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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.
Some of my favorite experiences as an undergraduate were the philanthropic events planned by Theta. It was always so fulfilling and gratifying to know that we were supporting and donating what time and funds we could to a very beneficial and impactful cause. In addition to our own events, we had the opportunity to volunteer at some of our local CASA events and fundraisers. Little did I know I would soon be a guest at these annual galas and on the event committee after graduating!
During my senior year, I represented Epsilon Sigma at Robin McGraw's initiation at Omicron/USC. This was a special moment for me as I saw the partnership between CASA and Theta embodied in an inspiring individual. Robin is a national spokeswoman for CASA and now a Theta! Shortly after graduating UCI, I met someone through an interview process, and he coincidentally turned out to be an instrumental figure and supporter and on the board of advisors for CASA. After so many connections, the CASA connection continued to follow me. At this point, I knew CASA was meant to be in my life, and in late 2010, I signed up for training to become a court appointed special advocate.
Since that time, I have had two cases. I am incredibly passionate about CASA. CASA's mission is to "support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanency, and have the opportunity to thrive." I've seen firsthand the impact that this mission has on children, including the current youth I serve. In addition to serving as a CASA, I am involved in CASA's local events to spread its mission and raise awareness.
Joining Theta was one of the best decisions I have made. My college experience was immensely enhanced and wonderful because of Theta. I am proud to be a Theta, and I thank Theta for helping me become who I am today. I encourage all my Theta sisters to get involved with their local CASA chapter, whether committing to be a volunteer advocate such as myself, or getting involved in other ways with local events and fundraisers and spreading awareness to the mission of CASA.
I love being a CASA and being a part of the CASA family. Theta led me to CASA and helped me find my voice in the world, and CASA allows me to give my child a voice.
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.
One of the founding principles and driving purposes for Kappa Alpha Theta is the attainment of the highest scholarship. Therefore, Theta expects each member to achieve high scholarship and to develop to her fullest intellectual potential. In pursuit of this goal, each college chapter establishes a minimum GPA requirement that potential new members (PNMs) must meet in order to be considered eligible for membership. Additionally, college chapters also establish minimum GPA requirements for active members.
Many of our alumnae—and even current undergraduates—will remember when a minimum number of "grade exceptions" were allowed in chapter bylaws. As of fall 2012, "grade exceptions" are not allowed by the model chapter bylaws, and were phased out of all chapter bylaws during the fall of 2012 to support the Fraternity's Plan of Aspirations and the attainment of the highest scholarship.
Kappa Alpha Theta is committed to uniformly applying its policies across all chapters. The only way to ensure that all PNMs, regardless of chapter, are treated fairly and equally, and to help uphold the Fraternity's fundamental standard of highest scholarship, is to prohibit "grade exceptions" in all cases, regardless of reason.
Please note that Theta loves to celebrate chapters' academic successes! We have seen the number of chapters on our #1 list grow over the past year, and list each of them on the Theta website. The Summer 2013 issue of the Theta Magazine also dedicated five pages' worth of Thetas who were academic achievers!
So it's natural that we'd be excited to think that as our daughters entered college, they could follow in our Theta footsteps. In recent years, we may have closely watched our friends' daughter's recruitment stories on Facebook, with anticipation and excitement, and responded with "Congratulations!" when we saw the good news that another legacy had pledged Theta. Some of us even imagined surprising our own daughters for their initiation into our sisterhood, passing down our treasured badge and welcoming her to all things black and gold.
But for some of us, when our daughters called with the news that they'd found the right fit (and it didn't happen to be with a kite or pansies), we may have found ourselves disappointed, sad, shocked, or even disillusioned with the Greek system in general, or Theta in particular. How could my beautiful daughter not be a Theta?
When my daughter began recruitment, I gave her all of the motherly advice anyone would give: enjoy the process, be true to yourself, follow your heart (translation: pledge your legacy). But as recruitment continued, it became clear that it was more important for me to support her in her decision than it was to have her live my dream. The 'legacy' that I want for her is one that she can experience with any group of letters of her T-shirt, and I'm forever thankful that I had the foresight to know that.
Allowing her to experience the special gift of Greek life was more important to me than which chapter she chose. When she texted me her first photo with her bid card for Kappa Kappa Gamma, I was proud of her and delighted that she found her fit. "Kite and Key!" was my swift response back to her (along with a few love emoticons), and the clear message that I was ecstatic that she could create her own legacy of experiences.
A year later, while at a Theta conference, my next daughter called me at midnight (really, you can't make this stuff up!) to say she'd been offered a bid as a charter member of Kappa Delta, I was once again proud of my ever-expanding Panhellenic Family!
To know that my daughters are part of the bigger picture of Greek life is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and pride. We share the legacy of sorority and what that means as college women. We can enjoy the common purpose of living a life of values and friendship, and can unite in our promise to be the very best that our sisterhood embodies.
If you are struggling with this or feel deflated, I hope that you'll be kinder to yourself and know that the Panhellenic experience, while perhaps different than what we might have imagined for our daughters, is every bit as wonderful and special as our Theta experience. Bask in the celebrations that the Panhellenic opportunity provides for all our college women, and know that we're already good role models for our daughters, as they see us living the Greek experience.
So, when my youngest daughter starts college next fall, I know she'll go through recruitment with the knowledge and belief that she's entering an amazing experience—with the full support of her Panhellenic family behind her.
Excitement and possibility - these words immediately my came to mind when I heard about the reestablishment of Zeta Omicron Chapter at Wake Forest University. Fifty percent of women and 30 percent of men are Greek-affiliated on Wake Forest's campus, so it was merely a matter of time before Theta would, once again, join such a strong Greek community. The time came this past January with Theta's participation in the first day of Wake Forest Panhellenic formal recruitment.
The first day of formal recruitment is hectic for any chapter, no matter how long they have been established. There will always be feelings of excitement, panic, and success. These feelings, and many more, were felt during formal recruitment at Wake Forest. While other chapters on campus had been preparing for months, we had about one hour to get acquainted with the space and women we would be spending time with for the next 10 hours. To my surprise, the easiest part of the day was becoming friends with all of the Theta sisters in the room. Each of us was from somewhere different, but we had all come together for a common purpose: to show other women why we chose Theta and why Theta chose us.
Once introductions were complete, the real fun began. There were nine parties each with 30-60 potential new members (PNMs). With only 17 Thetas for the day, we each took two to four PNMs per party. The PNMs watched a short presentation, which discussed Theta's history. Educational leadership consultants (ELCs) Joni Jameson and Alyssa Trumbull also addressed the Theta recruitment process, which included one day of formal recruitment, two weeks of informational seminars, and finally, personal interviews.
Each PNM we spoke to stood out in different ways and was excited to start a new chapter in their lives. We all would be lucky to call these women our sisters. Given the potential I saw in the PNMs, I am confident that the Zeta Omicron Chapter will flourish and be a positive impact on Wake Forest's campus for years to come.
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