At retreat, Greek councils try to bridge racial divide

By Faith Hufford

At the beginning of the first meeting of UK’s three Greek councils, members were given three things — balloons, tape and straws.

The group task, to build the largest freestanding structure, was one of many group exercises given to executive members of the three councils during Saturday’s Greek Leadership Retreat.

The three councils participating in Saturday’s event were the Interfraternity Council, the National Panhellenic Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. IFC and NPC are umbrella organizations for historically white fraternities and sororities, while NPHC represents historically black Greek organizations.

The three presidents of the councils planned the retreat so council members could get to know each other, and also to improve teambuilding, leadership and communication among the organizations and their members.

The Greek leaders planned the retreat after seeing various articles in the Kernel after the racially charged Oct. 5 cartoon likening UK’s Greek system to a slave auction, said Patrick Keal, president of IFC.

“We realized after the cartoon incident we weren’t focusing enough on diversity, so we brainstormed some ideas, thinking that the leadership retreat would be best,” said Julie Meador, president of NPC.

After teambuilding exercises, officers from the councils came together to answer questions on the challenges they face and how they could bring their organizations closer together.

Ideas included going around to chapter houses to build personal relationships, attending each other’s events on campus, and hosting a collective social event. Officers also discussed spending more time together so they could plan for the future.

“I thought it went really well — everyone seemed very comfortable with each other,” said Susan West, dean of sorority and fraternity affairs, who attended the retreat as an advisor along with NPHC adviser Monique Beckham. “They did well in communicating with each other, and everyone fully and freely participated.”

The follow-up to this retreat will be up to the councils, with hopes that all executive members who are leaders in their chapters will spread their knowledge throughout their organizations, Keal said.

“It’s going to have to be much more than one day to build that trust between our organizations,” said Alise Marshall, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. “It will take continuous effort in our cross-cultural relationships before any change can happen.”

The councils hope that this idea will spread beyond Greek life to the whole campus, Keal said.

“There is so much more we can get done together,” he said.