Panhell. begins process to add eighth sorority

by Rebecca Cress | 3/3/09 5:43am

The Dartmouth Panhellenic Council voted unanimously to open campus to National Panhellenic Conference extension, the process by which a new NPC sorority is established, at a meeting on Monday evening. A new sorority on campus would alleviate the bloated total memberships and new member class sizes of existing organizations, and might increase the opportunity for women to become members of an organization to which they are well suited, according to Jessica Lane '09, president of the Panhellenic Council.

The Panhellenic Council includes the presidents of each of the College's seven Panhellenic sororities as well as two additional representatives from each organization. Each sorority gets one vote in decision-making.

In an "absolutely ideal" situation, a newly-created sorority interest group could participate in recruitment next Fall, Lane said.

"We would like to do this as quickly as possible while still doing a good job," she said.

Any new sorority will definitely be affiliated with a national organization, Lane said. National sororities can provide substantial resources and support to a new chapter, and provide an organizational infrastructure that would be particularly difficult for a local sorority to develop on its own, she said.

Because of those advantages, NPC extension is the best way to add a new sorority to Dartmouth's Greek system, Victoria Maceira '09, president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, said in an e-mail message.

"In our current situation, especially financially, a national sorority will be the most effective and efficient way to meet that goal," she said.

A conversation about moving to add a new sorority at Dartmouth has been ongoing since Alpha Phi sorority came to campus, Lane said, but Panhell, NPC and the Office of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies decided to wait until Alpha Phi had firmly established its presence before initiating a new extension cycle. Alpha Phi returned to campus in late Winter 2006 and achieved recognition from the College in April 2007.

In past discussions, Panhell members suggested the ideal total membership of each sorority on campus would be between 80 and 100 members, according to Lane. Dartmouth's sororities have a median membership of 145 women, Lane said, and the addition of an eighth sorority would bring those numbers closer in line with the ideal size. Lane noted that the number of women who participate in sorority recruitment increases every year.

"Extension is the only way to reduce class size without reducing the number of women who get bids," Lane said.

In light of the large memberships of Dartmouth's sororities, expansion is a "great" decision, Nell Beattie '09, president of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, said in an e-mail message.

"Looking just at the size of the sororities, I think we are long overdue for another house to be added," Beattie said.

The addition of a single sorority will not remedy current concerns over large memberships, however, and Panhell expects to bring multiple sororities to campus in the coming years, Lane said.

"This is going to be one of many to follow," she said.

An increase in the number of sororities would bring new options for women looking to join a Greek organization, Lane said. With the increase, women will be more likely to find an organization with which they are truly compatible.

Following Monday's vote, Panhell will hold meetings open to any interested women on campus. Those meetings could lead to the formation of an interest group, which would then inform the 26 NPC sororities of Panhell's intention to start a new national sorority chapter.

Eventually, the interest group, Panhell representatives and an "extension committee" of Panhell members would narrow those potential new national sororities to three organizations.

Once a formed interest group decided on one sorority they would like to invite to campus, Panhell would likely approve the decision to move toward establishing a new chapter, Lane said, and would only vote against the recommendation if it had "very serious" concerns.

A few students, most of whom are members of the Class of 2011, have expressed interest in forming the interest group, Lane said.

Representatives of Dartmouth's NPC sororities did not voice concerns that a new sorority would be detrimental to their individual existences, Lane said. When Alpha Phi participated in recruitment for the first time, recruitment data suggested its presence may have helped the other sororities to perform better, although with such a small data pool, it is hard to identify the correlation, she said.

Considering the overwhelming support for extension, it is very likely that Panhell will see the process through to completion, Lane said.

"We're all very excited," she said. "This is an amazing opportunity to help the Panhellenic system as a whole on campus."