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.