For immediate release: June 5th, 2017
Panhellenic Council’s Response to Board of Trustees
In April, I issued a letter to President Barron on behalf of Panhellenic detailing our unique position at Penn State. I did not release it publicly in order to maintain Panhellenic’s professionalism as well as create and foster an environment most effective for collaboration. The Panhellenic Executive Board sincerely believed that our continual effort to work with the University would be met with enthusiasm and open ears. However, after months of waiting, this letter went unanswered.
On June 2nd, the Board of Trustees met, which resulted in the addressing of multiple changes to the Greek life Community. The only specific mention of “sorority” during the BOT meeting was in regards to our chapter size. Traditionally, our chapter size has grown as the interest in our organizations has grown. Penn State is unique in that we promote an inclusive sorority experience. We promise every woman who effectively completes our recruitment a bid – meaning that we do not deny nor exclude any member from joining our organizations. We ensure that every woman has a place in Panhellenic if she so chooses. Today, this promotion of inclusivity has been deemed as dangerous and leading to an “unwieldy” number. Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees overlooked this aspect, deciding our organizations should be capped, creating an environment that can be seen as “exclusive”. This significantly deters from the University’s All In campaign, which encourages diversity and inclusivity.
It goes without saying that no Panhellenic organization was in attendance at Beta Theta Pi that night, as displayed by the presentment. Trilogy and Panhellenic differ on a majority of rules and regulations, risk management policies, as well as our regular communication and time spent working with University Staff members. Trilogy is currently governed by the Office of Student Affairs, which has the right to revoke and create standard for clubs to be held responsible for. The Panhellenic Executive Board supports every single Penn State organization being governed equally, with each organization being held to the same rules, regulations, and standards. However, the Board of Trustees state very clearly in their meeting that these new regulations would be placed on only the Greek Organizations. The irony is not lost upon us, that the organization actually identified at this event, will not be subject to the same stipulations.
In addition, we as Panhellenic women want to address the University’s public statements regarding sexual assault. The Panhellenic community supports an environment where sexual assault statistics are not just thrown around when it is convenient. Recently, President Barron wrote “An Open Letter to Penn State’s Greek Community” citing that … “the vast majority of sexual assaults are associated with alcohol and that an association with Greek life yields a sexual assault victimization rate that is about 50 percent higher than the average student.” While the President does go on to state that this is a national problem, he fails to make this a community wide initiative. The Panhellenic Council, the largest women’s organization at Penn State, has been working diligently at efforts to eliminate sexual assault. This is an epidemic not unique to our campus, and over the years it has garnered copious amounts of national attention. In public statements and in addresses by administration to students, the University has chosen to recognize this problem behind a slew of other issues plaguing Penn State and other college campuses. By doing so, they have denied this problem the attention and commitment it deserves. Sexual assault is not just another problem on your laundry list. It is a problem that women face every day, and that has plagued so many of our experiences in and outside of fraternity houses for years.
I would like to briefly share some pertinent quotes pulled from my letter to President Barron on behalf of Panhellenic, which went unanswered. I find that the meaning still highly relevant and necessary in order for Panhellenic to move forward in an honest and effective manner.
“Ultimately, the boys were given two options: girls or alcohol – the two of them not being allowed to mix. Panhellenic did not take fondly to the idea that girls and alcohol were “optional,” as one is an object and one is a human being. This begs the question, does the presence of girls with alcohol create the problem, or do the men and women’s mentality and sense of responsibility create the problem. The decision did not confirm the latter.”
“Panhellenic needs more. We need to know what we are doing wrong, specific to our organization and what we are doing right, which the men can get on board with or simply not be recognized any longer. We need our administrators and officials to use the term “women” for more than just a sexual assault statistic. We are not just the victims of fraternity men. We are also empowered women who have not been equally conversed with in the midst of a horrible and tragic situation.”
“I want to make the change that Penn State would like to see. There are so many facets to this situation, which work differently for men and women. Our recruitment being of them. Our new member process being another. I do not ask you for congratulations that our organizations have not been found hazing in years. I understand we are simply meeting what is expected of us and that even so; we have miles more to go.”
Panhellenic is vastly different than the Interfraternity Council, or really any other organization on campus in a myriad of ways. Regardless, we have fully supported steps towards a safer future with open arms. This letter is not one of resistance to change; Panhellenic recognizes that there is change that our campus so richly deserve. Instead, we would like to express to the community, our immense interest in real and authentic communication, which has thus far, not been fully served.
The Panhellenic Council asks earnestly, that we meet with University Officials in the near future. We ask that those who make decisions for us take the time to read our current code of conduct, bylaws, and social policies to educate themselves on the nuances of Panhellenic, Greek Life, and all other organizations on campus. Our board, as the many before it, is nothing short of intellectual, committed, and passionate individuals. We deserve a meeting that tis focused on our – the 4,000 women of Penn State’s Panhellenic Association – specific and present time needs. This is not a new request, for it has truthfully been an ongoing one.
To Evan and our immediate support system in the office, thank you for your continual belief in our success. To Danny Shaha, your daughters should be proud to have a father like you. To the Panhellenic community, thank you for your commitment to navigate through every change. To the Highlands and Fraternity Life, thank you for opening up your homes and neighborhood to us, we promise to do better. To our parents how have raised strong women, thank you for allowing us to recognize that we deserve more. And to the Piazza family, we will work diligently each day with your beautiful son in our thoughts.
We anxiously await the opportunity to speak in the Fall.
For the glory,
Amanda Saper, Panhellenic President.
(also signed by 10 board members)