Diversity presentation sparks controversy within Panhellenic sororities

Delta Gamma was one of thirteen Panhellenic sororities that attended the presentation about diversity and inclusivity.
Jim Xu/Staff
Delta Gamma was one of thirteen Panhellenic sororities that attended the presentation about diversity and inclusivity.

Earlier this year, all members of UC Berkeley Panhellenic Greek life listened to a new presentation on diversity and inclusivity — topics left unaddressed in previous recruitment years.

The presentation, which was given to each of the 13 different Panhellenic chapters by members of the community’s overarching UC Berkeley Panhellenic Council, or PHC, led to an inter-Panhellenic dispute that former PHC president Summer Collins described as “the biggest issue we had to deal with internally, within (the) council.”

Jacqueline Bueno, former vice president of community development, created the slideshow for the presentation on diversity and inclusivity. She said, however, she was informed the morning before the presentation that her slides had been modified without her permission.

Check the slides below for the modifications of Bueno’s slides. The original slides are on the top, and the modified slides are below. 

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“I was told it was a combination of wanting to save time on the presentation and it being ‘too strong,’ ” Bueno said.

The PHC established the vice president of community development role in 2016 to increase diversity and inclusivity in the Panhellenic community.

Bueno’s original presentation covered topics such as implicit bias, the LGBTQ+ community and racism. While the modified presentation addressed many of the same topics, some of the slides were altered by other PHC members, according to Bueno.

While rehearsing the presentation, Collins said, members of PHC found that the presentation would have taken closer to 45 minutes rather than the desired 20 minutes. The presentation was cut to be more “holistic” and “effective,” according to Collins.

Bueno’s original presentation included slides contrasting the “quiet and submissive” stereotype of Asian American women to the “outspoken” stereotype of women in Western culture. It is important to be aware of how biases like these can shape people’s interactions and can result in houses becoming racially segregated, Bueno said.

Michelle Cera, the 2016 vice president of community development, used the “scoring” and “matching” processes to demonstrate aspects of the recruitment process that can be influenced by implicit biases.

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Potential new members are expected to be matched with active members of the sorority based on similar interests, Cera said. Problems can arise, however, if they are paired on what appears to be solely a racial basis.

“During the year, I didn’t feel at peace. I still experienced time and time again people misunderstanding what I’m trying to push of a more racially inclusive process,” Bueno said. “The connections aren’t there.”

Kriya Wong, a member of Delta Delta Delta, said this year’s presentation provided a “good refresher” prior to recruitment. It also showed that PHC was attempting to standardize inclusion and diversity policies between the houses during recruitment, she said.

Bueno said she felt supported by people in Panhellenic Greek life before recruitment.

“But recruitment kind of showed the true colors of people,” Bueno said.

Nanita Balagopal, the incoming vice president of community development, said she plans to continue Bueno’s work but hopes to enforce harsher consequences for breaking the rules.

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“My plan is very simple,” Balagopal said. “My plan is to be very transparent in the community and very firm with organizations who are breaking the rules.”

Although the road to increasing diversity in campus Greek life has not been the smoothest, it has begun addressing issues previously left undiscussed, Collins said.

The PHC recently implemented a guideline stating that “anyone with the spirit of a woman can go through recruitment” — a policy aimed at promoting the inclusion of transgender women, according to Collins.

Controversial invite and exchange party themes were also an issue PHC addressed. People occasionally migrate towards cultural appropriation when they try to get creative, according to Collins. The PHC worked with the campus Interfraternity Council to create a social code for party themes in response to this problem.

Balagopal said she has high hopes for the new national advisor who would be appointed this year.

“I made it extremely clear that my position (had) better be valued on this council,” Balagopal said. “My voice will be heard, and if it isn’t, I will go to great lengths to make sure it happens.”

Contact Alicia Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.