Sorority Shake-Up

Alexandra Cline

It’s no secret that Washington and Lee is a university with a dominant Greek scene. Almost 80 percent of students are members of a fraternity or sorority, with the majority of those affiliated living in their Greek house for at least a year.

Last month, W&L took an unprecedented step when one sorority, Kappa Delta, voted to become a local, non-National Panhellenic Council organization. Though none of the other five sororities have voted to become local, the change has already caused friction among the different chapters.

As a Greek-affiliated student, I heard about the idea of sororities becoming local before formal recruitment this January. After that, my sorority held longer meetings for us to consider the possibility of relinquishing our charter, even with the Grand President of the sorority in attendance. Even though my sorority and the four others decided to keep our charters, the conversation was one I never thought I would hear on W&L’s campus.   

Regardless of the reason Kappa Delta decided to go local, the decision has no doubt called into question the future of Greek life here. With the letters removed from the house and the name changed, the former Kappa Delta may well be paving the way for a very different social environment in the next few years.

Though the decision has been finalized for that sorority, there are still plenty of unanswered questions about how a local organization will function in the wider context of sororities on campus. What will recruitment be like next year? How will housing work? Will parties be allowed in the local Greek houses? Will the other national sororities decide to become local in the future?

Whatever happens with the other sororities, the Greek system could be shifting away from one of standardized, national rules to one of individuality for each organization. The new local organization will have a chance to write its own rules, determine its recruitment process and change the way Greek life functions as a whole.

While the individuality aspect of a local organization is appealing, it’ll likely be a steep learning curve to have local and national Greek systems operating next door to each other. New students will also have an even tougher choice when it comes to Greek affiliation too, having to decide between a national or local sorority. That makes no mention of what W&L will have as its policies in regulating them as well, since the university has agreed to cover the insurance for the local sorority.        

On the other side of the Greek system, a group of male students has tried to establish a recognized Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter at W&L. That organization hasn’t been approved, but it definitely tells a different story about Greek life here – that it’s far from being removed as part of the culture.

Whether fraternities and sororities will continue to dominate the social scene is unclear, but it’s certain that without them, weekends in Lexington would have a much different look. Since the town boasts almost no night life, particularly for students under 21, it would be difficult for W&L to end its reliance on the Greek system without other similar alternatives.