The Greek Life office sits in the bottom floor of UGA's Tate Student Center in Athens, Georgia, on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

Evan Venable worked his way up through the Interfraternity Council ranks. Guided by an older member of Alpha Gamma Rho when he was a freshman, Venable started as a clerk for IFC and went on to become a committee member during his time at the University of Georgia. Now, Venable will serve as IFC’s 106th president.

“I knew that I wanted to devote a year of my life and the rest of my college career to bettering a fraternity system that’s given me so much,” Venable said.

On Oct. 3, the new IFC executive board and council members took office. The university’s four Greek life councils are all in the process of selecting new leaders who will represent the organizations for the 2020-21 school year.

Panhellenic Council announced its 2021 executive board in an Oct. 28 Instagram post. Mary Evelyn Brock, a junior advertising major, applied for the Panhellenic Council executive board this fall after being involved with Greek life throughout her time in college. Brock said she understands the challenges facing the council and Greek life as a whole, and she’s eager to work with other leaders in Greek life to address these challenges. 

The transition of power in IFC and Panhellenic comes after a year of changes in UGA’s Greek life office. Executive board members were forced to find ways to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some fraternities and sororities worked to develop new diversity initiatives amid testimonials that criticized the organizations for racism in the recruitment processes. 

Extending COVID-19 fines and continuing conversations about diversity

Brennan Cox, IFC’s outgoing president, said there are three major milestones that defined his term: revising the council’s constitution, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and conversations of diversity at UGA and in the U.S. 

“Had we not done that constitution revision, I don’t believe the council makes it through COVID-19,” Cox said. 

IFC passed several bills related to COVID-19, including one on Aug. 12 fining organizations $1,500 for violating social distancing guidelines during fall events, with $500 increases for subsequent violations.

Venable said that the current council unanimously extended the COVID-19 bills the 105th council passed in its first official meeting. 

Venable is also looking forward to continued diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; one of the first things the council did was host a diversity training for the executive board and 26 chapter presidents, Venable said. The council plans on continuing diversity seminars throughout the academic year, eventually hosting training for every general member of an IFC fraternity.  

Cox, who graduates in May, said he hopes to be able to look back on the work of the new council and see that members did “the right thing rather than the easy one.”

“And really not resting on the laurels of the position or the title, but really enjoying and engaging in the challenge of the work and the responsibility of the fraternity system.”

Panhellenic Council’s 2021 goals

The main goals for the 2021 Panhellenic Council executive board are promoting participation, diversity and mental health awareness within Greek life, Brock said. 

Grace Daigre, the 2021 vice president of recruitment, said in an email that one way the board hopes to increase diversity in the Panhellenic community is through decreasing the financial barriers present in Greek life. The board plans to implement new scholarships to help members pay sorority dues as well as participate in recruitment, Brock and Daigre said. 

Although 2020 “has been an undeniably challenging year,” Daigre wanted to apply for the executive board to serve her Greek life community.

“I knew I wanted to be a more active member of our community to ensure Greek life was doing their part to consistently consider the inclusion, safety and well-being of all of its members,” Daigre said. 

The council plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat racism within its chapters, issues that defined the fall semester. The council faced criticism early this semester after some chapters hosted bid day events without masks and social distancing. The council will continue to host meetings virtually and encourage its members to adhere to the prevention guidelines set in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UGA and the local government, Brock said. The council also plans to provide diversity, equity and inclusion training and programming to create dialogue and change regarding racism, Daigre said. 

“We will work to better understand and educate all stakeholders in our community by having hard conversations and discussing how to best move forward. This issue will not be solved in one day or by one person, but it is the changes over time that will make a lasting impact,” Brock said.

This article is part of a two-part story on the new Greek life councils’ executive boards. An article on Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council’s new executive boards will be published after Thanksgiving break.