Sorority to Accept Bids on Saturday

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The return of sororities to Swarthmore’s campus — after a 79-year absence — has been debated throughout the past year. Now, the sorority has arrived.

It first appeared on campus this week in the form of three educational leadership consultants from the international Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity (it’s a “fraternity” in name only). Kappa Alpha Theta is the organization that Swarthmore students in “Not Yet Sisters” selected to form a chapter on campus.

This weekend, the sorority begins accepting bids. Saturday is bid day — when students who have applied to join will accept “bids” from the sorority — and the final group of new members will meet for the first time on Sunday.

Two of the consultants, Corey Burnett and Lindsey Witt, 2011 graduates of the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona, respectively, have moved to the area to help Swarthmore’s chapter, the Alpha Beta chapter, as it gets rolling this spring. They have been on campus this week sharing information about the sorority for interested members.

“We guide and act as support system for new chapters” Witt said. “We are based here, live in the area surrounding campus, and help with recruiting efforts.  We work with women to get acquainted with Kappa Alpha Theta as an organization.”

Witt and Burnett, who are tabling at Sharples this week, seemed excited about their first few days at the school. “I love it! Everyone’s been very friendly. It’s a beautiful campus,” Witt said. “I appreciate the intellectual environment,” Burnett said.

The representatives are holding three information sessions about the sorority. At each session, they play a promotional video about Kappa Alpha Theta and discuss the sorority’s structure, history, and mission, which emphasizes community service.

The video, which played for an audience of about fifteen interested students on Wednesday night, asked its viewers to “tell the truth” about themselves. It included phrases such as “I’m a student, sister, friend, and woman” and pictures of famous women who were involved with Greek life at their own colleges.

While the eventual size of the sorority is yet to be determined, according to Burnett, they are using the size of the fraternities, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, as a target.

Burnett said the sorority have a membership selection process in place. “It’s based on our values,” she said. “Members who don’t meet the criteria for membership aren’t offered a bid.”

Women will only be offered bids if they are listed as female in the College’s records, are in good academic standing, and are committed to “being yourself,” she said.

Kappa Alpha Theta, referred to colloquially as Theta, began in 1870 as what they claim was the very first women’s fraternity. At the time of its founding, the word “sorority” didn’t exist. Today, the group has over 250,000 living members.

This number once included Swarthmore alumni — Swarthmore had a Theta chapter between 1891 and 1933.  Students voted to abolish the chapter in 1933 due to its refusal to admit Jewish students.

The chapter’s return is the culmination of a process carried to fruition by the student organization Not Yet Sisters, which a group of students chartered a year ago.

“Last year, I worked with [then-seniors] Olivia Ensign, Callie Feingold, Christina Obiajulu,” Julia Melin ’13, one of Not Yet Sisters’ leading members, said. “We got approval from Dean Braun and Rebecca Chopp and started the application process. In the spring [of 2012], our goal was to build up the interest group, and to get enough girls interested in working with us toward forming a sorority.”

Melin and others met with representatives from various sororities during their application process and ultimately chose to form a chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Some students worry that a sorority will be out of place here or will harm Swarthmore as they know it. Melin argued that Swarthmore and the new sorority will be able to iron out any differences.

“If something comes to campus that’s so foreign and toxic, it’s not going to fit in. It’s going to be expelled,” said Melin. “The sorority is going to have to fit into Swat… Members will want to make the sorority modeled after the morals of the campus.”

Melin said that she, along with Dina Zingaro ‘13, Paige Grand Pre ‘13, and Ashely Gochoco ‘14 helped maintain interest in the idea of a sorority last year.

“We started out with twenty five girls and now there are fifty plus.  I keep meeting new people everyday who say they’re going to join.” Melin said.

“I’m really excited about it because a lot of my other friends at other schools have had great experiences” Nathalie Perry-Freer ’16, who attended the Wednesday information session, said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know people I otherwise wouldn’t have met.”


This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: Corey Burnett graduated from the University of Southern California, not the University of Texas.


  1. “Melin argued that Swarthmore and the new sorority will be able to iron out any differences.

    ‘If something comes to campus that’s so foreign and toxic, it’s not going to fit in. It’s going to be expelled,” said Melin. “The sorority is going to have to fit into Swat… Members will want to make the sorority modeled after the morals of the campus.'”

    Melin and I have different understandings of social dynamics at Swarthmore. I don’t anticipate that the sorority will have much difficulty following the lead of our fraternities in being actively accepted by part of our community and avoided by many others. For the former, the sorority is a welcome change. For the later, there will not be a way to “iron out” a compromise.

    My impression is that members of NYS often mistakenly think that the opposition they face is specifically about the sorority. My opposition to the sorority comes from wanting to abolish exclusive “ities” that have an outsize and often negative impact on social life. I don’t want the sorority for the same reasons that I don’t want the fraternities.

    It seems highly unlikely that Swarthmore is going to have a toxic atmosphere that forces the sorority to leave campus. A lot of students are interested, and I think that they will be welcomed with open arms by students who enjoy the fraternity’s social scene.

    If anything, the campaign to start the sorority has shown how much hidden animosity much of the campus feels about the fraternities. Some students who appreciate the work, money, and alcohol that the brothers contribute do not like the fraternities. Given how much the new sorority associates with the fraternities, I remain unconvinced that they will be able to radically change greek life at Swarthmore.

    Let’s be real – greek life already has toxic vibes.

  2. After a lot of hard work and push back, it seems like the sorority is finally taking shape. I have a lot of hope that it will be a positive organization on campus, but I also hope they can stick to the values of inclusion pushed during this fall. Namely, being open to all women-identifying students on campus, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

    • It’s not open to all female-identifiers on campus, only students who are officially listed as female in college records.

      Sounds like there was a lot of deception going on as none of the promises about the how the sorority will be different ended up being true. High dues, registered women, and bids for everyone interested. Sounds like none of those will come true.

      • To clarify: They promised scholarships for dues, acceptance of all female-identifiers, and bids for all who are interested. None of these is coming true.

  3. I’m wondering if the sorority is making any effort to include those who may not be “officially” female according to the college records. Is there room for individuals who identify as female, but don’t fit the mold you’ve created for womanhood? It strikes me as a bit transphobic to base acceptance on a gender binary.

    Also, in the beginning they said that they would accept everyone who joins, and based on this, they seem to have more interest than spots. So again, this will be rejecting people who don’t seem to fit the mold.

  4. “Women will only be offered bids if they are listed as female in the College’s records”

    Wait, what??

  5. Yay for celebration of the gender binary! Yay for more ways to exclude people!

    If you want to meet other people, go study in a new place or form an INclusive club.

    I would threaten to not donate but I don’t have much money to donate yet anyway.

  6. So the sorority promises all this good stuff about inclusion, we apparently don’t get their promises in writing, and now they’re only accepting students who only fit the usual gender binary mold. Awesome. Way to go Swarthmore.

  7. And guess what? There aren’t scholarships for the several hundred dollar dues. Oh and they’ll not be giving bids to everyone as previously promised.

    • Everyone who was interested was accepted, and there are payment plans/ fundraising for dues. If you’re going to criticize Theta do so after you’ve done a spec of research.

  8. This sorority is already creating unhealthy attitudes on our campus. Although I wasn’t in full support of it last semester, I was still hopeful that an all-inclusive women’s group really could be a positive addition to Swat life. But now that they’re going to be rejecting people, it’s creating an environment of competition that’s influencing students’ self-esteem. I was just told by a friend yesterday that she’s scared she’s “not good enough” to get in. Is that really the type of culture we want to foster here? Also, what does it even mean to be committed to “being yourself”? Sounds to me like a thinly veiled excuse for Theta to reject whoever they want.

  9. As someone who has been a part of the selection process, I myself am very disappointed to hear that gender issues will be determined by the colleges list. I am also incredibly angry and disappointed because gender issues determined a large part of why we chose KAT.

    I can garuntee two things. One, if this is true, it makes me, my friends, the two ELCS and a representative from the national organization, all liars, unknowingly or not. They had told us explicitly that all women who identified as female would be accepted and I was so incredibly proud of that. For that I deeply apologize and feel ashamed.

    Secondly, if this is true, despite all my planning and hopes for a place where I may find sisterhood, friendship, and comfort, I will not accept a bid tomorrow.

    • It’s actually responses like these that make me really love Swat. I’m really impressed that somebody really into NYS and KAT would be able to maintain some objectivity and see that right now there are some serious issues here that need to be addressed. I hope everyone involved can figure out how to fix these problems (gender identity discrimination, high dues, acceptance criteria, etc) as soon as possible.

  10. Didn’t we originally throw the sororities off campus because they were discriminating against Jewish students?

    Weren’t we promised over and over, that this sorority would be different, because, hey, this is Swat? And our sororities won’t be defined by the prejudices that the outside world might project onto sororities elsewhere?

    “Women will only be offered bids if they are listed as female in the College’s records….”

    SUPER ironically followed by a clause that thetas are supposedly encouraging women to “be themselves.”

    Yeah, you are so incredibly different from sororities of the past. People that don’t like you just don’t understand you. It’s not that you are bigoted or anything.

    Fix it. And if it is a problem with the national charter, then maybe you shouldn’t have a national charter.

  11. I think the Swarthmore campus deserves a response from the sorority organizers–are they standing by their previous statement that all students who identify as female can join the sorority. It is also possible that there could have been a misunderstanding on the part of the representatives of the sorority.

    • The students identified their gender to the college. If some one’s identification has changed and they are now identifying as female, once they have notified the college that they now identify as female, they are eligible.

    • I’m not sure who you are E but you are clearly unaware of the issues that plague the trans* community. For legal reasons, students who want to officially change their gender on their academic records must have legal proof from the state that they have changed their gender. Typically, this involves things like taking hormones and/or having surgery to remove sex organs like ovaries. Many trans* don’t want to or don’t feel the need to do this, but they still identify as female. Is that not good enough?

  12. all i gather given that the gazette decided to ask the two women from the huge public universities who probably don’t know anything about the fact that the sorority wants to be trans-inclusive, they just made a dumb comment that they were clearly baited into by our fabulous reporters at DG….just to get the community riled up again about something that really doesn’t matter…the sorority has swatties that will be concerned with this and obviously ensure that anyone who wants to join can and will be allowed to…it’s just dumb to assume that won’t happen…I’m sure that these ladies from outside just don’t get it yet…they’ve been at swarthmore for like a week…they’ll figure out that the sorority won’t work unless this happens…or at least we can all hope they will.

    • I mean these are Theta’s national representatives. If they can’t even adequately represent their own organization and its values, that’s pretty concerning. I’m highly skeptical that they didn’t know what they were saying. They read the Philadelphia Inquirer and Inside Higher Ed articles. They know what Swat was concerned about. And this is their full-time job. If they don’t know about it, they should. Shame on them.

      • Wow! I hope you are treated with as much consideration on your first job out of college as you are treating these two young people. Is this the Swarthmore way?

        • Consideration for what? They know about the big issues and either aren’t addressing them or don’t know anything about them. Both of which are equally problematic. I don’t care if it’s they are 22 or 56, they need to be competent. I think that’s the Swarthmore way. We hold high standards for everyone.

    • People from huge public universities can be aware of trans* issues. Those who do not attend our lovely little school shouldn’t be held to a different standard. Allies are allies, and those involved with Theta don’t seem to be. And saying that this is something that doesn’t really matter seems to imply you’re not much of an ally either.

      • That is a gross generalization. I would beg you to please find a single theta who doesn’t consider herself an ally, wouldn’t want trans members in the sorority, wouldn’t think to stand up against bullying against the LGBTQ community, wasn’t equally outraged that someone from the ville chalked “kill them all” about her friends, her classmates.

        Saying that “those involved with Theta don’t seem to be” breaks down dialog–it makes people less likely to cooperate, help out, and foster invaluable relationships. Keep the dialog alive, and you’ll have better outcomes. Isn’t open dialog one of the most treasured values at Swarthmore?

        • Oh my god we are still claiming this was somebody from the ville………………..

          Claiming to be an ally and actually being one are two different things.

          “Are you a boy lesbian or a girl lesbian?” — asked by a lovely Theta.

          I do agree though that working with Theta to improve is often more effective than working against them. Which is better, I’m not sure.

      • As a Theta, I am disappointed to be reading all of this criticism. The chapter I am apart of has made me a better person. We are a diverse group of women – ethnically and gender as well. I know my chapter has given bids to trans* women. Give Theta a chance to show how accepting and wonderful it really is.

        • This comment thread is referring specifically to the attitudes of the ELCs towards trans* issues, not those of Swarthmore Theta members.

  13. Like when are we finally going to get a freaking response from the sorority? What is going on? We deserve to know.

  14. As an alum, I guarantee that any Theta or NYS alums who contact me will get a polite “I can’t help you–go contact your discriminatory national sorority” response. I encourage young Swatties to question authority more–especially when people cite legal authority to justify creating discriminatory, exclusive, and hierarchical organizations. Dig more next time and don’t just give in to tyranny.

    • tyranny? I’m sorry, but critiquing organizations for being discriminatory, exclusive, and hierarchical describes EVERY organization on campus. LGBTQI groups on campus hold closed meetings, the BCC has rules on who can or cannot enter for certain events, and I would love for you to name an organization that doesn’t have a leadership structure. These groups don’t claim legal authority, but merely exist on campus because they organically form. Same with the sorority, which has gone through a more time consuming and highly scrutinized process to be so much as considered a topic of discussion for the administration.

      Look. This is Swarthmore. The members of the sorority are Swatties first, Thetas second, and it will continue to be that way. Perhaps you should stop digging for excuses to complain.

  15. I used to be pretty annoyed about the sorority coming to Swarthmore. Then I realized that the main reason everyone was angry was that it’s a change, it’s something coming. Look around you. Groups that are exclusive based on the gender binary? All of the varsity sports teams are that way. They, of course, have a semi-reason because of hormone levels –> unfair muscle development, etc.
    But every sports team is essentially a large but tight-knit group of friends. For me, it means I’m friends with people that I likely would have never thought twice about if I weren’t on the team with them.
    So I am no longer very against the sorority. It’s super nice to be able to stroll in to Sharples at any time of day and be able to find someone to sit with. It’s nice to be friends with a diverse group of people of different majors, races, and almost everything else you wanna think about…
    Well, then there’s gender. We have to remember that, like the NCAA, Theta is a national organization. We can’t necessarily make them cater to our needs (right? I dunno).

  16. After questioning whether I should or should not join KAT based on my idea of a sorority, influenced by the media’s portrayals of sororities and my own research, I have recently joined Kappa Alpha Theta. Not because I want to embark on a journey with a bunch of ditzy and racist women, but because I realized that it would be a Swarthmore sorority. (Yes I know, Swarthmore has it’s issues, and I’ll get to that later).

    I grew up in a Quaker community, am of a minority, and although I am not part of the trans community at Swarthmore, I try to understand the concerns of those who are and do my best to stand with them because I understand the importance of allies.

    The first thing I asked the women who interviewed me was if those from the trans community will be able to join Theta because I read this article. They looked at me baffled and immediately reassured me that there will not be any exclusion of that sort. Swarthmore chose Theta as its sorority because it was one of Theta’s promises that it would allow any human being that identified as a woman into the sorority. If Theta is backing out on that promise, and, as R said, we are all liars, then I’m confident that the Swarthmore women who joined KAT will uphold the original promise that any person who identifies as a woman and who wants to join KAT can.

    Regarding the question that the Theta asked about whether someone was a “boy lesbian or a girl lesbian” – that happens outside of Theta. And I have no intention of deemphasizing the seriousness of that statement. It really disturbs me that she said that, and I wish that Swarthmore was the type of community void of ignorant people like that. It makes me sad she’s giving you all another reason to hate Theta. If I knew who that woman was I would approach her, educate her (more harshly then politely) about her simple-mindedness, and warn her that if she’s joining this Swarthmore sorority with that kind of mindset then Theta is not the right place for her. And I know other Thetas that would do the exact same thing. (Remember, try not to stereotype here, even sorority girls).

    Theta is not an organization that will be a group of women that fosters that type of ignorance – it just won’t be like that (especially not if I have anything to do with it). My hope for Theta is that it will be a diverse group of women, unlike the rest of Swarthmore, and will have dialogue about comments like that and other ignorant, hurtful occurrences. At Swarthmore we often divide by how we identify – look at the tables in Sharples, (look at your classes…). Theta will not promote this sort of disconnect between groups who identify differently. I want Theta to have a beautiful mixture of women. If Theta does promote the hatred and intolerance that it did 80 years ago, then yes, it will need to be shut down, and I would help in doing just that. But I firmly believe that this sorority won’t fall into such disarray, and instead will set an example for other sororities by being a Swarthmore sorority.

    I recognize that ignorance and prejudices are a part of Swat, and I’ve had experiences with these issues (experiences outside of Theta). However, I truly believe that the women involved with Theta are intelligent, open-minded, accepting women. Many of whom are leaders throughout the community, and many whose need for Theta is its promise of sisterhood and a supportive group of wonderful ladies.

    I know that this may not have done anything to calm down the opponents of the sorority. I also don’t believe that we’ll come to a consensus on this, and I am truly sorry that we won’t. But I wanted to say something because there are 64 women who want to be in a sorority, and I think there needs to be more acceptance of that.

  17. Regarding the following part of the article concerning membership criteria:

    Burnett said the sorority has a membership selection process in place. “It’s based on our values,” she said. “Members who don’t meet the criteria for membership aren’t offered a bid.”
    Women will only be offered bids if they are listed as female in the College’s records, are in good academic standing, and are committed to “being yourself,” she said.

    The Daily Gazette would like to clarify that the statement regarding membership criteria was that of Kappa Alpha Theta Educational Leadership Consultant Corey Burnett and not thus does not represent an objective understanding of the issue but rather a statement of national policy precedent as explained by a reputable source. We have contacted Theta’s Director of Communications and Swarthmore’s ELCs, (Burnett and Lindsey Witt), to clear up the matter and are awaiting their replies. Expect an addendum to this article when we receive further info.

    Zoë Cina-Sklar
    Daily Gazette Assistant News Editor

  18. Hello, my name is Osazenoriuwa Ebose and I am a sophomore. I am also a part of the new member class if the newly established fraternity on campus: Kappa Alpha Theta. I will begin by saying that I am uneducated, and ignorant when it comes to appropriate and respectful language concerning the LGBTQI community. I will also commence by stating, that I in no capacity am representing the Kappa Alpha Theta as a national fraternity, nor as a representative of the Swarthmore Alpha Beta Chapter. I am simply speaking to you as a friend and as a peer.
    As a heterosexual woman on this campus I am aware of the cis- privilege that I have. However, I still felt hurt by the seemingly angry and accusatory comments concerning the cruelty of the women who have chosen to begin their journey in this new chapter. We were members of the Swarthmore College community before we became a member of the Swarthmore Alpha Beta chapter. My entrance onto this campus has only been my first step into awareness of injustice regarding gender identity. I am still only learning, and I would really love to begin a dialogue with anyone with concerns towards Theta and it’s inclusivity. Specifically, I would like to begin a round table discussion in which these worries can be aired. I would encourage anyone comfortable with educating me and also creating this dialogue with me to contact me through email: I would like to conclude by saying that I hope people do not forget that even though we are a whole, we are still individuals on this campus as well.

    Thank you for your time,
    Osazenoriuwa Ebose ‘15

    • This sounds like an honest and respectful comment, and I especially appreciate your invitation for dialogue.

      As people have pointed out, though, language matters, and so I’d recommend not conflating things the way you do when you say “As a heterosexual woman on this campus I am aware of the cis- privilege that I have.”

      There are people who are heterosexual and/or women who do not have access to cis privilege, and linking cis privilege to the fact that you’re a woman (I do believe unintentionally) undermines trans womanhood. Because if womanhood is what causes cis privilege, then it wouldn’t be a privilege: every woman would have it.

      That is, one does not have cis privilege because one is a heterosexual woman (which your statement–again, I believe unintentionally–implies), one has cis privilege because one’s gender identity aligns with the gender assigned to you by others (generally at birth, as things things usually go).

      So just keep in mind how your words function together.

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