Students strive to bring a new sorority chapter to campus

Carissa Alaimo

A group of female students on campus have been working recently to bring a new sorority chapter to Villanova.

Currently there are a total of 11 active sororities on campus – nine National Panhellenic Conference chapters – which participate in formal recruitment – and two National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters recognized through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Each chapter is different, with unique qualities that appeal to the varied personalities of girls who go through recruitment.

Yet quantity does not guarantee that there will always be a right fit for every girl.

Sophomore Kat Devlin, who is leading the movement for a new sorority, went through Continuous Open Recruitment in the fall of 2008 and also went through formal recruitment in January 2009.

Despite both experiences, she still could not find the strong connection that she was looking for with a chapter.

“I really tried to be open-minded about the whole process, but along the way for one reason or another it just did not work out for me,” Devlin said.

“Once I realized that there were so many girls who had the same experience and still really wanted to be a part of a sorority, it just made sense to try to start our own chapter here.”

Devlin is not the first girl to go through recruitment wishing for more sorority options at Villanova.Approximately 65 girls voluntarily withdrew during the week of formal recruitment and eight girls decided not to accept the bids that were offered to them.

According to Phil O’Neill, assistant director of Student Development, the OFSL receives on average one request a month to start a fraternity or sorority.The frequency of these requests generally increase after any formal recruitment period.

“Because I went through recruitment, I know that girls got very upset when they did not receive a bid from the sorority they envisioned themselves in,” Devlin said.

“I’m a strong believer that you end up where you were meant to belong, and for some that sorority doesn’t exist on our campus.”

Starting a new sorority at Villanova is not an easy process. It requires a serious commitment and ample time.

But Devlin and her group have already surpassed obstacles that have stopped others in the past.

“The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life has been great thus far,” said Devlin. “I think they get really excited when students want to get involved like this, and the fact that they realize we are serious is also refreshing. Apparently they have a meeting with individuals who want to start a new chapter about once a month, but very few get past that initial meeting. My group has, so they are doing everything in their power to aid us in this endeavor.”

Many groups who attempt to bring new chapters to campus fail simply due to bad timing.

One obstacle faced by Devlin and her group is that the OFSL is not currently open to expansion this semester. In addition to student interest, the primary factor for expansion must be a present “need” for a new organization.

“To determine if there [is] a need for expansion, we would first and foremost, discuss the issue of expansion with the other chapters in [Villanova’s] Panhellenic Council,” O’Neill said. “Our Panhellenic Constitution and Bylaws have procedures that must be followed in such a situation.”

Even if there is a group of interested students who see a need for more sorority options on campus, getting the Panhellenic Council to agree is a lengthy and difficult component of the process.Some do not feel that there is a need for expansion and instead support the present number of active sorority chapters at the University.

“At the moment I am confident that we have the right number of chapters to match the interest level on our campus,” O’Neill said.

The implications of an additional sorority on campus must also be considered in situations like this.

“There are two schools of thought here,” O’Neill said. “The first is that adding chapters increases interest. The alternate is increasing chapters will reduce interest in our current chapters by adding another group into the mix. Our solution here is to constantly evaluate the number of groups that we have, compare it to our interest level to ensure that the two are in alignment.”

Yet, Devlin is still hopeful that her group will succeed.

“I have been told that over the summer there will be a conversation about expanding, especially because I think they are starting to realize that this group of girls is really dedicated to seeing this happen,” Devlin said. “This process is really through the University, however, so keeping a continuous dialogue open with Greek Life is the key here. Getting a new chapter on campus will not be done in a week, a month, or probably even a year, but it can definitely happen and become well established before I graduate.”

For right now, Devlin and the group have been focusing on spreading the word about the possibility of a new sorority, getting the information out to the student body in order to gauge interest and attract more girls.

She has created the Facebook group, “Nova Needs a New Sorority” to provide the community with information of the plans. So far, there are 44 members.

“Word of mouth has been going pretty well for us, but the Facebook group has proved to be a highly valuable asset,” Devlin said.

The response has far exceeded her expectations. The support from interested girls, established chapters and OFSL have given her the motivation to see this idea through to reality.

“Once I knew that support existed I made up my mind that there will be a new sorority on ‘Nova’s campus before I graduate,” Devlin said. “I will do what I need to do to have this vision become actualized.”

The specific sorority that will be founded is not easy to predict.

According to Devlin, that choice will not be up to the founding members. A number of sororities’ national headquarters will make presentations to the OFSL and eventually one of those will be chosen by the University to become the new charter.

If the Panhellenic Council approves the proposal to establish a new sorority, they will then notify the organizational members of the National Panhellenic Conference of their intent to expand.

“All groups not represented on our campus would be invited to petition and present to an expansion committee which would be responsible for selecting the group we would invite to come to campus,” O’Neill said.

“Such a process can take quite some time.”

While Devlin waits for OFSL to reach an agreement regarding expansion, she is planning on continuing to spread the word on campus.

“The next step is somewhat ambiguous right now,” she said. “The conversation between myself and the Greek Life office will continue.”