A ‘Declaration of Unity’ in New Space
National Pan-Hellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Council Celebrate Agora’s Opening
By Annie Krakower
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle
The dozens of students and alums who assembled on Fraternity Row on a brisk February morning, proudly sporting the colors of historically African American and other multicultural fraternities and sororities, exemplified the spirit of the neighborhood’s latest addition: the Agora.
The former fraternity house, whose name roughly translates to “gathering place” in ancient Greek, was formally dedicated as a nonresidential facility for them—members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC).
“Across the nation and in higher education, we are still working to repair and reconstruct systems that historically left out some of our friends, family and peers,” university President Darryll J. Pines said at the event. “I’m proud that with the Agora, we are establishing a space for communities of color on Fraternity and Sorority Row and further embedding the strength and vibrancy of our diversity into the fabric of our campus.”
When UMD built houses on Fraternity Row in the 1950s and ’60s, Baltimore Avenue acted as a “literal divide” between historically white fraternities and sororities on one side, and cultural interest organizations on the other, says Matt Supple, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Racism and discriminatory membership practices exacerbated that divide.
“(NPHC and MGC organizations) formed to facilitate meaningful cultural interactions for students and graduates from marginalized communities, especially at predominantly white institutions like Maryland,” Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo said at the event. “Yet they never had an exclusive space.”
Today, UMD has 52 Greek-letter organizations, including 13 in the MGC and seven in the NPHC. Members worked with staff as planning for the Agora took shape, asking for a place where they would not reside, but collaborate.
“The camaraderie and the bonding—when we have that strong bond, that’s what allows us to do great things for the community,” says Brian Ndofor ’23, NPHC president.
The university invested over $1 million to renovate the space, and a $97,400 grant from the Student Government Association went toward furniture and other décor. Available for use since the fall, the building includes meeting and study rooms, dining areas and a community room.
NPHC and MGC members look forward to seeing the Agora evolve, including adding lockers for storage, mirrors for step and stroll dance rehearsals, and homey touches.
“This has made all the difference,” says MGC President Briana Mercado ’23 (below, at podium). “Space can sometimes be a barrier. Most times as people of color, we are told to take less of it. The Agora is a declaration of unity.”
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