Letter: UMN-Twin Cities NPHC and MGC joint response to Sept. 10 article: The mysterious Greek initiations of MGC and NPHC

by Richard Pittman Jr. and Jonang Thao

Sunday, Sept. 10, an article was published titled “The mysterious Greek Initiations of MGC and NPHC.” We, the membership of the Multicultural Greek (MGC) and National Pan-Hellenic Councils (NPHC), wish to express our disappointment in the narrative this article creates about our communities. While the article was intended to be an educational piece on the unique nature of pursuing membership within our councils’ chapters, it instead cast a negative light on our practices, utilizing damaging and inaccurate language all while “othering” our organizations within the context of fraternity/sorority life at the University of Minnesota.

The tone that your article employed served to make MGC and NPHC seem separate from, and frankly less legitimate than, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) organizations within our fraternity/sorority community. Yes, it is true that all four of our councils are independent of one another with unique practices and traditions. It is also true that our community has worked and continues to work towards our stated vision of “Four Councils. One Community.” Articles that reinforce misconceptions about the standing of chapters and councils within our community run counter to our vision and diminish the work that we do individually and collectively.

Reducing the description of our event, the Cultural Greek Meet & Greet, to one that highlights “loud rap music” and “dance routines” did not sit well with our membership. We wouldn’t expect to see these descriptors used when describing our peers on campus, both within and outside of fraternity/sorority life. The portions of the article that quote members of our community lacked context and painted an inaccurate picture of who we are. As communities committed to making sure prospective members do their research before joining fraternity/sorority life, we were disappointed with the lack of research that was done prior to publishing this piece.

Both MGC and NPHC have a rich history on this campus that is well over 100 years old. The first NPHC organization was chartered at the U in 1912. MGC organizations have operated on campus since the late 1980’s. Both local councils have chapters whose chartering predate their creation. While campus chapter sizes may vary, alumni presence and support is significant. Every chapter is affiliated with national and international organizations, some whose membership exceeds the hundreds of thousands. Our rituals and traditions being reduced to “nicknames” are both inappropriate and harmful. Everything that we do as communities is tied back to our cultural heritages, cultivated in some groups for over a century.

In closing, MGC and NPHC encourage journalists that wish to highlight our communities to work with us in the publication of their stories. While there will always be areas of “secrecy” and ritual, the vast majority of who we are and the work that we do is open and visible to the public. We are quite willing to provide the necessary context for our traditions and practices where appropriate. As communities who continue our commitment to service, siblinghood and scholarship, we welcome all students to engage with us and learn firsthand what it means to be a member of a MGC and/or NPHC fraternity/sorority.

Thank you for your time.

Richard Pittman Jr. is the NPHC chairman at UMN. Jonang Thao is the MGC president at UMN.