By Tri Delta’s Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Team
The following is an excerpt from an article that will appear in the Summer Trident.
In the late 1800s, colleges and universities across the United States and Canada were beginning to enroll more female students – but most schools wouldn’t have been described as places that embraced these women.
Like other early sororities, Tri Delta formed as women focused on “making their position secure and…demonstrating their right to educational privileges equal to those enjoyed by their brothers.” Our Founders envisioned an organization that would welcome and encourage all kinds of women who sought this special brand of support and friendship: that is, that Tri Delta would “be kind alike to all and think more of the girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance.”
In the years since our founding, our shared values of truth, self-sacrifice and friendship have brought together thousands of women from all walks of life, and we call each other sisters. Like the sisterhood enjoyed by Sarah, Eleanor, Florence and Isabel, today’s version is just as timeless: our members hold each other accountable, challenge one another to meet higher standards and help one another to uphold our values. And today, our sisterhood also challenges us to be an even more inclusive organization.
Both in higher education and in the professional world, there’s a name for this: diversity and inclusion. At its most basic level, diversity is “the range of human differences,” which includes but isn’t limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs. Inclusion is “involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive organization promotes and sustains a sense of belonging. It values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds and ways of living of its members” (Ferris State University).
As we challenge ourselves to make our organization more reflective of our communities, our workplaces and our world, we embrace these two concepts to ensure that Tri Delta really is “being kind alike to all” and living up to our Founders’ vision of what our Fraternity could be.
“After hearing about several negative events on other campuses, we recognized the need to educate our members on being more inclusive,” says Nalya Rodriguez, University of California/Berkeley. “We wanted our chapter to be a place where all women were welcomed into membership, and also into chapter leadership roles.”
Like Nalya and her collegiate chapter, a number of sisters are finding creative ways to build more inclusive communities. Tri Delta leaders at Adelphi University and the University of Pennsylvania also have shared their insights so that we can advance these conversations in our everyday lives.
Find connections. We all have common hopes, dreams, aspirations and values, and when we can embrace these similarities, we also open up to the differences that enrich us. Nathalie Horta, Adelphi, shares that they collaborate with other groups such as the Latino Student Association for educational events and programs. This helps bridge gaps and builds Tri Delta’s connections across the community.
Create an open, safe and supportive environment where everyone feels welcome to share their most authentic selves. Encourage full expression of different beliefs and backgrounds within your chapter, workplace or community. For example, the chapter at the University of California/Berkeley saw a need to promote the discovery of new ideas and perspectives, so they created a Diversity and Inclusion task force.
Be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Your communication has both intent and impact, and that impact carries extra weight when others have a different perspective than you. Our chapter leaders voiced that it’s important to educate members on this idea, especially before recruitment.
Have the courage to speak up. It’s important to respect others’ backgrounds and points of view. If you notice any conflict with Tri Delta’s value of inclusion, speak with a trusted advisor. If you’re in a leadership role, it’s critical to not take these reports lightly. Empower the individual or group coming forward, instead of minimizing their concerns.
Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. We all have a place in the conversation. It’s all about learning and growing, and only requires that you remain open to new ideas and perspectives. Sesana Allen, Pennsylvania, serves as her chapter’s diversity chair. She hopes to plan a “tea time conversation” to start an open discussion about an important diversity topic, and help members gain new perspectives and insights.
We hope that these best practices shared by some of Tri Delta’s leaders inspire you to be part of this conversation – and remain true to the principles and values that we were founded upon. As Sesana urges, “It’s easy to think you don’t have the time, but it’s so important to make the time for these discussions and initiatives. This has to be a journey.”
When we stay true to our values and find ways to promote a more diverse, inclusive organization, we fulfill our Founders’ hopes of sustaining a society that is open, welcoming and “kind alike to all.”