Panhellenic Association narrows sorority search to three finalists

Media Credit: Aaron Schwartz | Hatchet Photographer

Rebecca Connolly, the president of the Panhellenic Association, said GW students and faculty can attend meetings with three potential new sororities.

The Panhellenic Association has narrowed its search for a new sorority chapter down to three final contenders.

Alpha Chi Omega, Zeta Tau Alpha and Kappa Alpha Theta were chosen as the finalists from eight national chapters that applied to join GW’s Panhellenic Association. Current Greek chapters will vote to make a final decision on a new chapter this fall.

Panhellenic Association President Rebecca Connolly said her group will send its recommendation to the University based on feedback from students and current sorority chapters after the three possible chapters present on campus Oct. 17 to 19.

The three groups’ presentations later this month will be open to the general public, and Connolly said she hopes students who are not involved in Greek life and faculty will come to learn more about the sororities.

“For students who maybe have considered going through recruitment or have not or don’t think they have a match in our current organizations, we would love to hear from them what is missing and would make them want to join one of our organizations,” Connolly said.

The Panhellenic Association formed an exploratory committee last semester made up of representatives from each sorority, the Panhellenic executive board and alumnae.

Another committee was formed this semester to review national organizations’ applications to decide which would best fit on campus, Connolly said. Members of the group evaluated the organizations’ leadership programs, scholarship opportunities and financial aid for dues payments, Connolly said.

“We definitely want to make sure that our community is accessible to all of the students at GW and not just students who have financial need,” Connolly said.

She added that the committee searched for sororities that support progressive and politically active members to fit in with GW’s students.

Alpha Chi Omega hosts annual campaigns and educational programs on domestic violence awareness, Zeta Tau Alpha partners with Think Pink and the American Cancer Society and Kappa Alpha Theta works with Court Appointed Special Advocates to volunteer in the foster care system, according to their websites.

“Our national organizations are going to have to be okay with the fact their members are taking political views on both sides of that line, for both parties, and be supportive of that,” Connolly said. “They should be empowering them to use their voices loudly instead of trying to get them to fit into a mould, which I think you see sometimes at other schools that have different Greek cultures.”

The new chapter will ideally begin colonizing potential new members this spring, though national organizations may choose to defer to the fall, she added.

Starting next year, incoming freshmen will wait to go through recruitment or fraternity rush in the spring, which officials said will give students more time to adjust to campus.

“We are hoping to start them in the spring because next year we are deferring,” Connolly said. “It gets women who maybe were not ready for fall recruitment, wanted to take a semester to adjust, another option because not all Panhellenic chapters participate in spring recruitment.”

The Panhellenic Association lost their Delta Gamma chapter last year when its national organization shut it down days before recruitment.

“When we lost a chapter last year that was a big hit to our community and I think it had everyone feeling on edge,” Connolly said.

GW currently has 10 of 26 national Panhellenic organizations. Eight of the remaining 16 organizations applied to be considered as finalist in the search for GW’s 11th sorority, Connolly said.

Carolyn Hof Carpenter, national president of Zeta Tau Alpha, said the organization would be honored to return to GW after having briefly established a chapter in 1924. The chapter declined the invitation to recolonize in 1995, citing a lack of on-campus housing for the sorority and multiple chapters on campus that were below quota.

“We believe every campus has its own personality. If selected, we will work in partnership with the GW community to create a chapter experience that best meets the needs of the women on your campus,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter added that if selected they would impact the lives of members by highlighting leadership, service and academic development.

Representatives from national chapters of the other finalists, Alpha Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta, declined to comment.

Dani Weatherford, executive director for the National Panhellenic Council, said each sorority develops its own values, leadership programs and philanthropic causes, which will become part of GW’s Greek community.

“Our member organizations tend to be very strategic in where they look to establish a new chapter, and they expend considerable energy and resources to make sure their new chapters succeed,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford added that each Greek organization looks for campuses where they think they well fit in and contribute to campus life as a whole.

“Ultimately, the choice will come before GW’s Panhellenic Council to determine which organization they feel is the best fit for campus at this time,” Weatherford said.

Bridie O’Connell contributed to reporting.

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