by Devon Leasure, Florida
Wednesday, April 25, marked a special and monumental day for Greek communities around the country. More than 200 fraternity and sorority members, both collegiate students and alumni alike, gathered on Capitol Hill to lobby for the Greek experience. For the 14th year in a row, we proudly represented Tri Delta and the more than 9.1 million alumni and 800,000 collegiate members of Greek organizations as teams met with 457 United States Representatives and Senators to share the value and purpose of fraternities and sororities. These annual congressional visits provide an outlet for civic engagement and the opportunity to advocate for the issues that directly affect the collegiate experience.
I proudly represented Alpha Psi Chapter from the University of Florida, and was fortunate to lobby alongside four of my collegiate sisters: Kelly Nefzger, Arkansas; Mary Celeste Floreani, Maine; Rachel Morrow, Stanford; and Tori Hyham, Oregon. We were joined and graciously mentored by five distinguished alumnae: Past Fraternity President and current NPC Delegate Sarah Coons Lindsay, Miami/Ohio; Past Fraternity President Phyllis Durbin Grissom, Southern Methodist; Executive Board Director Nicole Hughes, Washington State; National House Corporation Board Director, Maureen Bills, Cornell; and Vice President of Marking and Communications Mindy Tucker, Southern Methodist. These strong women were kind alike to all and leading examples of Tri Delta’s leadership on the Hill.
Our journey in Washington, D.C., began on Monday, April 23, with informational training sessions. This year, the focus of the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC) shifted from prioritizing the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, CHIA, to protecting students’ freedom of association rights and adopting a cohesive, national anti-hazing stance. With an overdue higher education reauthorization bill looming over both the House of Representatives and the Senate, we lobbied for clear and unequivocal language to preserve every student’s right to join a single-sex organization whenever and wherever they choose. We also asked legislators to support and co-sponsor a bill called the REACH Act, which increases hazing transparency and accountability for universities across the nation. We spent time sharing with our peers the importance of the single-sex Greek experience and reflected on our time in our respective chapters.
Tuesday afternoon, we were joined by dedicated alumni and learned more about freedom of association, due process and the single-sex experience. We listened to diverse perspectives and crafted an effective strategy for sharing our main points with legislators. Wednesday morning, my team made its way to the Rayburn House Office Building and met with many supportive representatives from the state of Florida and elsewhere. Our Tri Delta delegation was honored to meet with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico, and Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Emory, and talk openly about the issues facing our country and community.
The most impactful part of my three days in Washington, D.C., was sharing my story as a student speaker at the Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) dinner on Wednesday evening. This opportunity served as a platform to open the dialogue around campus sexual assault in a room full of collegiate students, alumni and United States Representatives.
Tri Delta has given me unique support through the ups and downs of my experience. I have grown both personally and professionally and accredit my successes at the University of Florida to the female mentors that empowered me along the way. Without Tri Delta, I would never have stepped outside of my comfort zone and been elected President of the 4,500 women who make up the Panhellenic Council. Without Tri Delta, I would never have been selected UF’s Homecoming Queen on the basis of service and merit or inducted as amember into UF’s Hall of Fame. Without Tri Delta, I would not be the woman I am today.
These sentiments were echoed by all students and alumni who shared the common bond of a fraternity or sorority experience. Our few days on Capitol Hill taught us how to be a voice for others and to stand up for what is right. As fraternity and sorority members, we have a responsibility to inspire collective action and ignite change. FGRC is fighting for the issues that directly affect every one of us, and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of the greater mission.