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Kappa Alpha Theta is a founding member of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and greatly values our relationships with our sister NPC groups. As NPC women, we know how important the sorority experience is, and we advocate for it every day. Our entire sorority experience is shaped by the Panhellenic sisters who stand beside us. Through good times and bad, we are all bonded by the common experience of sorority.
The sorority experience is unlike any other, and we all had different reasons for joining Kappa Alpha Theta. Some of us were legacies trying to follow in our family members' footsteps, some of us were new to the entire experience and some of us were unsure but attended recruitment anyway. Whatever your reasons for joining, your reasons for staying and becoming a leader in your chapter and the Panhellenic community are entirely different. NPC wants to recognize and celebrate these differences.
TheSororityLife.com is a website created by NPC that provides potential new members the "real deal" on sorority life. By submitting a college lifestyle profile, you will be able to showcase your sorority experience while also having an impact on future sorority women. The profile is easy to fill out and doesn't take longer than 10 minutes. This is a great way to promote Theta on an international scale.
So what are you waiting for? Inspire young women today by filling out the "My College Lifestyle" profile on TheSororityLife.com. At the end of the profile application, feel free to take a few minutes to share your story on video.
Many chapters are currently recruiting new leading women to join Kappa Alpha Theta. The day a new member accepts her bid and takes her pledge to join Kappa Alpha Theta, we as initiated members have the responsibility to protect the well-being of our members, promote a high standard of excellence in all aspects of Fraternity life, and be a leader in the fraternity/sorority community. As reflected in our mission statement, we have promised to nurture each member throughout her college and alumnae experience and offer a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as our members meet the higher and broader demands of mature life. In accordance with these goals, Kappa Alpha Theta does not tolerate any acts that may be constituted as hazing.
The new member process sets the stage for creating a positive experience for each incoming young woman. Officers, advisors, and mentors provide an official introduction to what Theta is all about, and this first impression will last a lifetime. New member programs are designed to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community. Hazing prevention is reinforced through chapter and campus educational programs, encouraging open and honest conversations on how each group, campus, and the greater fraternity/sorority community can cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels included, safe, and welcomed.
When we educate our members to identify all forms of hazing, even if it is not part of their chapter experience, we empower them with the knowledge of what hazing is, what it looks like, and how to respond if members ever found themselves in a compromising position (i.e., a bystander to hazing, or partaking in another team/organization's hazing practices). With this knowledge, we hope our members would not participate in activities that are seen as campus traditions (e.g., serenades) as they are forms of hazing and counter our ability to foster an inclusive community.
An additional component of hazing prevention education includes providing resources and outlets for members to find professional support. In 2007, Kappa Alpha Theta united with other international fraternities and sororities to found the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline, available to anyone who thinks they or someone they know have been or may become victims of hazing: 1-888-NOT HAZE (1-888-668-4293).
By continuing to educate and provide resources regarding hazing prevention to our college and alumnae members, we can continue to build on Kappa Alpha Theta's foundation that aims to value each member and encourages us all to live out our values and mission statement.
Help us spread the message that Theta is an organization that strives to ensure every member feels included, safe, and welcome. The #40 Answers to Common Excuses for Hazing campaign is currently underway, leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week Sept. 19-23. Follow along on social media during using the hashtags #40Answers and #LeadingWomenDontHaze.
Back in the days of balloon arches, ice sculptures, and matching dresses, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) began to discuss the idea of having a more genuine process to find the newest members of our organizations - one less focused on excess and frills. The goal was to identify ways to make our recruiting process focus on authentic connections with potential new members (PNMs), rather than decorations, clothing, and entertainment. Would you believe that this conversation first began within NPC in 1989?
Over the past 27 years, NPC and its 26 member organizations have attempted to shift the culture of "rush" to a process rooted in the values of our organizations. The idea of "No Frills" recruitment made an impact on many campuses and led to chapters across the country eliminating the "excess" from the recruitment process, but there is still work to be done. In 2015, NPC renewed its commitment to the idea of more genuine recruiting and strengthened the previous No Frills Recruitment Policy by replacing it with the Values-Based Recruitment Policy. You can read this policy in full on the NPC website.
Kappa Alpha Theta's mission is rooted in our core values. When we spend our time recruiting members using bubbles, glitter, and elaborate decorations, PNMs join our organization looking for the stereotypical sorority experience that is often portrayed in the media. We claim to be an organization that is rooted in our values, but our recruitment tactics have not always reflected our commitment to our mission. The focus on values-based recruiting allows us to sell Theta for what we really are: a collective group of women actively engaged in each other's lives and within the community.
Data collected by NPC suggests that more membership resignations stem from PNMs not clearly understanding the obligations and expectations of membership. By incorporating Theta's values into the recruitment process, our chapters can focus on executing recruitment events that accurately portray both the benefits and obligations of membership, as well as focus on genuine conversations with PNMs. This allows PNMs to get a realistic sense of what membership in Kappa Alpha Theta means during the college experience and beyond. In turn, our members are able to better identify the PNMs who exemplify Theta's values and are most qualified to carry on our tradition of being leading women. Values-based recruitment results in members who join our organization and stay in our organization due to genuine, authentic connections.
So how does this actually affect recruitment for our chapters?
• Skits will no longer be included in the recruitment process.
• Chapter members will spend more time discussing the membership obligations, experiences, and true benefits of membership.
• Panhellenic councils and chapter officers will discuss how to effectively and efficiently reduce chapter recruitment budgets in order to make member dues more affordable.
All 26 NPC member organizations are expected to adhere to this policy as member groups of the NPC.
Kappa Alpha Theta's recruitment committee is dedicated to developing resources to assist our chapters in adapting to these changes. The most frequent concerns that we hear regarding this legislation are: Can we still have fun, and how do we show PNMs our personality? Values-based recruiting does not mean that we are robotic in our delivery and are only permitted to discuss our Fraternity's values. It just means that we will eliminate the excess and pare down our recruitment practices to focus on meaningful connections with PNMs. Individual members have the ability to demonstrate what makes their chapter unique by sharing their Theta story.
While many of us alumnae participated as collegians in a recruitment process that was characterized by entertaining the PNMs and impressing them with our decor, we are now at a time in which we need to support our chapters and the NPC legislation. Our chapter officers are working hard to support the policy, and it is our responsibility as alumnae and leading women to support our college members in adapting to today's recruitment process.
Today begins National Hazing Prevention Week, and I want to share with you the most important things I've learned that have helped me think about it and talk about it differently:
• People don't want to hurt other people. The problem is, if we aren't killing people or physically maiming them, we just don't recognize it as hazing. That's not a standard I'm comfortable with. People don't set out to hurt their (new) friend. But most hazing situations "just got out of hand" and typically involved excessive amounts of alcohol. Guess what? Things can quickly get out of hand.
• Telling the new member "you don't have to do anything you don't want to..." won't mean you aren't hazing. Thinking that you are giving a choice when there is such a significant power differential means there actually isn't a choice - no matter what you say.
• People have a deep-seated human desire to belong. College-age women and men are also seeking "rite of passage" experiences. These two compelling forces that lead to hazing behavior aren't going anywhere. So it's up to us to do better.
As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, how can you do better? For me, it's about human dignity. No one should ever be demeaned or exposed to harm in their efforts to be part of campus life or our sisterhood. We shouldn't tolerate shenanigans that serve no purpose in making us better members or better women. In every activity, event, and initiative that is part of your new member program, always ask yourself the following:
• Will this help the new member become a better woman?
• Will this help the new member become a better member of Kappa Alpha Theta?
• What are the aspirations of Kappa Alpha Theta? (Think social, intellectual, and moral growth.)
• What do we want new members to experience as they are join our sisterhood?
• What is the purpose of the activity that you are asking them to be involved in?
That's your litmus test. A little reflection and scrutiny can go a long way. If individual members and chapters would just examine all of the activities and events (both on and off the grid) that occur during the new member experience, we'd be in a much better place. Ensure that the PURPOSE of the activity is aligned with the GOALS of Kappa Alpha Theta so that the INTENTION is to help the new member become a better woman and sister because of her new member experience, not in spite of it.
That's it. It's really that simple. It's not a list of what you can or can't do. Just treat people with dignity and make your experiences purposeful. Help one another become better friends, sisters, and women. Every day.
Soon many of our chapters will be welcoming their new members into our special, sacred bond of sisterhood. To assist these chapters, the Fraternity's ritual committee has launched Project Initiation to encourage alumnae involvement in the ceremony. The goal is to support our aspiration of promoting the relevance of the Theta experience and foster positive collegian and alumnae interaction.
When I speak those carefully chosen words and see each new member's reaction, I realize what loving and beautiful thoughts are expressed. All of the best things about our organization are described: caring for each and every sister, learning how our individual actions affect the entire group, and embracing the love that surrounds each member in the room. And when I think about how long ago these words were written and how the principles and sentiments still apply today, I am stunned. I find the words so centering and calming. I can always count on these phrases to get me through the toughest or enhance the happiest experiences life has to offer.
If you haven't been to an initiation recently, consider checking with a local chapter or returning to your chapter to "renew your vows" and wrap yourself in the beauty of these supportive and encouraging words.
Unfortunately, this trend has moved beyond a term of endearment to a classification that, in a growing number of cases, has led to inappropriate social events and inferior treatment. It has drawn the concern of our community friends and partners as well as within our own sisterhood. Sometimes innocent intentions, traditions, and words turn into something they were never intended to be and we must address it. Greek life is meant to elevate women and encourage and highlight women's leadership. As such, Greek women should be part of an effort to honor women - not babies. We can contribute to this by ending the "Baby Talk."
Kappa Alpha Theta is about meeting the higher and broader demands of mature life, and calling our members "babies" seems in direct contradiction to that. Additionally, the "baby" term is particularly misaligned with our position as Leading Women. Our new members come into our sisterhood with a history of social, intellectual, and moral excellence that inspired us to invite them into membership to begin with. Not a lot is expected of a baby because they are not capable of doing much for themselves. Defining a group of young women (who have made a very adult commitment by becoming new members) with a word that is synonymous with being childish, infantile, or less mature is an outdated and inappropriate classification.
While I know the term is likely not meant in a derogatory way, it is our responsibility to consider:
- How a term could make a new member feel: Regardless of good intentions, calling someone a baby could easily make someone feel like they are not an equal, are of lower classification, are inferior or that they have to "grow up" in order to qualify as a member.
- How a term is perceived by people that are not our members: Administrators, Greek life advisors, parents, teachers, employers, and community members are not terribly impressed by organizations that classify their members as "babies." What kind of credibility is taken away from the Greek experience when women who are supposedly becoming leaders are instead being referenced in this way?
- How a term can set expectations: Let's not set low expectations by referring to new members as something that they are not - "babies". The joy, hope, and excitement of welcoming our new members can be enthusiastically present without special terminology. We can show members love, support, and trust by referring to them in a way which honors who they are and who they can be. Our members, new or initiated, are Leading Women.
We have a responsibility to represent our organization in the finest light. As such, please help chapter members to stop referring to a group of bright, promising women as "babies." This means not just in our speech and chapter terminology, but for events (Theta "Baby Shower" events), in new member gifts (baby bottles and bibs and rattles), and on all forms of social media.
Consider whether or not our own forward-thinking, equality-minded, tenacious, brave, and noble Bettie Locke would have welcomed new members by referring to them in this way. It is just not a fair representation of our bright, dedicated, accomplished members.
Please continue to joyfully, enthusiastically, and lovingly welcome our new members and make them feel proud of their membership - as women.
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