Rethinking the Practice of Hand Signs

Category: Fraternity

Kiera Helm

“Throw what you know” has been popular among members of National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations as a way to represent their membership for over a decade. The roots of these unofficial hand signs, however, rest with the member organizations within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). Hand signs along with stepping and calls hold deep significance to the history and heritage of NPHC organizations and their members. For many of these groups, these practices are part of their ritual as well.

Hand signs for Kappa Alpha Theta and other NPC groups have never been an official practice, but rather an unofficial practice taken from NPHC. The unofficial hand signs that NPC organizations have adopted over the years signify cultural appropriation of these groups. The meaning of these hand signs was not widely understood, and as a result, we have shared them over the years without giving any thought to the practices of NPHC groups.

Moving forward, Theta is learning from these past mistakes and is asking college and alumnae members alike to join us in eliminating any future use of hand signs. As for our past posts, those will remain: Learning from the past requires acknowledgement rather than erasure. Past posts showing the use of hand signs will remain on headquarters’ social media platforms but no future posts will include this practice.

Just as the widespread adoption of these unofficial hand signs did not begin overnight, we recognize that it will take time to end the use of hand signs across Theta’s membership.