When my husband and I announced that we were expecting a little girl in the fall of 2019, my Theta sisters were among the first enthusiastic supporters of Baby Girl Ela. A legacy! Let the black and gold and pansy outfits commence! I was also thrilled that my daughter would make her debut just in time for Theta’s Sesquicentennial Grand Convention and that also motivated my mother, Cathy Scancarella, Eta Psi/Tufts, a 2012 alumna initiate, to register. There was no doubt in my mind that my little Theta legacy would be welcomed into our sisterhood from day one with open arms.
In the months that followed our joyous announcement, the world turned upside down. Our country not only worried for the health of its people, but the safety and the justice of all. Days turned into weeks and months, and they ignited a national conversation about what it means to be inclusive and to truly care for the rights of others.
It was time to turn inward and reignite conversations in Kappa Alpha Theta as the world held up the mirror to the practices of our organization. As a fraternal organization we have a complicated history as it comes to inclusion. We acknowledge the ugly moments in our past, but if we trace back our roots to the very beginning, one simple fact remains true: Theta was established because women were being excluded on college campuses and across higher education. Bettie, Hannah, Alice, and Bettie saw the need for all voices to be valued on their campus and in their community and took the initiative to create the space that they desired for themselves. With this in mind, the recruitment committee took on the challenge of examining every single policy and practice, including the legacy policy.
Holding my newborn daughter clad in black and gold, I would be lying if I recounted that participating in those conversations was easy. We on the recruitment committee listened to undergraduate and alumnae women share their caring thoughts about the subject. Ultimately, in my heart, I know eliminating preferential treatment was the right thing to do for the Fraternity and its future members. In July 2020, at the time my daughter would have joined us at her first Grand Convention, all preferential treatment for Kappa Alpha Theta legacies in recruitment was eliminated. (Read more about the change in this blog.) I do feel an ache of sadness and worry that this change could one day mean my daughter does not share in Theta’s sisterhood. However, when I was initiated, I committed to putting aside my personal motives for the collective needs of the Fraternity and my sisters. My values and experiences still hold me firm in my belief and pride in this decision we made as an organization. I know that this change will unlock opportunity for more exceptional women, their daughters, and their granddaughters to live a life of nobler womanhood through the values and example set forth by our ritual and the realized dream of our founders.
I’ve dreamed of having a Theta legacy since becoming a member myself. My love for this organization, my desire for it to be a place that is inclusive, welcoming, relevant, and diverse, is a direct extension of the love that I feel for my daughter. These are the things I desire and, quite frankly, will demand of any organization she chooses to find her home in, whether it be Theta or not (new member class of 2038?!). In the very same way that I found my home with Theta, I want my daughter to find a home on her college campus where she feels loved and supported by the members with whom she associates. I am confident that she will be an excellent candidate for membership on her own merit without relying on my past.
She is, and will always be, my Theta legacy. Her love of Theta will come from the way she is raised by her father and me, and the values that we instill in her will shape her own life and experiences, not simply because I found my home in Theta many years earlier. It is natural to me to incorporate Theta’s values into her upbringing because they are at the forefront of my life. In 2038, when and if she chooses to register for Panhellenic recruitment, I am confident she will be a wonderful fit for Kappa Alpha Theta or any sorority her heart hopes to join. I’m also confident that when the Theta house doors open to welcome her, the chapter she meets will be full of women from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that can enrich her life the very same way mine continues to be enriched by our sisterhood. In the meantime, I’ll be sure we snap enough photos in black and gold, with kites, and with pansies, just in case.