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University Celebrates Dedication Of NPHC Garden

Participating in the ribbon-cutting for the NPHC Garden are (from left) Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies; Ebony Jones, graduate assistant for fraternity and sorority life; Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter; NPHC President Terrye Davis; Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; and Mindy Sutton Noss, dean of students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

One year after its groundbreaking, the National Pan-Hellenic Council Greek Garden is open at the University of Mississippi. The garden, next to the new residence hall between Crosby Hall and the Northgate housing complex, provides an outdoor space for learning, celebration, reflection and community building.

University officials conducted a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting for the garden, which will serve as a physical space for the nine African-American Greek organizations that do not have properties on campus.
The university broke ground on the project on April 23, 2016, but this symbolic space has been years in the making.
“When I set foot on this campus nearly five years ago, developing a NPHC garden became a personal and professional priority to me,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs. “This is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of the NPHC and to fully represent fraternity and sorority life on our campus.
“This is truly a historic moment for our university, and this garden will serve as a gathering place and point of pride for our members.”
The university’s NPHC represents nine historically African-American sororities and fraternities.
“I continue to be in awe of the remarkable and resilient spirit of this university’s NPHC membership, past and present,” said Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies and a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. “More than anything, this garden is the spatial embodiment of their bravery, their vision and their commitment.
“Related to that, though, I think any conversation about the garden that does not include a critique of the alarmingly few spaces for students of color – in particular, black student organizations – on campus is disingenuous and dishonest. In that way, I think the garden is also a sign of all the work that the university still needs to do in the areas of racial justice and equity.”
Nearly 100 NPHC members and alumni joined university administrators for the April 30 ceremony, which was moved to Luckyday Residential College because of rain.
“This dedication is a historic occasion for our campus as it is an opportunity to recognize and commemorate the value of historically black fraternities and sororities at our university,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “The addition of the garden is especially meaningful as we endeavor to tell the full story of our university’s history and her student body.
“Since 1973, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and its member chapters have had a major role ushering in positive change at our university. They have been key to enhancing a culture of inclusion on our campus and generating social engagement among our student body members. While there is still much work to be done, everyone here today has impacted our university and helped lead us toward a better future.”
Construction of the garden was made possible by the university’s Office of Administration and Finance and the Division of Student Affairs.

By Christina Steube
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