The group that recently fought to garner charter approval for the creation of a sorority on campus held an interest meeting in Paces on Wednesday night. With approximately 30 women in attendance, the group discussed its intentions in forming a sorority and outlined the succeeding steps required to see this project to reality.
All of the women present were asked to introduce themselves and state the reasons for which they think starting a sorority is important. Gender equality in a social setting, challenging the existing Greek system of the United States, wanting more defined mentoring, expanding friend circles and creating a safer (and not male-dominated) wet space were among the intentions women had in establishing a sorority on campus.
The group of four women spearheading this project, Julia Melin ’13, Olivia Ensign ’12, Christina Obiajulu ’12 and Callie Feingold ’12, revealed that a consultant (former Dean of Greek life consultant at Dartmouth College) has already been conferred with in determining what path a sorority at Swarthmore will want to take. One of the tentative paths involves associating the sorority with the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), an umbrella organization for 26 women’s sororities. This organization would provide a large part of the necessary funding to create the framework and space for the sorority and would also offer a large, national network of women. Even more so, the organization would help subsidize the cost of joining a sorority, therefore making it equally accessible to every woman on campus.
“A few of these sororities [in the NPC] were here at Swarthmore 79 years ago,” Melin said. The NPC’s chapters are all pretty autonomous, but they do require that certain guidelines for behavior be met. The interested members would vote on their preferred sorority within the umbrella that is NPC.
The second and less feasible option is associating Swarthmore’s sorority with the National Multicultural Greek Council (NMGC), an organization for 10 multicultural fraternities and sororities established in the 80s. Although associating with the NMGC appeals in character, the organization lacks the resources and age to provide the support and structure this campus’s women might need creating a sorority.
According to Ensign, both options are feasible, each with its own drawbacks. Swarthmore’s group of women will have to choose whether they want to have effective economic and structural support, while at the same time, attempt to figure out how the chapter will be molded to fit the Swarthmore ideals, or if they want to have a strong multicultural identity, but have to do exponentially more fundraising to make this project viable.
“That’s the type of conversation we want to have … We want to make sure that everybody feels educated about the issue,” Ensign said.
While there was clear interest in the prospect of a sorority starting on campus, shown by the number and enthusiasm of the women present at the meeting, there is still a considerable amount of opposition.
Frequently voicing her opinions on mediums like Facebook, Yana List ’14 is a strong opposer of sororities on campus.
“A lot of the arguments I have heard in favor of sororities talk about the fact that there is no female dominated drinking space on campus, where the fraternities are male dominated,” she said. “I have friends that have talked about feeling either unsafe or uncomfortable when partying at the fraternities, and just creating a sorority is not going to fix the underlying problem… I think the solution involves abolishing the Greek system.”
List, like many others on campus, agree that sororities, like fraternities, function “as exclusionary entities that discriminate based on looks, weight, wealth, etc.” And while she concedes that it is possible that Swarthmore’s sorority will not operate by reproducing the stereotypical characteristics that so commonly exist in most other college campuses, List believes that the campus should not open itself up to that possibility.
“I think that this is the time to reconsider how social life works at Swarthmore, and how gender is respected, and at times disrespected,” List said.
With an approved charter, the group of women interested in the sorority merely have to appeal to the school for funds in order to continue the project. Once they can start paying a consultant to properly guide them in the path to creation of a sorority, it is only a matter of time.
The group hopes to have this project running by next fall.