Stead Leadership Seminar, West: Diversity and Inclusion Discussion with Suzette Walden Cole

In today’s ever-changing social landscape, the topics of diversity and inclusion are even more critical to understand and apply. For the men of a fraternity, especially Lambda Chi Alpha, it is even more important to embrace these topics, as leaders of tomorrow.

The attendees of Stead West had the great pleasure of hearing from professional speaker, Suzette Walden Cole, as she delved into these tough topics.

Though Cole has been speaking to college fraternities and sororities about the developing issues for many years, she remembers starting where many of her listeners do: knowing there needs to be a change, but not knowing how to deliver.

Cole recalls growing up in Atlanta where 70-85 percent of the community was African American and seeing many injustices that she just could not label as a child. She found herself frustrated by the lack of answers and truth, so pledged herself to a line of work that would address diversity and inclusion with clarity.

According to Cole, there are so many universities and colleges around the country that want so badly to have the conversations which address diversity and inclusion, but most fall short. Cole says that it is one thing to have a diverse university, or chapter, but it is something completely different to then include every student or member.

But these conversations have to start, Cole says.

Cole has been an advocate for diversity and inclusion for many years now.

“I think fraternities are a ripe foreground, honestly, to be able to talk about the tough conversations, to be exposed to things they may not have been exposed to before,” said Cole. “So, if we are not having the diversity and inclusion conversation in our chapters, where else are we having them?”

In her discussion with Lambda Chi brothers at Stead West, Cole implored members to think about their own chapters and how they might be missing the mark on diversity and inclusion. While most chapters can claim that they are diverse in practice, the next part of the equation would be truly accepting each member as they are and how they choose to identify.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, we can check all of those boxes, 30 percent of our chapters are coming from these identities, so we’re good’. But are you,” asked Cole. “Do those guys feel fully integrated, do they feel like their voice matters, are they at all alienated? That is not inclusive behavior.”

So how does Lambda Chi Alpha, as a fraternity, start to tackle these lofty topics? It begins with a conversation.

Cole addressing members at Stead West, August 10.

That conversation should then lead to teaching brothers how to see other people’s identities, whether that is sexual orientation, religious preference, etc.

“There is a desire amongst many brothers who are coming and representing those identities that want to see a brotherhood that embraces them differently,” stated Cole.

The next step in the conversation requires the action of chapters. It is one thing to say a chapter will be inclusive, but it is quite another thing to follow through.

Cole encouraged brothers to seek resources on their campuses and from their educational leadership consultants, as well as beginning to help all members feel at home.

At the end of the day, though, Cole says the most important thing to remember is that it is alright to not agree with the views and opinions of fellow members, but the difference is accepting all for who they are and what they believe. But the conversation must continue past Stead.

Once identities are not only seen, but celebrated, can the fraternity move forward in offering a welcoming and impactful experience for undergraduates.

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