Inclusion and diversity are important topics of conversation in the world of higher education, including in Kappa Alpha Theta. In fact, inclusion has been a matter of discussion among Thetas almost since our founding!
In a “Message From the President” in the Spring 1987 issue of the Theta magazine, then-Fraternity president Sue Supple discussed inclusion and diversity as it relates to Theta college chapters. You can read Sue’s complete editorial here. We asked her to share her recollections of that time, as well as her thoughts now, more than 30 years later.
I went to the 2018 Theta Convention in June and came home very hopeful. Theta appears to be reflecting the vision I always thought it should. Not just a social group, but an organization that challenges the status quo, as did Bettie Locke when she founded Kappa Alpha Theta. A vision that said if I can’t be a member of the men’s fraternities, I will create my own. In my opinion, Theta has not always been willing to be so independent.
I was encouraged by the words of Fraternity President Laura Doerre, Delta Xi/North Carolina, in her opening address, when she said, “By choosing to embrace inclusion and diversity, we remain in line with our core purpose as an organization. Kappa Alpha Theta strives to foster opportunities for members to appreciate, understand, and value difference and to nurture the desire to learn about other ways of thinking, doing, and being.”
When I was Fraternity president, Theta was just beginning to realize the importance of inclusion of women with different backgrounds, different cultures, and different opinions. At that time, the attitude toward people with different histories was one of indifference. Today, it has gotten much worse. Today, we fear, distrust, even hate people who do not look and act as we do.
I am someone who was brought up with tales of knights and valiant deeds. In school, I was required to memorize documents, such as the preamble to the United States Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that espouse the principles of fairness and equality of rights. The current atmosphere is mind-boggling. How have we come so far from the concept of the value of each individual? In such an environment, it is even more important for Theta to be an advocate of our founding principles.
As I look through the Theta magazine, I see photos from many chapters that represent the diversity of our continent. But there still are far too many that reflect homogeneous faces. Too many are missing the opportunity to learn and grow.
Perhaps because I went to DePauw and sat in the rebuilt chapel where Bettie Locke sat, I want Theta to be out front, not just part of the crowd. I am reminded of the story of Bettie and Alice wearing their badges to chapel for the first time. They were saying, “Look at us. If you won’t initiate us, we will form our own fraternity.” They wondered what the reaction would be. Alice said, “Let’s sit in the back.” Bettie said, “No way! We are going to the front.” And so they did. This is my vision for Theta: out in front, leading the way.