After year of colony status, Alpha Phi gains recognition
By Amita Kulkarni, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, March 30, 2007
After six months away from campus, Vanessa Cruz '07 was not ready to jump into Winter rush as a sophomore. So, like a number of Dartmouth women, she decided she would remain unaffiliated. When Cruz was offered the opportunity to be one of the first members of brand-new sorority Alpha Phi, however, she jumped on the idea. A year later, she said she cannot see herself anywhere else.
Alpha Phi, the seventh sorority on campus, will be officially recognized as a chapter by Alpha Phi International and the College at the end of April. Alpha Phi arrived on campus in the spring of last year after the lifting of a moratorium on new single-sex, selective, residential organizations and a selection process during the Fall and Winter terms last year.
"Other times in Dartmouth's history, there had been seven sororities on campus but the system was not as strong," said Megan Johnson, the assistant director of Coed, Fraternity and Sorority Administration. "Our community now has six, very healthy sororities and it was students who initiated the process, which is what drove its success."
The sorority's inauguration comes after a year of promotional publicity and philanthropy work by the members of Alpha Phi.
"We have been doing great, this time last year we had about eight members and now we have 60. We have grown leaps and bounds," Lauren Orr '08 said, president of Alpha Phi for the last two terms and one of its founding members. "Besides just growing in numbers, we have made an impact on campus. For example, just last month we had a slew of charity events."
The women of Alpha Phi spent much of last month hosting numerous philanthropic events to raise awareness about women's cardiac health. The sorority hosted a date auction, an inter-sorority tube relay and a Red Dress Gala.
Ying Xu '08, one of the first members of the sorority, believes that along with their philanthropic efforts, the chapter at Dartmouth has proven to be viable through their growing membership numbers and through their innovation and leadership within the Dartmouth community.
"We have always participated in leadership events and we are functioning pretty much as any other organization would, except not having a house, which we are hoping will happen soon," Orr said.
Alpha Phi's installation at Dartmouth has not just affected the members of the new sorority but has had an impact on the larger campus community, as its arrival has somewhat altered the dynamics of Greek life, in part by offering another option for females interested in joining the system and influencing women's rush.
"[The administration] continues to be impressed by what Alpha Phi is doing; it has been what this community has needed," Johnson said.
Though the members of Alpha Phi are pleased with the community's acceptance of the sorority, they are aware that it will take more time to become fully established on campus.
"I don't know what other people truly think about us because I'm an insider, but I hear things, and they are both positive and negative," Xu said. "I feel like for sure, that our reputation is getting much better than when we started. At the beginning, people had low expectations but I feel that we have overcome that fully and completely. It's a slow process, as we recruit more girls and do more stuff on campus we will make a name for ourselves."
When asked how Alpha Phi is perceived on campus, Meghan Wendland '08, who is unaffiliated with a Greek organization, said she was impressed by the sorority's community service, sisterhood, inclusivity, scholarship and diversity.
"From a non-Greek perspective, I have seen very little evidence that mainstream Greek organizations actually focus on these principles," Wendland said. "However, Alpha Phi seems to be the exception. Not only have the women of the organization shown to our campus that they are dedicated to service, but they also seem very committed to the other principles outlined by the CFS administration and their organization."
Elyssa Campbell '09, a member of Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority, also discussed her feelings on how Alpha Phi is perceived on campus.
"I'm so impressed by how the sisters of Alpha Phi are struggling against enormous opposition to start a sorority," she said. "During rush, it certainly felt like many girls who did not feel as if they belonged in the six older houses were grateful for the opportunity to join Alpha Phi, including some of my friends."
Orr and Johnson both mentioned how pleased they have been with the support Alpha Phi has received from the other six sororities during the past year.
While some may argue that a national sorority with a closed house, like Alpha Phi, does not bring any new social options to the campus, Johnson and members of the new sorority disagree. Johnson stressed that Alpha Phi serves as a new social venue for women.
"If you define 'a social space' as a place where you can drink, then no you can't do that, but I have had so many great experiences with the girls so far," Orr said.
With the additional house, the dynamic during sorority rush has changed this year as invite quotas from each house decreased from last year's 45 to about 35 this year.
"Going into rush, I knew very little about Alpha Phi, mainly that it was the 'new sorority' and didn't have a physical house," Hannah Simon '09, a member of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority said.
Faced with joining an established house or a new one, some prospective members preferred something fresher.
"I actually liked joining a house that hadn't yet developed a stereotype on campus," Liz Weber '09 said. "The girls that were in it were a more important concern to me than whether the house as a whole had yet established a particular image with the student body."
Following the end of Dartmouth's moratorium on single-sex, selective, residential Greek organizations, Alpha Phi was chosen by a group of women, with the help of the administration, from three national sororities that visited the campus last winter. Alpha Phi gained colony status at the end of winter 2006.
The members of Alpha Phi recognize that even after the celebratory weekend of April 28 and 29, they still will have a long way to go.
"We want this to be a successful chapter," Xu said. "And if we come back in 20 years, we would be proud to say that was ours."