Phi Delta Theta Takes Immediate Action to Promote Diversity and Inclusion
August 5, 2020
To address the racial equity issues within our society and any diversity and inclusion concerns within Phi Delta Theta, the Fraternity recently formed a Diversity Working Group that focused on two distinct areas: education and programming and policy and communications. Approximately forty undergraduate and alumni volunteers, representing diverse demographic backgrounds and unique perspectives, participated in discussions related to race, equity, and the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion within the Fraternity.
As a result of these conversations, a summary report of participant feedback and a list of recommendations was created and then submitted for review by strategic advisors Dr. Michelle Allen, Diversity Education Director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Marlon Gibson, experienced fraternity and sorority professional and doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia. The recommendations were then provided to the General Council for consideration.
The General Council met July 16–17, 2020 and thoroughly reviewed the report. After careful consideration, the General Council took the following immediate actions:
- Created the volunteer position of Diversity and Inclusion Commissioner and appointed Brother Austin A. Deray, Mercer ’10, to serve in this capacity. In addition to advising the General Council and General Headquarters staff, the commissioner shall be responsible for overseeing all educational programming, policy recommendations, and communication efforts related to diversity and inclusion initiatives on behalf of Phi Delta Theta.
- Designated and defined an undergraduate role (chapter officer) responsible for advocating for diversity and inclusion within the chapter, on campus, and in local communities.
- Approved the recommendation from the Diversity Working Group and the Survey Commission to adopt new terminology for burgeoning groups. The use of Colony will be replaced with Emerging Chapter and initial members of these new groups will now be referred to as Founders.
- When evaluating recipients of chapter excellence awards, the Awards Committee will include new criteria in the application that places value on the promotion of diversity and inclusion efforts and programming.
Other areas recommended by the working group for continued review and consideration by Brother Deray, the General Council, and the General Headquarters Leadership Team include individual, new member, chapter, and conference education with a focus on cultural competency and implicit bias training, specific language to adopt that would explicitly prohibit the display of divisive symbols on chapter premises and at Fraternity-sponsored events, collaboration with interfraternal partners, diverse identity and first-generation scholarships, and enhanced communication strategies featuring members of color.
We are grateful for the interest, efforts, and insights of all those on the Diversity Working Group. Though these actions represent significant progress, we realize there is more to be done, and we look forward to continuing our work together to create positive change and a culture of diversity and inclusion for every member of Phi Delta Theta.
Diversity and Inclusion Commissioner – Austin A. Deray
Austin A. Deray is a PhD candidate in cultural studies at George Mason University, currently working on his dissertation research on students of racial and ethnic identities within historically White fraternities. He received his MA in European history with a concentration in medieval history, and an MA in gender studies, and his thesis entitled: “The Old Boy Mentalities a Look into Southern Fraternities,” at Armstrong State University, where he was a lecturer in the gender studies department from 2014–2018.
Brother Deray currently works in the Office of Graduate Student Life at George Mason, working on all leadership and advising initiatives for his unit. He is the adviser to the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the student government for graduate students, and his portfolio includes the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within this office. Austin is a frequent facilitator and mentor within the LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) office at George Mason, facilitating groups and conversations around diversity and inclusion topics including: oppression, racism, Blackness, policing, racial triangulation.
Brother Deray was initiated into the Georgia Gamma Chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Mercer University in February 2007 and held officer positions in both his chapter and on the IFC board. He was hired on, after graduating in 2010, as the Greek life intern at Mercer for the 2010–11 academic year. Deray has served the Fraternity as chairman of the advisory board for both the Georgia Epsilon Chapter and the District of Columbia Alpha Chapter and is now the Delta North province president. He has served as a faculty member of both the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute and the Presidents Leadership Conference and presented on “Recruiting Students of Diverse Identities and First Generation Students” at both.
Working Group Membership:
Education and Programming:
Braden Ash, Puget Sound ’20
Collin Bell, Wabash ’17
Christopher Chambers, Hofstra ’20
Lawrence Daves, Hofstra ’13
Kwesi Essilfie, CSUN ’15
Jelani Gandy, Stockton ’21
Josh Gastineau, Washington College ’22
Carlito Herring-Forchion, IUP ’20
Aaron Hollis, Valparaiso ’17
Joshua Langston, Dalhousie ’21
Richard McCoy, San Francisco ’21
Oscar Moncada, Georgia Southern ’21
David Ndozi, West Georgia ’18
Donald Schenk, McDaniel ’71
Todd Simmons, Akron ’17
Moe Stephens, Southern Indiana ’99
Adeyemi Thomas, Chicago ’21
Devin Thornton, Georgia Southern ’19
Matthew Wittress, Butler ’23
Brandon Wong, Idaho ’19
Policy and Communications:
Dave Almacy, Widener ’92
Daniel Baluch, Seton Hall ’22
Steffan Barahona, Washington College ’21
M. Keith Brown, West Texas A&M ’91
Andrew Crosby, Puget Sound ’17
Felipe Cuatecontzi, Wabash ’17
Christopher Dann, Chicago ’21
Austin A. Deray, Mercer ’10
Michael Dike, Mercer ’22
Rob Eberly, Kent State ’70
Malique Elder, Nova Southeastern ’18
Carlos Gregory, Hofstra ’21
Justin Holmes, Campbell ’17
Pierrie Jefferson, UNK ’15
Javier Jurado, Johns Hopkins ’21
Dustin Liu, Cornell ’19
Sammy Mah, Kettering ’82
Anthony Mai, Wichita State ’18
Gerrin McKinnie, Millersville ’19
Reganold Robinson, Stockton ’22
Greg Rush, UNC Charlotte ’19
Rasheen Underwood, Montclair State ’21
Paul Vernick, George Washington ’21
Bob Wolfley, Southern Indiana ’10
By Moe Stephens, General Council Treasurer
June 9, 2020
I have watched the news the past couple of weeks with a heavy heart. I have heard stories from many of our members and alumni. I have had many restless nights. I have shed tears, thinking about the countless lives impacted by violence, bigotry, and racism. My heart hurts. I have worked to continue to educate myself. I have more work to do, and I recognize that I am not going to be perfect. Anti-racism work is messy and difficult. Those who know me well, know that I am happy to engage in spirited debate on a range of issues and ultimately agree to disagree if necessary. Racism is not, and will never be, one of those things.
I have no problem saying that Black Lives Matter. As a movement, BLM has been weaponized for political purposes. Some people have strong opinions on both sides. However, we must filter out the noise of politics. Saying Black Lives Matter is a humanity issue. Do All Lives Matter? You bet. However, the Black community continues to face violence, harassment, and racism on a daily basis. Is that your reality? If it is not, consider yourself to be in a position to make a difference and amplify the voices of those that do.
Phi Delta Theta Fraternity was founded on the high ideals of friendship, sound learning, and rectitude. Our Founders formed this society to create a place for the free exchange of ideas in a time when universities were less than hospitable to this type of self-awareness. The fact that Phi Delta Theta contributed to systems of oppression and racism, both in policy and practice, in later years is ironic in a way that I would prefer it not to be. For almost 50 years, like many organizations of the time, Phi Delta Theta did not allow students of color to join our Fraternity. Although this policy was abolished in 1954, we cannot continue to diminish this historical fact and its place in our history.
We have come a long way, but we still have work to do. Saying the phrase, “Becoming the greatest version of yourself” does not magically make it so. It takes work. It takes sound learning. It takes rectitude. It takes friendship. Our ritual tells us we have an obligation to our fellow man to live our lives in a way that makes our world a better place. History has shown, and the past two weeks have magnified, the fact that we have a long way to go.
So what do we do now? First, we must listen. We cannot understand what our members of color experience, the lives they have lived. We must not listen without action, and my promise to you is that we will act. I have work to do. We have work to do. We will do this work together.