College hosts discussion on inviting new sorority

By Shira Kipnees

The College is in the process of bringing a fifth sorority to campus next year. While the search and selection process will take several months, F&M hopes that a new sorority will enhance the quality of Greek Life on campus by providing female students with another option to choose from if they decide to join a sorority.

According to Stuart Umberger, interim director of fraternity and sorority life, the process for bringing a new Greek organization to campus begins when students submit a formal request to establish a new sorority chapter at the College; usually, the students who lodge the request are unaffiliated with any of the sororities currently on campus. After an initial evaluation, the College forms a committee to work collaboratively with the PanHellenic Council and the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life.

“The exploratory committee considers factors such as the number of members in our existing organizations and their level of engagement, participation in the recruitment process, and how membership compares with men’s fraternal organizations,” Umberger said. “We’ve [been] very deliberative about this process because we recognize that it is important to identify not only which organization is a good fit for F&M and how it will contribute to the College but also what is the appropriate time to welcome a new sorority to our campus.”

Now about a year old, the exploratory committee consists of various officials from the College, representatives from the PanHellenic Council, and individual chapter officers and advisers. If the committee decides to establish a new sorority on campus the PanHellenic Council votes to select either a national or international organization that would be a good fit for F&M. The College then works with that organization to establish a chapter at F&M. The process entails extensive research and consideration by all parties, typically taking a year or longer.

“The exploratory committee decided to proceed with the process of considering a new sorority because, consistent with national trends, we at F&M have seen an increase in the number of women participating in the sorority recruitment process during the past few years while the membership numbers of the sororities themselves continue to grow,” Umberger said. “We now have four existing sororities that are highly engaged with the campus, and seven fraternities, and so the College and the PanHellenic Council decided it would be appropriate to pursue the possibility of adding another organization to provide more opportunities for women interested in participating in sorority life.”

For a number of reasons, Umberger pointed out the timing is not definitive for the arrival of a new sorority; each sorority has its own guidelines, he explained, and the steps required for the College to bring a new sorority to campus will depend on which organization is selected.

After the exploratory committee votes in favor of bringing a new sorority to campus, the College forms an extension committee to continue deliberating on which organization should be chosen. The new committee works to recommend a sorority endorsing values that align with F&M’s culture and campus life.

Once a sorority is chosen, representatives from that sorority come to campus to explore possibilities. According to Umberger, to help make their decision, members of the extension committee focus on the type of support offered by the organization in setting up a new chapter, whether or not alumni are in the area to help new members, and what type of new member development programs the organization has.

Adding a new sorority would contribute to the larger campus community and provide more opportunities for the growing number of students interested in Greek and sorority life, according to Umberger.

“The Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life continues to work with the PanHellenic Council leadership to make the best decision for enhancing sorority life at F&M,” he said. “We are moving forward with expanding the options for those who are interested in becoming engaged members of our sorority community and ensuring that our current sororities offer great experiences for their members.”

Junior Shira Kipnees is a staff writer. Her email is skipnees@fandm.edu.

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