On Thursday night, over 70 female students crowded into Shapiro 311, to express interest in a type of student organization with a very limited campus presence in recent years––a sorority.
Founded by Samantha Pop ’11, Grace Zimmerman ’13, Melody Oliphant ’13 and Lucy Finn ’14, Rho Epsilon Pi has already been given student group status. According to group leaders, the organization will focus on community service events and social bonding activities, though the possibility of being granted a program house in the future is unlikely—at least for now.
Organizers said that the lack of a significant sorority presence on campus is a form of gender inequality that bars women from some of the social opportunities that are available to male students.
“The problem is that when the male fraternity system is already in place and the women are the ones that are individualized and on their own it’s kind of a bizarre balance,” Finn said.
At the meeting, organizers emphasized that they will be planning some of the same large-scale social functions that are typically put on by fraternities at Wesleyan, including formals.
“When you get down to formals and events at fraternities that are exclusive, as a woman you are dependant on having a male friend to invite you there and so then,” Oliphant said. “If you are a frequent visitor to fraternities, you’re either labeled as promiscuous or just another bro.”
With only two months left at Wesleyan, Pop is spearheading the organization. Pop attempted to form a sorority belonging to a national chapter as a freshman, though she says her plans never materialized because of the administration’s desire not to expand Greek life.
“We see it more not just in the need of a sense for a physical space, but space in the sense of community, in the sense of belonging,” Pop said.
The sorority will not be part of a national organization, and Pop selected the Greek letters herself for their symbolic meaning. She said that the fact it is a local chapter will allow it to best reflect Wesleyan’s social atmosphere.
“Our thoughts are that this is going to be a uniquely Wesleyan sorority and is going to have a uniquely Wesleyan feel to it,” said Oliphant. “We’re going to make it, whatever we, as the women of Wesleyan, want it to be”
According to Pop, members will be required to attend weekly meetings, pay financial dues and attend community service events. Other social events such as mixers and formals will be organized, but attendance at those is optional. Membership is currently open to anyone female student who wishes to join, though the group plans to conduct a formal rush process in the fall.
“If you’re willing to pay your dues and go to all the chapters meetings and community service events, you’re going to be grandfathered into the sorority and next year will be the official pledge class” Pop said.
Oliphant said that the cost of membership dues has not yet been determined, and that it will depend on the number of members who join.
The organizers said that they have received primarily positive feedback in person, despite some harsh criticism that has been expressed by anonymous commenters on Wesleying and the Anonymous Confession Board (ACB).
Becca Tucker ’13, who attended the meeting, said she welcomes the opportunity to meet other women.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity for women on campus to get together without the stipulation of any cause, Tucker said. “I think that’s something that we lack on Wesleyan campus, a place for women to come together and share their diversity.”
Other students however, said they have mixed views.
“I think that a sorority at Wesleyan would be better than most sorority cultures at other colleges, just because the overall culture of Wesleyan,” said Tess Scriptunas ’14. “But at the same time I think that it’s nice that Wesleyan has resisted the sorority and the exclusive nature of it.”
Pop said that she has been extremely pleased with the amount of student interest she’s seen.
“The thing I love about Wesleyan is that people are willing to go outside their comfort zone and try new things,” said Pop. “That they don’t necessarily make judgments or perception calls without first being exposed to it, and want to learn more about it and want to give it a shot.”