNM during the recruitment process.
Chi Omega collegians will be able to submit PNM letters of introduction to other Chi Omega chapters and will be educated on how to do so. This will embolden and empower our collegians to feel invested in the recruitment process, not just at their chapter, but across the country.
The National Recruitment Team is thoroughly reviewing all practices included in the Recruitment Handbook to ensure a more inclusive process, including conversation activities that are focused on comfort and content and will be shaped to the interests of the PNM in an effort to “meet them where they are” about lived experiences and to value the diverse backgrounds of current and potential new members.
CHI OMEGA LEGACIES
Many sororities have made massive overhauls to their legacy policies in recent months. However, what is less known is that many of those groups have changed their formerly stringent National policies to be more similar to Chi Omega’s decades-old policy, which essentially gives our local chapters autonomy over how they want to handle legacies.
In other words, Chi Omega’s legacy policy has been much more relaxed than our peer groups for over three decades, allowing for an entire generation of Chi Omegas to already benefit from largely a locally-based approach.
However, Chi Omega is still making a small adjustment to ensure each chapter can invite back women who are the best fits, while still respecting the families of the legacies going through recruitment. Chi Omega is still going to ask local chapters to invite legacies back to the first invitation round as a courtesy – but only if the chapter has room on their invite lists. If a chapter’s numbers do not allow for this courtesy, we ask that the chapter please communicate this with local recruitment volunteers and Chi Omega families.
INCREASING DEI INITIATIVES FROM THE NATIONAL LEVEL
The overarching goal of our work is for Chi Omega to be more inclusive and to ensure that membership is for a lifetime.
Chi Omega will develop a more transparent and robust communication and engagement plan to identify, recruit, train, and engage future Fraternity leaders at both a local and a national level.
Chi Omega will work diligently to have a greater array of diverse Sisters reflected in branding and marketing.
Chi Omega will invite three collegians to be part of The Eleusis Editorial Board, ensuring the magazine remains relevant to all generations and provides a broader scope of Sisterhood.
Chi Omega will ask the National House Corporation Team to work with local house corporations to create an accessibility plan ensuring the greatest degree of accessibility in our facilities, wherever possible.
A Ritual Task Force will be appointed to review our Ritual and other Special Ceremonies to ensure the existing Ritual be maintained with minor modifications made to accommodate members’ diverse religious identities..
MODIFICATION TO CHI OMEGA’S MEMBERSHIP POLICY
The Governing Council is modifying the Policy on Membership to include females and individuals who identify as women. As the understanding of gender has evolved, it is vital that Chi Omega’s membership policy reflects this evolving definition of gender.
The other 25 NPC sororities already have this policy, and it is typically a basic expectation of our host institutions. This brings Chi Omega in line with the other NPC groups and potential host institutions.
The DEI Special Committee worked hard to meet the challenge of ensuring an ever-evolving, more inclusive Chi Omega, which was no small task. These Sisters and friends have chosen thoughtfully — and generations of Chi Omegas will be the beneficiaries. Chi Omega is committed to evolution – not revolution – and will work earnestly to ensure that these recommendations are inculcated into Chi Omega’s policies and practices.
On October 24th, 2020, twenty-six Chi Omegas and friends came together with open hearts via Zoom to conduct the first ever meeting of Chi Omega’s Special Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It was a seven hour day devoted to information sharing and Sisterhood with the ultimate goal in mind—-an ever evolving, more inclusive Chi Omega.
The meeting took place from 9am-5p CT, was led by Chair Joslyn McGriff (Psi Delta) and facilitated by Sarah Moore (Zeta Lambda). Interactive conversation was facilitated by S.H. Laura Miller, S.M.Gena Runnion, CEO Leslie Herington, DEI Consultant Marlon Gibson and guest legal consultant Stevie Tran on a variety of topics including recruitment, ritual, campus partnerships, dues and affordability, and membership criteria.
The first set of recommendations will be submitted to the Governing Council in the coming weeks. If there is anything you would like to share with the Committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chi Omega Symphony charges our Sisters “to choose thoughtfully that course which occasion and conscience demand.” In that spirit, and to deepen the bonds of our Sisterhood, Chi Omega is furthering its work in relation to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion among our collegiate and alumnae members. As an organization of purposeful women, it’s imperative to challenge ourselves and each other by listening to and learning from those whose experiences differ from our own.
Update sent via email Thursday, August 27, 2020
As the world continues to receive news reports of violence and tragedy, Chi Omega wants to provide another update on the work of our Special Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The Special Committee is charged with making recommendations to the Supreme Governing Council, after a holistic review of the practices, policies, procedures and member feedback, to ensure a more inclusive and ever-evolving Chi Omega.
Progress thus far includes the following:
Over 100 Sisters answered our open call to serve on the Special Committee.
Twenty-seven Chi Omegas were selected based on our desire for a committee made up of women who bring different life experiences and perspectives to this important work.
Sister Joslyn McGriff was appointed as Chair.
One-third of the Chi Omegas on the committee are undergraduates or recent graduates under the age of 25.
Two subject matter experts have been engaged, including professional DEI Consultant Marlon Gibson.
A special DEI link has been added to the Chi Omega homepage that includes committee bios and recent updates on the committee’s work.
Members of the Special Committee leadership team recently met virtually to set a working agenda. As reflected in the charge, the first order of business will be to review practices, policies and procedures in a wide range areas, including campus and Panhellenic partnership opportunities for greater diversity; member experience and chapter operations including training of leaders and advisors; DEI education, training and support; financial transparency and affordability; and, recruitment practices. We expect this first phase will last several weeks.
If you would like to submit topics for discussion and consideration within these or additional areas, please email email@example.com. Your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions are all welcome and encouraged.
Special Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Over 100 Sisters responded to our all-call for volunteers to serve on Chi Omega’s Special Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Twenty-seven Sisters, as well as additional subject matter experts, have been selected for the initial meeting, and we expect work groups to develop within this committee in the very near future.
Joslyn McGriff, a 2002 initiate of our Psi Delta Chapter at the University of Wyoming, a long time national volunteer and respected student affairs professional, will chair the committee at the invitation of the newly installed Governing Council. Her experience, intelligence and commitment to organizational evolution will be invaluable as we embark on this vital work.
The committee’s charge is to make recommendations to the Supreme Governing Council, after a holistic review of the practices, policies and procedures and member feedback, to ensure an ever-evolving and more inclusive Chi Omega.
The committee includes an incredible range of Sisters-in almost every way you can imagine. They live all over the United States and range in age from a college sophomore to a Sister whose sophomore year in college was many decades ago. The professional and personal expertise of the collective is inspiring! To learn more about the committee members, see below.
The first meeting will be team facilitated by Chair Joslyn McGriff and our consultant, Marlon Gibson, former university professional and member of the NPHC organization Kappa Alpha Psi along with Sarah Moore, an initiate of Zeta Lambda Chapter of Chi Omega at Wake Forest, and a change management professional. Marlon is a professional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant also concurrently serving as the Director of Community Engagement for Kappa Alpha Order. Marlon was chosen for his track record in successfully navigating conflict and dialogue in the DEI space. Being male, Marlon also contributes the level of neutrality we are seeking in terms of preconceived notion about sorority, Chi Omega, other NPC sororities or Sisterhood, in general. Sarah Moore is a national volunteer and serves on The Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute of Chi Omega Committee. The leadership of these three outstanding individuals, along with S.M. Gena Runnion and CEO Leslie Herington, is critical to the important work of this special committee.
Chi Omega is very fortunate to have a Symphony of perspective, ideas, and life experience at this table, and it is our hope that through this comprehensive endeavor, our Fraternity will emerge stronger and more relevant to each and every Sister today and tomorrow. Please check back on here for future updates on the committee’s work.
Chair, Joslyn McGriff
Psi Delta | Wyoming
Longtime Chi Omega National Volunteer and Interim Director of the Association of Fraternity /Sorority Advisors
Meeting Facilitator, Sarah Moore
Zeta Lambda | Wake Forest
Change management professional & member of The Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute of Chi Omega
DEI Professional, Marlon Gibson
University of Toledo
Resource and Subject Matter Expert: Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and professional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant specializing in community engagement
Kappa Beta | Rhodes
Collegiate member with recent service on the Rhodes College Senate DEI Committee
Eve Amanuel Abraha
Chi Alpha | Tufts
Tufts rising senior serving as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leader for her Chi Alpha Chapter
Epsilon | SUNY
High school educator & advisor to organizations that teach/practice safe & healthy protesting
Sigma Epsilon | Vanderbilt
Rising pre-law senior and leader in Sigma Epsilon Chapter
Epsilon Delta | Southern Mississippi
Diversity and Inclusion Director for Epsilon Delta Chapter
Xi Delta | Toledo
Chi Omega advisor serving professionally as a leader for her corporate Diversity, Gender and Inclusion committee
Sigma Zeta | Texas A&M – Commerce
Chi Omega advisor and anti-bias educator
Kappa Lambda | UC San Diego
San Diego, CA
Clinical Health Psychologist & current chapter advisor
Leia De La Garza
Omicron Theta | Midwestern State
Oklahoma City, OK
Law student and former Greek Woman of the Year
Mary Ann Frugé
Tau | Mississippi
Former Chi Omega National President and recent service on the University of Mississippi DEI Committee
Jorja L. Kimball
Upsilon Theta | Texas A&I
College Station, TX
Higher education researcher with experience in underrepresented groups
Barbara L. Kornblau
Nu | Wisconsin – Madison
Researcher, attorney and higher education professional at a historically black university with experience in ADA implementation and other civil rights laws
Sigma Epsilon | Vanderbilt
Professional career development coordinator and former Chi Omega National Leadership Consultant
Kappa Lambda | UC – San Diego
New York, NY
Finance professional who founded an investment firm focused on seeding women and minority owned hedge funds
Mu | UC – Berkeley
Created the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for her Chi Omega chapter
Eta Alpha | Oregon State
Daly City, CA
Professional with ongoing and previous community engagement and diversity experience in the corporate world
Alpha | Washington
Former Chi Omega National Leadership Consultant, community activist and practicing attorney
Zeta Theta | Middle Tennessee State
Recently led the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Junior League of Nashville
Pi Gamma | New Mexico
College Student Personnel professional educating students about diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence and has served 15 years as a safe space facilitator for LGBTQ students and faculty
Amanda Kay Seals
Eta Gamma | South Carolina
Lawyer and law professor in civil and human rights serving on her firm’s diversity and inclusion task force
Longtime Chi Omega volunteer and higher education professional for over 40 years with experience developing leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion
Beta Theta | South Alabama
New Orleans, LA
Higher education professional at a historically black college
Arizona State University
Resource and Subject Matter Expert: Attorney specializing in transgender inclusion and Fraternal law, former National President of Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity
Sisterhood Chats Regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Beginning in the fall term of 2020, all members and new members will be required to participate in conversation curriculum focused on the topic of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Conversations are student led, and there is facilitated content as well as open discussion. Each member and new member must select between the two topics available in the DEI portion of Chi Omega’s Membership Experience Guide (Exploring Social Identities or Understanding Implicit Bias).
It is our hope that, through these small-group conversations, understanding and sensitivity surrounding these important topics will be fostered, and Sisters will make thoughtful choices throughout their lives, while standing together as advocates and allies for marginalized communities.
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