Followers of this blog, know I am a PASSIONATE supporter of sorority life for college women. In fact, one of my favorite topics to discuss with parents of college-aged women is membership in Greek Letter Organizations and all its benefits. I am excited whenever a young woman finds her sorority home away from home and creates lifelong friendship. I enjoy submitting recruitment information forms (RIFs) for potential new members as they start their sorority journey. And, I love writing letters of recommendation for graduate school and new jobs for women I watched grow though into themselves through sorority life.
My personal college experience was enriched the day I accepted my Bid in 1989. I joined a group of women who accepted me as I was, but also pushed me to be the best version of myself. Since I attended a large commuter University, Greek Life was my touchstone with extracurricular activities that enhanced my years at college. There were socials, study parties, basketball games and all-night float-building marathons, and yes, keggers, where I learned more about myself and my fellow Sisters.
Together we supported each other through the good and bad times. We were our Sisters’ keepers and responsible not only for following the rules and regulations of the organization and the University, but ensuring that our Sisters did as well. The rules were in place to make sure we had a complete academic, leadership, philanthropic, fun, balanced and safe sorority program. We knew that one bad apple could certainly spoil the bunch, and were cognizant of the greater level of scrutiny placed on sorority women by society – both by folks who wanted us to succeed and those who expected us to fail and take on the worst characteristics of the stereotypical “sorority girl gone wrong.”
Today, the actions of a few bad apples culminated in harsh consequences for the larger group, as the Chi Omega Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania was closed. The investigation of this Chapter was prompted by a series of poor decisions, that were exposed by a deeply offensive event. I was disappointed in these women, not only as their Sister, but as a Latina and a woman. As a former volunteer Sorority Adviser, I can attest to the fact that the collegiate leaders of this group were provided with close, one-on-one mentoring by older Alumnae members who were selected for their professional expertise and trained in how to supervise the activities of a college sorority. These Alumnae very likely advised (and scolded) them repeatedly about appropriate party topics among other teachable moments in the management of risk for a group of collegiate women. This advice was accompanied by sanctions, repercussions and intense education by the National organization, along with a timeline for successful completion of the sanctions and re-education. It was the college women’s decision to follow sage advice, but, as a self-governing groups of adults, they did not have to.
Unfortunately, they chose the worst possible outcome and started the chain reaction that led the National organization to close the Chapter. While I was sadden by the news, I fully supported the difficult decision made by the Governing Council (national executive officers). National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) groups have no tolerance for behavior that demeans, ridicules, or hurts other people and these have been articulated in the Unanimous Agreements, as well as the Fraternity’s Bylaws and Constitution. The governance documents are how we hold ourselves, and each other, accountable. Our goal is to uphold our ideals as we continually prepare women for life after college. In short , we strive to build women up and it is not by accident that so many female leaders are members of NPC groups. We have been doing it for over a hundred years, successfully, because we maintain the highest standards.
My sincerest wish for the women who lost their Chapter, by their own actions, is that they learned the lessons. My heart breaks for those women who tried, in vain, to steer the group, back to a place of honor and class, because I know they did not deserve to lose their Chapter. However, I am a proud sorority woman because we police ourselves. It is these events that remind me why I pledged to honor my Fraternity’s creed and support fellow Sisters. Sisterhood is for a lifetime, not just for the four years of college.
Even though I am no longer a sorority adviser, I still receive requests for letters of reference from the women I advised over 12 years. It makes me happy to be a small part of their future, having seen them start to grow into their adult selves in college. I was blessed to know them as their adviser, and continue to be blessed by having them as alumnae friends.