/Black Greeks step up at Ole Miss

Black Greeks step up at Ole Miss

The University of Mississippi has taken several steps to make black Greek experiences more accessible to current and prospective students. Orientation 2016, Rebel Round-Up is now a venue for black Greek-lettered groups. This allows prospective students and their families to learn more about campus life. Before this summer, there was no specific representation for black Greek groups. Dr. Brandi Hender LaBanc, Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, stated that it was important for prospective African American students to see that there is a place at the university. “They now realize that their child can also carry out traditions, legacies, and important to the African American experience.” Additional additions include an office for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (the umbrella organization for nine black Greek organisations) and a multipurpose space in the new residence hall for socials and meetings. LaBanc says that although these things are costly, they will be worth the wait. “We are growing,” he adds. Cole G. Putman said that the spring premiere of “The Fly in the Buttermilk”, a short film about black Greek organizations at the university, was a great way to start conversations about a culture that is often misunderstood and not appreciated. Putman is also the director of the university’s First Year Experience. It houses three programs for new students. Putman says, “We are foolishly to believe that this documentary isn’t an agent for change.” The Fall program agenda now includes the documentary and dialogue with members from the black Greek-lettered organisations, formerly known as NPHC. Programs are designed to assist freshmen students in developing positive leadership skills. It also provides a forum for small discussion and understanding about how to best use your voice to address university concerns/issues. Putman stated that students are selected from around the globe and trained to become the best leaders possible. “They must understand all students on campus in order to do so,” Putman said. LaBanc stated that she will use the film in her graduate education class, Student Services in Higher Education. She said that the film will show the richness of Ole Miss’s black Greek heritage and experience. It will also help students who are interested in working in higher education to understand these values and help them avoid any misinterpretations. LaBanc was previously the first female adviser to fraternities at Arizona State University before her employment. She asked, “How can a white woman from a sorority understand NPHC?” She replied, “Environmental scanning,” focusing on creating spaces for these groups and understanding the students’ needs. Ground was broken for the NPHC Gardens on the weekend before the film’s premiere on campus last spring. Former Chancellor Dan Jones proposed an action plan that would make this area visible to students. It will represent the importance of historically black fraternities, sororities and the critical campus engagement opportunities they provided. Black Greek organizations are still struggling to find space and visibility on campus. Fraternity and sorority row has no black Greek presence. Predominantly white Greek organizations occupy homes, which means they have the space necessary to run chapter operations. Terrye Davis, president and member of a black fraternity, said, “If it wasn’t for external resources, I don’t know where we would be able to meet on campus.” The university has hundreds of other organizations on campus, so space becomes a problem when nine groups must practice, host meetings or social events in public spaces. Davis stated, “We don’t have our own space.” Davis stated that she was thrilled to see Ole Miss start the process of creating more space for the NPHC’s growing board. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.