The construction of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC, Plaza, which will honor historically African American fraternities and sororities, is close to completion, although there is no set reveal date.
According to a university news release, the plaza’s goal is to provide inclusivity and increase visibility and continued support to members of NPHC. The plaza will serve as a physical representation of NPHC organizations and as a gathering spot for students and alumni. The university also anticipates the plaza to serve as an opportunity for those not associated with NPHC to learn about these organizations.
The design and location of the plaza have a deliberate meaning. The plaza’s circular formation creates a sense of unity among the Divine 9, which includes the nine organizations in NPHC. The location of the plaza was selected so that it would be near College Green and Cutler Hall, according to a university news release.
“Because the plaza is close to the Scripps Amphitheater, the area can be utilized in numerous ways and provide a social space for ceremonies, study and small gatherings for the OHIO community and beyond,” William Schafer, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, wrote in an email.
Dale Robinson, Chaplin of Sigma Psi, a chapter of Omega Psi Phi, and a senior studying sport and business administration, said because members of NPHC have consistently urged the university to be more inclusive, he and his peers were excited about the building of the plaza.
“When the announcement came out regarding the Plaza, we were excited, of course,” Robinson wrote in an email. "Years of hard work from students before me had gone unacknowledged from the university's higher-ups, and it was frustrating for all of NPHC as we watched other campuses build their plazas. The groundbreaking ceremony gave us all a sense of relief.”
Robinson said although there is more OU can be doing to create a more inclusive environment for NPHC members, even the small gestures are acknowledged and appreciated.
“We are still grateful that our voices were heard, and that we’ll finally have a permanent presence on the campus,” Robinson wrote in an email.
Chris Medrano Graham, director of sorority and fraternity life, said in the future, she hopes the university prioritizes funding and leadership development for NPHC. She noted the small percentage of African American students enrolled at OU also reflects the small size of those in NPHC. Graham said she wants to see more students of color involved, informed and interested in joining NPHC organizations.
Executive Director of the Campus Involvement Center, Char Kopchick, said the idea to create the plaza was initiated six years ago, but due to university budget cuts, OU had to postpone building the plaza.
The university decided to partner with a local architectural firm, VSWC Architects, to complete the project. The total approved project budget is $467,265, Schafer wrote in an email.
It was the university’s goal to have the plaza completed in time for the Black Alumni Reunion, or BAR, Kopchick said. However, due to supply chain issues, the project was repeatedly delayed. In the spring, during NPHC Week, Kopchick said there will be a dedication of the plaza.
During the BAR in September, alumni were still able to see the progression of the plaza’s construction, Schafer wrote in an email.
“I was able to speak with many of the attendees, and each of them expressed how pleased they were with the construction and the overall recognition,” Schafer wrote in an email.
Although the ceremony during BAR was supposed to only be 20 minutes, Kopchick said alumni were still seen taking pictures at the plaza after an hour. She said it demonstrated how important it was to build the plaza for those in NPHC because the alumni still valued the plaza despite it not being finished.
Kopchick said whenever there is an increase in visibility, there will also be an increase in curiosity, and she hopes the visibility of the plaza will educate the community about NPHC organizations and all they do.
“When you look at the contributions that our NPHC chapters make, not only to Ohio University but all the community service projects that they do in the community, many times (they) go unnoticed,” Kopchick said. “(The plaza) is a way of celebrating everything that members of those organizations have done to contribute to not just Ohio University, but to the Athens community also.”