In the 2022-2023 academic year, The National Pan-Hellenic Council experienced growth, established a plan for a lasting legacy and reworked its bylaws as the organization aims to grow its impact at USC.
The NPHC, a national collaborative organization composed of historically African American fraternities and sororities, spent the majority of the summer and fall planning the biannual "Stroll Off" in conjunction with the Homecoming Commission.
Open to all, the event drew alumni and spectators from local HBCUs who came to support their respective chapters and watch members of each fraternity and sorority perform choreographed dances characterized by stepping, strolling and chanting.
Sarah Helen VanDevender, a graduate higher education and student affairs assistant, works in the programming department at the Fraternity and Sorority Life Office and plays a role in advising the NPHC. VanDevender said events like this one have welcomed growth since she arrived on campus in 2021.
“We had all eight chapters participate, which is really incredible because when I first came here, I think only four were participating, so we’ve got an increased involvement, which is incredible,” VanDevender said.
Fourth-year social work student and newly-elected programming chair of the NPHC Kennedy Lann said the mission of the NPHC's involvement on campus is to provide the opportunity for students to present themselves as they are. She said the council is especially important at a predominantly white institution.
“For NPHC, it’s important to be established at a (predominately white institution) mainly because we represent diversity," Lann said. "The mission for us to be created was to create equality for all African Americans, to be seen and to be represented.”
In addition to the increase in participation, VanDevender said the NPHC has also begun planning a new monument that would represent all eight chapters on campus. Though a lengthy process, the council has been connecting with administrators and creating contracts to generate the memorial.
"It's taking a lot of discussion, to have eight chapters come together and decide 'what do we want this to look like?' because it's representing all eight chapters, but they all have different opinions, of course, on what representation looks like to them," VanDevender said.
Lann said council members are currently working to find ways to fund the monument as well as deciding where it will stand on campus.
Along with planning events and the monument, the NPHC has also taken to revamping its old bylaws and statutes that have resulted in difficulty planning some events throughout the past academic year.
Charter week is an important time for the NPHC chapters to host events to present their individual fellowships and their commitments to possible new members. Lann said that for fraternities and sororities hosting their own charter weeks, they can run into difficulty finding available time slots.
Lann said the NPHC fraternities and sororities were having difficulty finding the willingness to share event days — something that has to be done to meet the deadlines of the university’s Fraternity and Sorority Life office. She said that the council's vice president, Davon Beaton, is working with their parliamentarian to "create equality" in the scheduling of events between member organizations.
NPHC President Brandon Vereen, along with the executive team, have spent many of their recent biweekly meetings revising and updating their governing rules and regulations in an attempt to create better organization among the eight fraternities and sororities.
“The bylaws haven’t been updated since probably COVID or 2021, so we’re just trying to make sure that they’re clear and concise,” Vereen, a third-year sport and entertainment management student, said. “Getting everyone’s approval to make sure everything works out has been mainly the only thing — it's been, not challenging, but something that was more that we can work towards.”
VanDevender said the ongoing project of creating an organizational calendar will help to clear up scheduling conflicts among the fraternities and sororities in the future.
The calendar would assign certain dates to certain chapters, giving them the chance to hold new member presentations, fundraisers, educational sessions and other organizational events without the challenge of having to work around other chapters’ dates.
“Our conversations have been based a lot around, 'Is that helping the visibility of NPHC on campus?' and 'How can we increase NPHC events to get their presence more known on campus?'” VanDevender said.
According to both Lann and Vereen, the NPHC is hoping to see more unity among fraternities and sororities in the future from the help of their efforts to increase organization.