Melissa Shaub

Inclusion: The Work of Theta's Leading Women

The violence, bigotry, and overt display of white supremacy exhibited in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend has intensified to what can already be an unsettling time—the start of the academic year—whether you’re on a campus or off. For our members who may be experiencing psychological and emotional distress, remember that excellent campus and community resources are available to help. In addition, Theta offers Talk One-2-One, a free online counseling services for undergraduate members.

When Kappa Alpha Theta was founded, women of all ethnicities and religions were largely excluded from higher education. As we know, some brave women—including our founders—persisted.

But once on campus, women continued to be met with disdain. Even though some students and some faculty members probably tolerated their presence in class, women were still not welcomed or valued as members of the campus community. Bettie Locke herself is quoted saying that the Fraternity was founded to support members as they fought for equity, as a means to the larger “end” of co-education.

Conversely, we need to realize that Kappa Alpha Theta reflects the context of history. We need to acknowledge that our past also includes periods of exclusion based on identities like race, ethnicity, and religion.

While we have evolved in our inclusive practices, being a member of an organization that calls us to be leading women means we don’t get a break in difficult times. Leading means doing what is right, not what is easy. Inclusion is the work of leading women. Many of us have opportunities today because generations of members before us fought for inclusion and equity. How can we pay that forward to future generations? Bettie Locke said, “I've always felt that the Fraternity should get behind new movements for women as they arise and work for them just as the Fraternity worked for co-education when it was something to be won.”

There's something to be won today: equity for all.