Colgate’s Panhellenic Executive Board has faced its fair share of obstacles in the last few years: the loss of one of our few sororities, the continued lack of understanding between Greek and non-Greek student groups and, most recently, the introduction of unexpectedly large new member classes, which could potentially amplify the already-present issues stemming from a lack of cohesion within the Greek system itself.
Large new member classes make chapter unity more of a challenge. A lack of chapter unity makes solidarity across the Greek system more of a challenge. A lack of solidarity within the Greek system makes effective relations with non-Greeks more of a challenge. How can we represent an inherently exclusive system in a coherent way if there is no camaraderie among Colgate’s Greek chapters?
Panhellenic recognizes the dangers facing Greek life at Colgate if we do not take care to deal with these issues quickly and carefully. Our mission statement compels us to “support chapters in promoting inter-sorority relations, pursue more opportunities for sorority and fraternity events, actively facilitate community service-oriented projects and break down stereotypes among a diverse array of Greek and non-Greek groups through cooperation and collaboration.” This is quite the daunting task, but it is one that Panhellenic bears in mind whenever we make decisions regarding sororities at Colgate, and it is what has guided us in the many initiatives we have pursued as representatives of our Greek sisters.
Panhellenic has made a concerted effort to facilitate positive inter-sorority relations through a variety of community service events. One example of this is the series of visits organized by Panhellenic’s Philanthropy Chairs to Hope House in Utica, where sisters from each of our three sororities worked together at a soup kitchen on weekend mornings, providing a direct service to the community while also getting to know Greek women they might never have encountered otherwise. A service we provide to our more local Hamilton community is Parents’ Night Out; each semester, we invite professors to enjoy a night off from the stresses of parenting, while their children play games and eat snacks with Greek men and women from all of our chapters.
Panhellenic has also organized events to promote healthy attitudes about alcohol and sexuality. In September, we brought speaker Mark Sterner to campus to discuss his tragic experience with drinking and driving, and last week our new members participated in an event to explore the idea of positive sexuality. Three groups, each comprised of women from all three chapters, traveled from house to house, becoming comfortable with each other’s space and interacting with one other to establish inter-sorority relations and speak with Jane Jones from Conant House, Dean Kimberly Taylor and Heather Dockstader from the LGBTQ office.
For the first time this year, we were able to offer partial scholarships to two potential new members who demonstrate a need for financial assistance. We hope that as this program continues to grow, Greek Life will be more accessible to students who previously felt alienated by economic constraints. The scholarship fund is being supported by our annual Mr. Colgate event, for which males from Greek and non-Greek organizations compete in a series of fun competitions for the prestigious title of Mr. Colgate!
Lastly, during this past recruitment cycle, Panhellenic made a concerted effort to give all eligible women the chance to learn about Greek Life, so they could make an informed decision about whether or not joining a sorority would be the right choice for them. We held information sessions in all first-year dorms, as well as in Love Auditorium and the ALANA Cultural Center, and did our best to spread the word about recruitment to as many women as possible. Our efforts paid off; we had possibly the largest recruitment numbers we have ever seen, with 203 women choosing to continue through the entire process and receive bids to join a sorority.
Panhellenic hopes that our large new member classes are indicative of an increased interest in and understanding of Greek Life, and that this trend continues in future years. However, we also hope that we were able to make changes that will allow us to accommodate so many girls and allow them to feel connected to each of their sisters, which is one of the primary reasons many women choose to join a Greek organization. Some changes that could alleviate the worries we now face include expansion (introducing one or more new sororities onto the campus) and altering the recruitment rules (such as raising the minimum GPA requirement), both of which we are currently working toward. We’re so glad that all interested women were able to join Greek Life; now we want to ensure that, in the future, all interested women are also able to enjoy the benefits of being a part of an intimate community of sisters.