Members of the Panhellenic Association voted 8-2 Wednesday to add an 11th chapter to campus as early as this spring.
With the approval of the expansion, the next step in adding a new chapter will be to post a notice to the National Panhellenic Conference’s bulletin alerting the 16 chapters that haven’t already colonized on campus to the opportunity to start a chapter.
A committee was launched last January to look into the possibility of bringing another sorority to campus, spending several months gathering data and hearing input.
Director of Greek Life Christina Witkowicki said some of the primary considerations in making the decision included analyzing data on current chapter sizes, current and future female enrollment trends at the University and overall membership trends.
“We want a new chapter to be successful and we have to look at our current situation and figure out if we can sustain a new chapter at the same level as the current chapters,” she said.
Over the last five years, the average Panhellenic chapter size has increased by 12 percent per year. Fall recruitment hit an all-time peak this year, with 715 participants seeking membership in Greek life – a 15-percent jump in applications that added extra pressure to the recruitment process.
Space was another key consideration in the decision. While nine chapters receive housing from the University, campus space for Greek life events has become an escalating concern.
The snowballing of sorority membership prompted the Panhellenic Association to raise chapter totals from 113 to 130 in January 2011. Nine out of 10 chapters are currently at or above quota by an average of 20 women.
Panhellenic Association president Sara Fischer, who is also a Hatchet cartoonist, said she was relieved to mark the end of the months-long deliberation process.
“I’m of course happy that it passed, because I did personally believe that it was something that needed to happen for our community in order to facilitate growth,” she said. “I think it will benefit the community as a whole.”
Throughout the remainder of the fall and continuing into January, national organizations can schedule private visits to campus. The extension committee aims to select three finalists by Feb. 1 and will vote on the finalist March 9.
Julie Johnson, chair of the college Panhellenics committee for the National Panhellenic Conference, said college campuses that bring in new chapters tend to consider factors like programming and the past existence of a particular chapter on campus.
The extension committee, she said, must “determine what it is that they’re looking for” in a new chapter before groups respond to the posting.
The last chapter to colonize on campus was Chi Omega in 2008. The organization now has 152 members, making it one of the largest sororities at GW.
Just before Chi Omega’s addition, the council likewise voted to increase chapter quotas, allowing for a two-year stretch that eased the growing pains for Greek life.
To level the playing field for large and small chapters, Fischer said the Panhellenic Association may amend its bylaws to change the number of recruits each chapter may receive in the spring, focusing on total chapter size rather than quota.
“Extension is one of those types of ordeals that will benefit some groups more than others,” Fischer said. “I think in our circumstance at this time, it definitely will benefit the majority of our chapters, and that’s why it had to be done.”
Charter members of the new chapter that eventually joins GW will be responsible for colonizing on campus, while existing chapter members will be encouraged to promote and suggest potential members for the new chapter.