Sigma Nu members elected Amman Asfaw, electrical engineering sophomore, to fill the chapter’s newly created position of diversity chair April 15, becoming the first Cal Poly greek chapter to officially create and fill a diversity position.
“My hope is that Sigma Nu will pilot this position for future chapters,” Asfaw said. “If I’m the only one doing this it doesn’t mean anything. I hope that by taking this position, people will follow suit and it will create a chain reaction. That’s when we create change and it becomes a better school, a better place and a better community.”
At this time, Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic (PHA) and United Sorority and Fraternity Council (USFC) chapters are not required to create diversity positions. According to the requirements of the current greek life probation, all chapters need to “develop and implement a long-term education plan that addresses topics of diversity and inclusion,” but does not specify that the plan needs to include the creation of a diversity chair.
Sigma Nu created the diversity chair position before the probation conditions were released on April 25. Kyle McBerry, biology junior and Sigma Nu chapter president, said the chapter does not consider the addition of a diversity director as their entire diversity plan.
“We put Amman into the position before we knew we had to come up with a diversity plan, so that’s something separate we are working on,” McBerry said. “Even though [a diversity chair] is not required, it’s something that we thought would be very proactive and helpful for the overall situation in Greek life right now, so we decided to go ahead and move forward with one.”
At the April 15 Sigma Nu meeting, which occurred on the Sunday directly after the blackface incident, the members motioned to create the diversity chair position. The idea was inspired by the suggestion of a chapter diversity chair in both an IFC meeting (IFC is currently in the process of accepting council-level diversity director applications) and during the emergency town hall meeting. Directly after the motion passed, Asfaw was nominated and elected to fill the position. He has been officially serving as diversity chair since his election and will continue serving as the chair next year.
The bylaws detailing the position’s exact responsibilities were officially approved at a Sigma Nu chapter meeting this past Sunday, May 6. Main responsibilities for the diversity chair include working in tandem with other chairs in the chapter to incorporate and consider diversity, increasing overall chapter diversity and collaborating with at least one on-campus cultural organization every quarter.
Asfaw has already begun to take action as diversity director. Every year Sigma Nu puts on Turn the Tables, a philanthropy event which raises money for RISE, a non-profit organization which provides treatment services to survivors of sexual assault. In the past only PHA sorority chapters have been invited to participate in the event, which involves purchasing and painting tables. Asfaw worked with Sigma Nu’s philanthropy chair to extend the invitation to include Black Student Union (BSU), Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and all USFC sorority chapters. The price to buy a table will also be reduced for members from these organizations since their organization budgets are much smaller than PHA chapter budgets.
“This is the first thing that we have tangibly done to try and help the situation, and it’s just the beginning,” Asfaw said. “We can’t do everything at once — we wish we could fix everything with a snap of the finger, but it takes time so this is just the first step.”
Since the position was established halfway through spring quarter, the current allocated budget for diversity chair is only $75.
“I’m looking into how I can spend the $75 to support any cultural organization. For future quarters it could be more, we’ll to see,” Asfaw said. “The goal is to choose a cultural organization each quarter that the money goes towards, whether it’s donated or helps pay for an event that is co-hosted by [Sigma Nu and a cultural organization].”
Other ideas Asfaw hopes to implement as diversity chair is a platform for members to speak up and educate other members on their cultural backgrounds, education on resources and events outside of greek life and overall education on cultural issues. As the first, and currently only, diversity chair in greek life, he has no guidelines to follow.
“It’s not easy [to be diversity director], because one — it’s a sensitive issue and sometimes an uncomfortable topic to talk about and two — it’s something new. You can’t just do what someone did in the past, you have to figure it out,” Asfaw said. “So it will be hard and it will be challenging, but it will be worth it. I just hope somebody — no, not somebody, several people, step up and are courageous enough to lead the change and be the change they want to see.”