Greek councils release letter of discontent after Vespers event


Emily Hammer/Iowa State Daily

Chander Wilkens, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council; Mike Poggemiller, president of the Interfraternity council; Kara Rasmusson, president of the Collegiate Panhellenic council; and Rachel Ramirez, president of the Multicultural Greek Council appeared on stage at Vespers to give awards to Iowa State’s fraternities and sororities. Vespers was held Sunday night at Stephens Auditorium.

Nik Heftman

The presidents of Iowa State’s Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) released a letter of discontent Friday afternoon in reference to reactions at the Vespers greek award ceremony on April 2.

During the ceremony, members of the Iowa State greek community booed, mocked and made racial remarks at individuals representing the MGC and NPHC as they received their awards, according to witness accounts and letters released by Rachel Ramirez, president of the MGC, and Billy Boulden, assistant dean of students and director of greek affairs.

Ramirez said she collaborated with Chandler Wilkins, president of the NPHC, to produce the letter of discontent. It was released to “a large portion of the greek community,” Ramirez said.

The beginning of the letter summarized the purpose of Vespers, stating that it marked the end of Greek Week. 

“Vespers is an annual awards ceremony commemorating the end of a fun and busy week for many of us,” the letter said. “It is a time to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of all the unique chapters within our community and to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.”

Following this assessment, the letter rehashed the booing, mocking and making of racial slurs that occurred during the event. The letter said that these actions were carried out by members of the Iowa State greek community, stating that the actions were aimed at members of the MGC and NPHC.

“For many of you, this may be the first instance of racism or disrespect toward the Multicultural and National Pan-Hellenic Councils that you have heard of, but for us this is our everyday experience as members of the Iowa State Greek “Community,” the letter said.

The letter also addressed individuals who have defended College Panhellenic (CPC) and Interfraternity (IFC) councils by stating that “the actions committed by a handful of individuals … does not represent the entire Greek community.” The statement can be found on the review section of the Iowa State greek community’s Facebook page.

“While that may be the case, it is also important to understand that while the booing and call imitating were condemned by those seated in the audience, the racial slurs were not,” the letter said. “By not holding your siblings accountable, entire chapters and councils remain complicit in the racist actions taken by that initial handful of individuals.”

According to the letter, members of the IFC and CPC have been asking members of both the MGC and NPHC on how to best apologize for the actions of their members. The IFC and CPC have also been wanting to release statements of support for the MGC and NPHC, according to the letter.

“If you want to call out individuals in your chapters, don’t bother,” the letter said. “Racism is an act of violence and remaining silent and neutral in the face of it is equally as violent. All those who failed to take action when their siblings actively engaged in racism are at fault in this situation as well. So call out your entire community.”

Ramirez and Wilkins provided a list of events in the letter that have left their organizations “… with feelings of disappointment, isolation, anger and exhaustion.” The list included:

  • During Homecoming 2015, a greek pairing decided to appropriate Latinx culture by decorating its Halloween Town-themed apparel with cultural symbols belonging to Dia de los Muertos.

  • In the fall of 2015, an IFC fraternity duplicated an event that an MGC chapter has hosted for years that serves not only as a philanthropy but also as a fundraiser for the MGC chapter. The event is vital to support members attending the national convention each year.

  • At the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values Conference (AFLV) in 2016, members of IFC and CPC were disrespectful during a keynote address on racism in the greek community. When asked to address their behaviors, the Office of Greek Affairs staff asked to postpone the conversation to a more convenient time. The discussion was continually put off and the conversation addressing the disrespectful behavior was never addressed.

  • During the spring of 2016, an IFC chapter asked an NPHC member about his “Negro Fraternity.”

  • At Greek Visit Day 2016, a philanthropy pairing used racial caricatures to sell its food to prospective Greek students.

  • Throughout the school year, requests are made for chapters in our councils to step and stroll at IFC and CPC sponsored events as entertainment.

“It is our belief that the staff members in the Office of Greek Affairs are not capable of providing the same support for the MGC and NPHC communities as they do the CPC and IFC communities. This has been proven on multiple occasions when, because of the identities held by the members of our council, our concerns are dismissed and seen as overreactions,” the letter said.

The letter also addressed the absence of a public apology from the Office of Greek Affairs and the chapters involved in the reactions at Vespers. It also addressed the email sent Monday night to the Iowa State greek community by greek affairs in reference to Vespers. According to Ramirez’s and Wilkins’ letter, the email from greek affairs came “after heavy influence by both the MGC and NPHC presidents.”

“MGC and NPHC members were humiliated in front of the entire Greek ‘Community’ totaling 5,000 plus individuals,” the letter said. “At the very least, a public apology from all those involved is warranted.”

The letter concluded by stating that the reactions at Vespers were a “small glimpse” of how it feels “to hold a marginalized identity” as a member of Iowa State’s greek community. The authors challenged the greek community to hold individuals in leadership roles responsible for the actions of their chapters in an effort to build a stronger sense of community among the four greek chapters.

“While this is about holding the chapters responsible for their actions, it is also about creating systemic change. Until then, #NotMyCommunity.”