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Members of National Pan-Hellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Council Celebrate Agora’s Opening
Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle
The dozens of students and alums who assembled on Fraternity Row on Saturday morning, proudly sporting the colors of historically African American and other multicultural fraternities and sororities, exemplified the spirit of the neighborhood’s latest addition.
A dedication ceremony officially marked the opening of the Agora, which roughly translates to “gathering place” in ancient Greek. Located at #4 Fraternity Row, it serves as a nonresidential facility for undergraduate members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) to host meetings, programs and other events.
“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 of Maryland 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 and cultural interest organizations, said 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 Saturday. “Yet they never had an exclusive space.”
Today, UMD has 52 Greek-letter organizations, including 13 in the MGC and seven in the NPHC. Students from those councils recalled having to compete for or purchase event space elsewhere on campus. Hoping to address this issue, NPHC and MGC members worked with staff in forums and town halls as planning for the Agora took shape, asking for a place central to Greek life 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,” said Brian Ndofor ‘23, NPHC president.
The university invested over $1 million to renovate the space, including installing a new high-efficiency heating and cooling system and making the first floor ADA-accessible; a $97,400 grant from the Student Government Association went toward new furniture and other décor.
Available for use since the fall, the building includes meeting and study rooms with tables and whiteboards—a “perfect place to study for finals,” said Briana Mercado ‘23, MGC president—dining areas, a large community room with a couch and fireplace, and designated storage space in the basement.
NPHC and MGC members look forward to seeing the Agora grow and evolve, including adding lockers for storage, mirrors for step and stroll dance rehearsals, and homey touches as a welcoming haven on campus.
“It’s the hope for the university that members of the NPHC and MGC will now have an equally visible representation of their presence on campus,” Nicole Pollard ’91, an Alpha Kappa Alpha member and university foundation trustee, said at the ceremony. “And it is the hope of NPHC and MGC alumni that current members will give honor to the long-sought dream and use this building to continue the work required by individual and collective missions to serve.”
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