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Tufts Thinks Theta

Campus | October 7, 2013

You’ve probably seen the bright yellow flyers and the “Think Theta” chalking in front of Tisch. As of September 17th, 77 women pledged the new sorority. Just as Kappa Alpha Theta welcomed its new members, Tufts welcomed a new sorority to campus.

Greek life is iconic not only in pop culture, but also on college campuses across the country. The ivy-covered fraternity houses, the Greek letters on sweatshirts, the nervous new members going through recruitment are all part of our popular image of Greek life. It’s what some undergrads look forward to most when arriving on campus. With the growing interest in sororities, Theta enters the scene as a new option for female students looking to pledge.

The establishment of Kappa Alpha Theta renders it the fourth Panhellenic sorority to join the Tufts community. The group started from scratch, gaining 77 members in a matter of days. Unlike the traditional recruitment process for many sororities, where prospective members attend events at each chapter’s house, Theta hosted interviews conducted by alumnae from other universities. On bid day, there were no seasoned members from Tufts to greet the new pledges in a sorority house; the new girls became the founding class. The women who joined are predominantly sophomores, with about 25 juniors and seniors, all looking to start fresh with a group of girls to call sisters. As sophomore Kelly Souza said, “This a huge opportunity to make some lifelong friends and start something big on the Tufts campus. It’s like a custom-made sorority.”

The plan for a new sorority has been in the works since last fall, when junior Alex Horvitz took charge and initiated the conversation about extending offers to national sororities to start a chapter at Tufts. Horvitz said, “I compiled information about the history of sororities and Greek life on campus into an advertisement of sorts for other sororities’ national offices to know that Tufts was open for extension. This meant that we were accepting applications.”

We’re all familiar with the high admission standards to enroll at Tufts as a student; it’s no easier for new sororities to gain acceptance. Horvitz explained that the process included building a committee of sorority members in current chapters, reviewing applications, and inviting select sororities back to campus to give a presentation to interested students. One of the main goals of this process was to align the values of the new chapter with the values of the Tufts student body. This was exactly what new Theta members like Souza were looking for. After going through rush in the spring, she felt a void in her Greek life options on campus, and said, “You can’t fit every girl [on campus] into just three categories.”

Tufts’ expanding Greek scene is atypical compared to comparable schools in the NESCAC. Wesleyan and Trinity are the only other schools in the conference that host an active Greek life. Hamilton still has Greek life in the form of “private societies,” but individual chapters are prohibited from having houses on campus. The other seven NESCAC schools banned Greek life from their campuses in the 1980s and 90s. Despite the prevailing stigma against Greek life at many other likeminded liberal arts colleges, Tufts has been able to build a brand new sorority with current students eager to join. Which begs the question, why is Tufts expanding Greek life as our neighboring schools deem the organizations unacceptable for the student body?

Theta may not be the only sorority establishing new roots on campus. We can expect other additions to Tufts’ Greek community in the near future. Horvitz explained that current chapters have seen pledge classes grow larger as more women join the recruitment process. The committee that welcomed Theta has also invited Alpha Gamma Delta to join in upcoming years, when the fit seems right and the demand is present. This shift effects will not be limited to the Greek community; they will have an impact on the entire student body. Souza sees this as a positive change saying, “A new sorority is going to do great things for Greek life. It gives another option for potential new members to find their best fit, and it improves the fraternity to sorority ratio.”

One thing that will not be altered, however, is the role of Greek life at Tufts. With only 13 percent of Tufts undergraduates active within the Greek community— and many other social opportunities available—it remains only one of many options to become involved on campus. The exclusivity that seems prevalent at other schools doesn’t exist here; friendships cross the Greek life boundary, and the student body is not segmented into dramatically different stratospheres. Despite the addition of this new sorority, Tufts Greek life continues to be an opt-in process, allowing those who have want to be a part of the community to do so, while others have the freedom to find their own niche on campus.

So what’s next for the new members of Kappa Alpha Theta? The chapter has been relying on guidance from other sorority members on campus and contacts from Boston University’s Theta chapter as they transition from bid day into fall semester activities. This includes homecoming merriments, sisterhood events, and support for the Theta philanthropy. The national cause for each Theta chapter is CASA, an organization that helps to provide abused or neglected children with a trained and caring advocate. As a key component of sorority life, their philanthropy will have a role in distinguishing the Theta chapter from others on campus. The new members have the opportunity to host their first charity event this year to find the best way to support the CASA foundation.

In the meantime, the new sorority members are focused on getting to know each other. Having their own place to call home on campus is a long-term goal, but in the meantime these women are forming bonds with one another, as well as finding the impression they want to make on Tufts. Souza says, “Our goal is to be running as smoothly as any other sorority on campus by spring recruitment. By next year, I expect that we will have established ourselves as a strong group of women on campus.”

As Thetas join the Greek community at Tufts, it will be interesting to see how the campus landscape changes. We have all seen the subtle shifts as fraternities move on- and off-campus, facing probation, or coming back from it. Now we will watch as Theta sets up an official address and Alpha Gamma Delta welcomes new members. These recent efforts prove that Greek life is not extinct in the NESCAC and continues to be a presence on Tufts’ campus.