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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2016


Eye on Psi Chi

Winter 2016 | Volume 20 | Issue 2

Campus Protests Highlight Student Concerns: Can Your Chapter Help?

Martha Zlokovich, PhD, Psi Chi Executive Director

View this issue in Digital and PDF formats.

Treat me with respect. Listen to me. Don’t call me names. Don’t stereotype me. Welcome me. Learn about me as I learn about you. Show me compassion.

Across the United States, November 2015 has seen student protests over large and small ways that students of color are mistreated on campus, conflicts over the meaning and exercise of free speech, and university administrations struggling to address these issues. When the Mizzou football team joined student protestors to demand the resignation of the University of Missouri system president and flagship campus chancellor, national news shone a spotlight on issues of racism on campus and university responses to it.

Students are protesting blatant and subtle forms of racism. In interviews and on social media, they have described being called by racial slurs as they move about campus and being expected to speak for everyone with their racial background. They report cases of students, faculty, and administrators treating them with a lack of empathy, stereotyping them, leaving them to their own devices, and ignoring them when they attempt to describe their experiences (see hashtag #BlackOnCampus; Flaherty, 2015; Jaschik, 2015).

What could Psi Chi chapters do to improve campus climate? In 2011, Sleigh and Hall wrote about why our honor society should be inclusive and how collaborations could accomplish that goal. They wrote that “by seeking other groups that share their concerns in order to implement an educational event or service project, Psi Chi chapters effectively model collegiality through collaboration” (p. 28). They also described two primary ways they can become more inclusive—looking for opportunities in which chapters can support the work of others and cultivating nonmember participation. I would like to expand on their ideas about how chapters can become more inclusive by focusing on potential Psi Chi members. Two questions can be considered: How are eligible students informed about joining Psi Chi, and what do they experience in their first interactions with the chapter? As Sleigh and Hall (2011) stated, “Psi Chi chapters have an obligation to reach out and connect with students across its campus in order to demonstrate seriousness about including all qualified students in the organization” (p. 28).

New members could come from any campus department because psychology minors may join, and some psychology students pursue a second major. Faculty and graduate student members of Psi Chi may be found in a wide variety of departments such as social work, neuroscience, and business. If they are not already members, graduate students and eligible faculty may join.

The first thing a chapter needs to determine is whether all eligible students are being invited to join. Second, what percentage of eligible students chose to act on the invitation? For those who are eligible but don’t join, can your chapter determine why? Students cite lack of time and knowledge about Psi Chi as the two most common reasons for not joining (Spencer, Reyes, Sheel, & McFarland, 2001). Students often don’t understand that Psi Chi can help them better prepare for their chosen profession (Sleigh & Hall, 2011).

What other reasons could there be? Did all potential members receive their invitations, receive them too late or at an e-mail address they never check? Did they understand that Psi Chi is an academic honor society, not a sorority or fraternity? Were they told about what happens at chapter meetings and how they could benefit from and contribute to these meetings? Are underrepresented groups on your campus (based on race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sex, gender, graduate student status, etc.) joining at lower rates than other groups? A survey might help, but asking students why they didn’t join could also yield useful information and present chapter members as caring people who want to get to know them.

Once your chapter discovers these answers, how will you address the barriers you uncover? Chapters may need to send invitations in multiple formats such as e-mail, social media, and in-person (especially for students whose classes are primarily in other departments), develop membership fee assistance, communicate via different means, advertise the benefits of becoming a member, adjust chapter meeting times, or develop relationships with faculty in other departments.

Next, what do potential and new members experience at their first chapter meetings? It can be difficult to join a group if everyone already knows each other well. Is everyone who attends your meetings

  • greeted warmly?
  • asked about their interests in psychology?
  • introduced to everyone else?
  • invited to contribute to ongoing committees, activities, and initiatives?
  • informed about other opportunities to study, work, or play with chapter members?

No potential member should experience attending a meeting and leaving without having been acknowledged in any way. Harper (Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania) and his colleagues have conducted many interviews with minority college students. They found, on campus after campus, “what he calls ‘onlyness,’ the feeling of being one or one of a few members of a group, and of being misunderstood and frequently insulted and/or ignored” (Jaschik, 2015, para. 16). I encourage our chapters to help reduce feelings of “onlyness” on your campus by bringing these questions to your members.

Maybe what it all boils down to is “treat me with respect.”


Flaherty, C. (2015, November 12). More than words. Retrieved from

Jaschik, S. (2015, November 16). What protests mean. Retrieved from

Sleigh, M. J., & Hall, M. D. (Winter, 2011). Collaboration: Why our exclusive honor society should be inclusive. Eye on Psi Chi, 15(2). Retrieved from

Spencer, T. D., Reyes, C. J., Scheel, L., & McFarland, R. T. (2001). Why don’t all eligible psychology students join Psi Chi? Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 6, 37–41. Retrieved from

A high school teacher in Pensacola, Florida, inspired Dr. Martha S. Potter Zlokovich to pursue psychology as a career. She completed her BA in psychology at UCLA, and MS and PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Florida.

Dr. Zlokovich joined Psi Chi in 2008 as its second Executive Director, leaving Southeast Missouri State University after teaching there for 17 years. This move, however, was not her first involvement with Psi Chi. She served as chapter advisor since 1993, as Midwestern Region Vice-President (1998-2000), and as National President of Psi Chi (2003-04). In 1996, Southeast’s chapter won the Ruth Hubbard Cousins National Chapter of the Year Award, and several chapter members have won Psi Chi Regional Research Awards at MPA and/or had their research published in Psi Chi's Journal.

At Southeast, Dr. Zlokovich taught Child Development, Adolescent Development, Lifespan Development, Advanced Child Psychology, and Introductory Psychology for Majors. She also served as chair of the Psychology Department and interim chair of the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning. Her research interests have focused on student study habits, study beliefs, and persistence to graduation as well as adolescent and young adult contraception and sexuality.

Dr. Zlokovich and her husband Neil have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. Aaron (Truman State University, 2010), Stephanie (Institute for Integrative Nutrition), and their daughter Anniston Scott live in Birmingham, AL, and Matthew (University of Alabama, 2014) lives in Nashville, TN.

Copyright 2016 (Vol. 20, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

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