Advocating for Our Clients
Freedom of association. Hazing prevention. Due process. Safe housing. These are big issues in the fraternal community. That’s why 250 outstanding student leaders and national sorority/fraternity leaders were in Washington, D.C. recently to conduct more than 450 meetings with Senators, Representatives, and Congressional staff to build support for legislation addressing these issues. I was fortunate to be part of that group, along with my Fraternal practice colleague, Mick McGill, Holmes Murphy Vice President of Client Service. The photo above shows myself, along with Kathi Heatherly with Delta Zeta, Jordan Blades with Pi Kappa Phi, and Donna Shahbazi with Delta Zeta.
Fraternity and Sorority leaders have been working together for many years to build a positive presence in Washington, D.C. to help defend and enhance the fraternal experience. As part of those efforts, the National Panhellenic Conference and the North American Interfraternity Conference, Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) created the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC). The FGRC exists to build strong relationships with lawmakers at the federal level and provide advocacy for issues that are important to fraternities and sororities.
The fraternal community’s message to lawmakers and candidates for the 2019-2020 election cycle emphasizes the following:
- Demonstrating the value of the friendship, leadership, learning, and service experience that is unique to Greek organizations and their members — both undergraduates and alumni.
- Improving campus safety and anti-hazing legislation.
- Preserving fraternities and sororities right to operate as single-sex organizations.
- Protecting students’ right to freedom of association by ensuring they can belong to any campus organization at the time of their choosing and without reprisal.
- Ensuring due process rights for our student members and member organizations.
- Providing tax parity for donations to build and/or improve fraternity and sorority housing.
I was placed on a lobbying team with Donna Shahbazi, Student Body President at Creighton University and a member of Delta Zeta. Donna’s story inspired me. Her parents came to the United States from Iran to go to college and settled here. Her sorority faced risk management issues, and Donna was a big factor in helping her Chapter remain a viable student organization at Creighton. Because of her engagement with the national sorority, she hosted a university-wide phone-a-thon — Fight for FSL. On that day, representatives of Congress were contacted over 800 times. Constituents urged them to support legislation that advocated on behalf of single-sex organizations. During the event, a young woman approached Donna and asked her what was going on. She shared the story of what her sorority experience meant to her and how she fought for it. The young woman responded, “I had a very negative perception of fraternities and sororities. All I knew about them was what I saw in the news. However, after talking with you today, you’ve shown me your heart and the passion you have for your sisters and brothers. I’d like to sign a postcard to my representative.”
This led to Donna’s engagement in the Capitol Hill event, and she shared her story at the Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) dinner following the day of lobbying. Her commitment to her sorority experience is what keeps me and my colleagues in the Holmes Murphy Fraternal Practice moving forward to protect this experience for future generations of students.
In case you’re wondering…the legislation we were supporting included the following:
- The Collegiate Freedom of Association Act, supporting the idea that the price of a college education should never require a student to sacrifice their freedom of association rights.
- The END ALL Hazing Act and The REACH Act, honoring the work of the parents in the Anti-Hazing Coalition, a group of parents who have tragically lost their sons to collegiate hazing
- The Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA) to build/improve fraternity and sorority housing
These are big issues, and ones we hope to see resolution. Please reach out to us if you have any questions.
Published on: 05.13.19