PCC Members Seek to Increase Inclusivity on Organizational Level

Laura Dunnagan –  Patterson Court Council (PCC) organizations are engaging in more conversations regarding inclusivity and diversity. Warner Hall House has been encouraging its members to learn how to foster diversity. “We’ve made more of a conscious effort to be more inclusive,” said Helen Webster ‘18, President of Warner Hall House. “I think inside, everyone in Warner always felt like we were inclusive, but we needed to make a conscious effort to make that clear to everyone else, too.”

Two first-year Warner Hall members, Kayla Edwards ‘20 and Jules Franco ‘20, have taken active roles in designing events to promote a more inclusive culture within the house. “As freshmen, there were people who had anxieties about what it meant to join an eating house, what it meant specifically to be joining Warner, and how they were going to be accepted into that community,” commented Edwards. “We decided that we didn’t want this to be an anxiety that anyone else had to have. We wanted to take an active role in making Warner a space that was open for other people.”

This semester, Warner Hall has partnered with Queers and Allies to co-host the Queer Pride Party, co-sponsored by several other PCC organizations, and has hosted an event about intersectionality between queer and disability theories within Davidson’s Greek community. They also plan to partner with Q&A on their service projects that benefit the Mwandi Christian Mission Hospital in Mwandi, Zambia and the Regional Aids Interfaith Network.

Warner Hall recently started a weekly forum for people to discuss inclusivity and identify other problems within the house. The members voted to hang a Black Lives Matter flag, Pride flag, North Carolina State flag, and United States flag on their back porch. “Part of our goal is to make every person feel like Warner is a safe space and that everyone is included there,” said Webster.

Franco hopes the conversation present within Warner Hall will spread to the rest of PCC. “The conversations I’ve heard coming from members of other PCC organizations [were] ‘We’re not actively exclusive, and therefore our spaces are accessible.’ That’s a discourse I hope shifts over the next few years,” commented Franco. “Not being actively exclusive is not the same as being actively inclusive, and that’s something that needs to be taken up by all houses.”

Josh Tu ‘18, President of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), explained that the diversity within their organization comes from a legacy of inclusion. “Before I got to Davidson, our organization started to include minority students, which began a conversation about diversity within Fiji,” commented Tu. “That’s caused a snowball effect—as more diversity is included, more diverse people want to join the organization. I think campus outreach is a big part of it, too. Having people involved in a lot of campus activities makes our outreach wider.”

Davis Temple ‘18 and Jenna Boué ‘17, President and Vice President of Turner House, respectively, have been working to continue Turner’s culture of inclusivity. “Turner is a diverse eating house, and I think that’s because we foster an open environment,” said Temple. “Past presidents prioritized ways to make the house more inclusive,” said Boué. “It’s essential to Turner’s culture to change issues that different people in Turner are having, to make the house more inclusive and accepting and a more welcoming space for a wider variety of people.”

Turner has been evaluating service opportunities to ensure members know what physical demands will be required before engaging in them. Turner has also been working toward making their house more accessible for members with disabilities, increasing funding for need-based scholarships, and celebrating religious diversity.

Jonathan Sheperd-Smith ‘18, President of the Pi Mu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., one of Davidson’s two historically African- American fraternities, commented that inclusivity is a cornerstone of the fraternity’s identity. “Inclusivity has always been a part of the organization on a national level,” explained Sheperd-Smith. “Kappa was founded on the principles of diversity, and that was a key reason why Davidson allowed us to have a chapter here. We try to live that out with our membership— everyone comes from a wide range of backgrounds.”

Quin Brown ‘18, President of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), said his organization encourages diversity by offering financial aid to all members who demonstrate need. While official statistics on minority representation within organizations are unavailable, Brown remarked that his fraternity has noticed an increase in its racial diversity in recent years.

Brianna Green ‘18 is a member of two PCC organizations: Rusk House and the Upsilon Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. “With Delta, even though it is a historically black organization, we try to make ourselves open to students who aren’t African-American and make ourselves approachable,” said Green. “Having members who aren’t black is important, because it’s really about the message and the cause—we’re trying to help the black community, but you don’t have to be black to help black people or care about black people.”

Green says she was encouraged to join Rusk House by older members of color. “I thought it was cool that other black women were part of a white space, and I think subconsciously that affected my decision,” explained Green. “Rusk is a very inclusive space, but it’s really important that people are reaching out to more diverse members of campus to get them to join.”

Green said that being a member of a sorority and an eating house has been a positive experience. “They’re very different spaces, but I’m glad to be able to have both experiences. That’s something special about Davidson, that I can join a sorority that’s meaningful for me and have a space to explore myself with other women of color and have a more predominantly white social experience.”

Most Patterson Court representatives who were interviewed noted that their individual organizations, instead of PCC at large, led efforts to increase inclusivity. While this allows the individual organizations greater flexibility, it can also translate to a lack of cohesion and collaboration among organizations. Additionally, representatives cited overall school diversity as a limiting factor to their individual organizations’ diversity, arguing that PCC can only be as diverse as the overall student body.

“It’s hard for PCC to have a policy about inclusion because it really is a culture thing, and the individual organizations can control their culture easier than PCC at large,” stated Brown. Brown also noted that PCC’s involvement with SAE currently focuses more on promoting safe practices in the houses than encouraging inclusivity. For Interfraternity Council organizations, PCC requires members to complete three educational events, two of which must pertain to sexual assault prevention and alcohol safety.

Sana Alimohamed ‘17, a member of Turner House who transferred into the organization during her senior year, notes that PCC should also focus on being more inclusive of students who choose not to drink. “I have never felt unwelcome as a Muslim in PCC organizations,” commented Alimohamed. “The only time where I felt not actively included, but neither actively non-included, was when I had to explain my decision not to drink. In part it was because of my religion, but it was also for so many other reasons. I have never felt pressured to drink at Davidson, but there have been times where I have felt pressured to have a good enough excuse as to why I don’t drink.”

Referencing eating house culture specifically, Alimohamed mentioned that “PCC has a long way to go to be inclusive of people who choose not to drink. While people who want to stay sober can carve those places out for themselves, those spaces do not exist naturally.” Alimohamed noted that while some eating houses have alcohol-free events that focus on fellowship and friendship, sometimes these “sober events” can be mocked or may be “sober” in name only.

Edwards suggested that PCC should make an effort to address concerns first-years have when considering joining a PCC organization. “I think PCC in achaten-suisse.com general should be having more conversations about these anxieties freshmen may be having, how they can address them, and whether or not those anxieties are rooted in realities that freshmen are excluded or don’t feel as welcome in those spaces,” said Edwards. “When we have those difficult conversations, we’re better able to move into directions that are more inclusive of everyone.”

Emily Yates ‘18, recently-elected President of PCC and a member of Turner House, said that she plans to use the position to bring inclusivity to the forefront of PCC discussions. “There have been a lot of conversations around inclusivity, but there’s a lot to be done to make PCC more inclusive, especially financially,” explained Yates. “The effort is there, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

During her time as president, Yates hopes to bring more attention to National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc.’s culture, to encourage collaboration between the houses and to promote inclusivity by being more intentional with how PCC organizations use their social spaces. “There’s a lot of untapped potential within PCC,” commented Yates. “I’d love to see people make inclusivity a priority because we have so much social capital and we don’t think intentionally about it—but there’s so much we could do, and people are starting to recognize that.”

*Note: Laura Dunnagan is a member of Turner House.