W&L sorority first to choose to go local

Kappa Delta Zeta Tau navigates going local on W&L’s majority-Greek campus

Elyse Ferris

Photo courtesy of Delta Society’s Instagram.

Kappa Delta Zeta Tau at Washington and Lee University voted to localize its chapter on Feb. 13.

The chapter, now known as Delta Society, is also the first Greek organization to make this move at W&L. Last year, U.S. News & World Report said W&L had an 81% Greek sorority participation rate—the highest in the country.

Delta Society is currently developing new bylaws to gain recognition as a student organization from W&L’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC).

On March 24, they will present their bylaws for approval from SAC.

Once recognized, Delta Society may apply for associate membership of the W&L Panhellenic Council, in which case the organization will be subject to the same Panhellenic fees, recruitment procedures and other regulations as the other five sororities.

The Panhellenic Council must first amend their own bylaws to offer associate membership to localized chapters.

Delta Society President Jane Chiavelli, ‘18, said her chapter began serious conversations about localization in November. They started to consider localizing, because they had conflicts with demanding national sorority requirements and members’ academic and extracurricular schedules on campus.

“We never had a bad relationship with our Nationals,” Chiavelli said. “We have a high percentage of athletes and involvement outside of the chapter, and it’s really hard to get everybody together for these required events and find a time that works.”

Payton Fricke, ‘18, was Kappa Delta’s Panhellenic delegate, and she now serves as a member of the Delta Society’s Public Relations and Branding Committee.

“It was a very peaceful process,” Fricke said. “I think it was hard to apply their national rules to our school because we are so different from a lot of their other chapters. A lot of the rules that KD Nationals have work really well at some of the bigger state schools, but for us, it’s hard for all of our members to come to every chapter meeting.”

Most members were on board with the idea of localization, but there were some concerns within the chapter regarding legacy status and past financial investment in the national organization, Chiavelli said.

Graduated alumni will retain their legacy status with Kappa Delta. Fricke said it is unclear whether active members will be able to re-apply for legacy status in the future.

Delta Society notified the national organization in Memphis and chapter alumni of their decision within 24 hours of the vote.

A letter to Kappa Delta Zeta Tau alumni said: “There is a special sense of community at Washington and Lee, and in the spirit of one of our greatest traditions, student self-governance, we wish to conduct our own affairs without influence from a national organization whose priorities are at odds with our own.”

Chiavelli said Delta Society has experienced overwhelming support for its decision from members, alumni and administration.

“Every day I still get emails expressing support. Professors, the administration—they’ve been amazing,” she said.

Before voting to localize, Delta Society researched the localization efforts of similar colleges, such as Dartmouth, Hamilton and Trinity.

“We saw that in a lot of schools similar to our size and academic rigor, there’s been a movement to have chapters go local,” Chiavelli said.

As the first Kappa Delta chapter to disaffiliate, Kappa Delta Zeta Tau had no protocol or precedent to follow.

“We’re kind of the guinea pigs. We really have to hold ourselves accountable,” Chiavelli said. “We’re not fundamentally changing. We still want to look and feel like a sorority—just have more say in what we do.”

Following the bylaws’ protocol of another chapter on campus, the Zeta Tau chapter decided to require a clear majority of 75 percent support from members to go through with localization. The vote received an 87 percent majority.

“There were a lot of questions,” Panhellenic Council President Anna Daccache, ‘19, said. “It just happened really fast. There was general concern in terms of it being an uneven playing field in recruitment, but we all want to keep everything the same.”

According to Daccache, Dean of Students Sidney Evans is an advocate for student self-governance. Evans was not available for comment.

“The administration just wants what’s best for the students—whether that’s local or national,” Daccache said. “I don’t think much is going to change socially [or] structurally. Just national ties in the future might change.”

If Delta Society gains associate membership on the Panhellenic Council and chooses to participate in recruitment, their status as a sorority on campus will only change in that Delta Society members cannot hold positions as President, Vice President or Head of Recruitment for the Council, Daccache said.