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Fraternity Blog

Posted On: Friday, August 28, 2015 08:10 AM, by Melissa Shaub
The statistics are staggering. While numbers may vary slightly between the U.S. and Canada, many articles have been published indicating as high as 20% (that's one in five) college women will experience sexual violence during her undergraduate career. The Centers for Disease Control define sexual violence as "a sexual act committed against someone without that person's freely given consent." You may think that definition is broad and you are right; it encompasses rape, assault, harassment and more. We also know the news doesn't get much better; in both countries, reporting rates are low and research tells us survivors are far more likely to suffer from additional health issues like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

While it can certainly feel overwhelming when reading through the statistics, it is important to us to be informed and also discuss our ability to make a difference on such an important issue. Recently, Theta developed a statement about sexual violence that will guide our work to empower our members to be leaders in campus safety. Hence, Kappa Alpha Theta:

  • Supports survivors of sexual misconduct and sexual violence.

  • Is committed to engaging members in prevention and intervention efforts.

  • Does not support events contributing to the objectification/sexualization of groups of people, including women, or the reinforcement of negative gender roles.

  • Works to connect members to resources to prevent sexual misconduct and sexual violence, as well as resources for those members who are survivors of interpersonal violence.

  • Encourages all college chapters to host presentations from campus/professional experts on college/university policies and procedures, as well as prevention and intervention best practices and recommendations on an ongoing, regular basis.

Throughout the next few weeks, we will discuss these issues more in-depth as a part of a social media campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence. Our posts will include more conversation on the issue, how to support survivors, rape supportive culture, and opportunities to be an advocate against sexual violence. We hope you join us in the conversation; we want to hear from you.

Melissa Shaub, Alpha Sigma/Washington State, is the director of education & leadership at Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.

Posted On: Thursday, August 20, 2015 08:00 AM, by Laura Ware Doerre
Laura Doerre
Fraternity President
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university in the United States, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year (compiled from a 2005 report by the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice). This statistic is appalling and is finally receiving the attention it deserves. As part of our efforts to help combat this problem, member groups of the National Panhellenic Conference—including Kappa Alpha Theta—endorse the Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act of 2015, which were both introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29.

Institutions of higher education (IHEs) have a responsibility to ensure that all students can live, study, and thrive in a safe and secure environment. But sexual violence allegations on college campuses raise issues that are specific to the fraternity and sorority community. And as values-based organizations and leaders on our campuses, we have a higher calling to promote student development and a positive campus culture.

The Safe Campus Act and the Fair Campus Act provide unprecedented protections to all student victims affected by sexual violence on campus. They are comprehensive in scope, resulting from months of collaboration among leaders of men's and women's fraternities, in consultation with a wide array of subject-matter experts, including law enforcement officials and victims' rights advocates. Their purposes are multi-faceted:

  • Require IHEs to provide sexual violence education and prevention, including reporting, bystander intervention, alcohol use and abuse, and fostering development of healthy interpersonal relationships.

  • Ensure victim safety and security protections by requiring IHEs to devote appropriate resources for the care, support, and guidance of students affected by sexual violence, including prescribing specific sets of options for reporting and victim care strategies.

  • Remove perpetrators of sexual violence from both our campuses and their surrounding communities.

  • Maintain our rights to freedom of association, and preserve the network of support we provide to victims, by preventing IHEs from punishing student organizations, such as fraternities and sororities and their members, without a hearing and due process protections.

  • Reaffirm our right to exist as single-sex organizations.

  • Allow volunteer advisors to student organizations, including our advisory boards, to maintain their traditional role in preserving campus safety by preventing their designation as campus security authorities.

The Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act also present a significant opportunity to showcase the value of the membership experience we provide as a leading source of leadership and personal development for college women. Media coverage regarding this initiative has been largely positive (such as this op-ed piece by a San Francisco Chronicle columnist)—a nice change from the trend of the past year. And more to the point, we have an opportunity to play an important role in providing peer-to-peer education regarding sexual violence.

Let's be clear. The ultimate goal is to make this conversation moot. That's why initiatives related to prevention of sexual assault and sexual misconduct are listed first above. I am proud that Theta has a long tradition of offering not only support for survivors of sexual misconduct and sexual violence, but also a commitment to engaging members in prevention and intervention efforts. Through our award-winning Sisters Supporting Sisters initiative, we connect members to a comprehensive program of educational resources addressing interpersonal violence, healthy relationships and communication, emotional well-being, and more. Appreciating that each college campus possesses its own unique culture, we also encourage our chapters to partner with their host institutions to develop programming that meets the needs of their individual campuses. Our education and leadership personnel will continue to work with chapters and among themselves to ensure that we are delivering value through best-in-class programming.

And finally, I would like to encourage everyone, particularly our college women, to join us in a social media campaign. The first six weeks on a college campus are known as the "Red Zone." During the "Red Zone," students, especially first and sometimes second-year students, are at the highest risk of experiencing sexual violence (as compared to the rest of the academic year). Kappa Alpha Theta is participating in NPC's social media campaign from Aug. 17- Sept. 25, during which we will create awareness about the "Red Zone" as well as other campus safety concerns. We encourage you to share, repost, or retweet our messages, or to create your own. (Remember to tag Theta!) The more awareness we create about the "Red Zone," the safer women will be on campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Laura Ware Doerre, Delta Xi/North Carolina, is president of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.

Posted On: Monday, August 17, 2015 08:30 AM, by Ellen Barlow
It's that time of year again to start planning for Kappa Alpha Theta's annual International Day of Service, celebrated each year on or around our founder Bettie Locke's birthday (October 19). In preparation, we want to help collegians and alumnae plan and execute their Day of Service activities to align with the Fraternity's aim to exercise the widest influence for good; encourage continued, meaningful, and sustained community service work; and provide significant education and reflection around the work in which our members choose to participate.

What is Day of Service?

Theta launched Day of Service in 2009 as a way to take time out of our busy lives one day a year to honor our commitment to exercise the widest influence for good. It's the power of one multiplied by 200,000—the number of living, initiated members around the world.

So, what does service mean anyway, and how is it different than philanthropy?

Service is the act of volunteering to benefit a community with the knowledge that one will not receive payment. It's a hands-on activity where one interacts with the organization being served. Service focuses on creating positive change in the community where both the server and the served learn from their interaction, and allows one to make a connection between herself, the skills she has to offer, and the needs of the community in which she is working. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is about giving money or goods through donations or fundraisers to benefit a cause. Goods here can include canned food, backpacks full of school supplies, or even life-saving blood. Service focuses on time volunteered, while philanthropy focuses on monetary fundraising or goods donation. Both are expressly important,: Without funding, organizations/causes cannot pay for their resources to help others; and without gifts of time and talent, organizations/causes often don't have the capacity to provide the services needed to help others.

Why does this matter?

For Theta's Day of Service, we encourage members to participate in meaningful community service, either direct or indirect. Direct service activities require personal contact with the people you are serving. These types of activities are generally the most rewarding as we, while helping others, receive immediate positive feedback. Examples include working with senior citizens or serving a meal at a community kitchen. Indirect experiences are just as important, and they're easy to organize, don't often require the amount of training that some direct service does, and involve volunteers working behind the scenes. Examples include painting a room at the agency, raking leaves, organizing donations, or preparing a mailing. Though these jobs might not seem glamorous, they are essential in maintaining a safe, welcoming, and effective organization. Your indirect service work may create more time for the organization's staff to work with and on behalf of those they serve. When giving your time, remember to keep an open mind and be glad you can help.

What does Day of Service have to do with me as a Theta?

As Thetas, we are called to be leading women and work toward the Fraternity's aim to exercise the widest influence for good.

In the coming weeks, this blog series will provide Day of Service event planning ideas, reflection on what it means to serve and how we can think about it differently than we have in the past, and all sorts of resources and information in between. But for now, simply reflect on your Theta membership and the Fraternity's purpose, and commit to participating in a meaningful service activity on (or around) October 19, 2015. It's going to be a great day to be a leading woman!

Ellen Barlow is an assistant director of education and leadership for Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.

Posted On: Monday, August 10, 2015 07:33 AM, by Carole Touma
Carole Touma
Epsilon Mu/Princeton
It always begins with a seemingly benign question.

"Carole, you speak French?"

I slowly nod my head, already dreading the next question.

"'re French?"

I was hoping you'd just stop there. I respond hesitantly, "No, not exactly."

"What are you, then?"

Here we go.

I am the proud daughter of a Haitian mother and a Lebanese father.

To provide a bit of background, both countries were colonized by France. Hence, both of my parents speak French. Hence, I speak French.

Alas, this ostensibly simple explanation is typically interrupted by more pressing matters...people stop listening after the very first sentence.
"Did you just say that you're half black?"

Why the surprise? Well, see for yourself.

Continue reading Carole's blog post on Medium. Kappa Alpha Theta values all her members and advocates dialogue to promote inclusion.

Carole Touma, Epsilon Mu/Princeton, will be a junior this fall.

Posted On: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 07:27 AM, by Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel
10-year volunteer charm
Last week, fellow Assistant Director of Alumnae Engagement Kristi Tucker was busy preparing volunteer charms for our members celebrating five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 40 years of service to Kappa Alpha Theta (see the list!).

As I read through the 39 names, I realized that I've worked directly with so many of these women—college district directors, permanent alumnae secretaries, former and current Grand Council members—and it made me proud to see how far they've come in their Theta volunteering journey.

For example, Fraternity President Laura Doerre is celebrating 10 years of service this year, but she certainly didn't start there. Her volunteer tenure began as an officer with her Houston NW Alumnae Chapter. And each year, she climbed the Theta ladder to the highest volunteer position.

As I thought about her trajectory, and those of the other women on the list, I began to think about our future. About your future. Have you ever thought about giving back to the Fraternity? What skills and talents could you share with us?

It doesn't take any time to get started, so complete a Volunteer Interest Indicator today (login required). And maybe in 10 years, we too will ask, "How did she get her start?"

International and district officers, committee chairmen, and PASes are eligible for volunteer charms.

Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel, Gamma/Butler, is an assistant director of alumnae engagement at Fraternity headquarters. Her focus is on volunteer recruitment, retention and recognition.

Posted On: Monday, June 29, 2015 09:05 AM, by Brooke Knudtson
Front: Brooke, Laura Doerre, Celia Wright. Back: Madeline Grunewald, Kristin Anderson, Cindy Stellhorn, Laurie Connor.
Traveling to Washington D.C. to be a part of the Fraternal Governmental Relations Coalition (FGRC), while representing Kappa Alpha Theta, was truly an honor. When I first arrived, I immediately found my Theta sister Celia and went straight to touring the Smithsonian. After seeing the original Star-Spangled Banner lyrics and the collection of First Lady dresses, we met up with the rest of our Theta group. While we were talking, I realized we all had similar backgrounds; we were leaders on our campuses. Sharing our different stories about our experiences with Theta, such as recruitment, really opened my eyes to the meaning of sisterhood.

While meeting fellow Theta sisters was a blast, the main purpose of this trip was to gain support and co-sponsorships from senators and representatives for the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA). We were separated into teams, and I would like to say I had the best team consisting of Theta's Fraternity President Laura Doerre as well as Delta Gamma's Staci Skoog. Although we could probably be professional tour guides after all our meetings on the Hill, we were able to successfully secure some co-sponsors for CHIA.

When I heard the statement "Theta is for a lifetime," I did not fully understand the concept until this trip. Theta has no boundaries. I feel that I have truly developed some lasting relationships with my fellow Theta sisters. I was truly honored to represent Theta and the National Panhellenic Conference as a leading woman. I am excited to say I will be returning next year, and I cannot wait to reconnect with more Thetas in D.C.!

Brooke Knudtson, Zeta Upsilon/UT Dallas, will be a senior this fall and is majoring in political science. She is UT Dallas' student government president.

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