Representatives from three Panhellenic sororities visited University of Richmond the week before Fall Break, each vying for the chance to become the university’s newest sorority chapter.
“We invited Kappa Delta, Phi Mu and Alpha Delta Pi to campus to present,” said Meg Pevarski, assistant director of Greek life. Each organization’s representatives toured campus and met with a variety of on-campus stakeholders, including women from the current Panhellenic sororities, the deans of Westhampton College, the vice president for student development, Steve Bisese and the director of student activities, Alison Bartel Keller.
In addition to these meetings, the sorority representatives gave a presentation to current Greek women about why their organization was a good fit for the university. “When they come to campus, it’s almost like a dating process – they’re getting to know us, we’re getting to know them, and obviously we’ve done our research in advance, but there’s a difference between what a PR packet says and meeting the on-the-ground faces and being able to ask questions,” Pevarski said.
“[The presentation] was very informative and entertaining,” said Juliana Sorrentino, Westhampton College '15, who attended a presentation as a representative of her sorority. “It definitely felt like a business pitch, which made me a bit uncomfortable, but I guess that’s how the process works. It was cool to learn about a new sorority and see how they feel they would fit on campus.”
The campus visits are the culmination of an extensive research, identification and application process called “extension,” which is regulated by the National Panhellenic Council. The university’s extension process began over a year ago, and students have been directly involved from the beginning, Pevarski said. The process is overseen by the extension committee, which comprises two women from each sorority, as well as Keller, Pevarski and Katy Norfleet, Richmond's Panhellenic president.
The committee spent most of last school year compiling data to determine whether the university needed another sorority chapter. “We are in need of a sixth sorority,” Pevarski said. “Our chapter sizes on this campus mirror those of schools that are two, three, four times our size, and that’s not an ideal situation for us. So this is a really exciting thing for our community.”
Every Panhellenic sorority on campus voted to act on the extension committee’s recommendation for a sixth sorority and open the campus to new candidates. More than ten organizations visited during the summer, and the extension committee reviewed literature from each candidate. The committee evaluated the potential sororities based on whether their values and policies matched the university’s, Pevarski said.
“They were really at it from the perspective of what would be the best fit for Richmond,” Pevarski said. The committee then narrowed down the candidates and invited the three finalists to campus for meetings.
Despite some student concerns that the decisions have been made mostly by administrators, Pevarski said the students on the extension committee have wielded the most power.
“I think there is this mystique: Are Meg and Allison [Keller] sitting behind the scenes and pulling the strings?” Pevarski said. “But the committee decided that it had to be a unanimous decision by everyone....Allison [Keller] and I did not have a vote. The women made the decision, but we asked good questions about the decision, and in the end I think everyone felt good.”
Pevarski said student involvement was integral to the extension process. “In order for this to be successful on campus, there has to be buy-in from our community, and we’re creating a community that works for our women,” she said. “We trust our women. We think that they’re incredibly intelligent and well-versed in this process.”
Sorrentino said better scheduling could have allowed more interested people to attend. “I do wish I could have attended all three presentations, but unfortunately, they scheduled the presentations right in the middle of midterms week, which made it difficult for many Greek women to attend,” she said.
Pevarski said the scheduling for this week was determined in May, and only 25 women from each chapter were allowed because there wasn’t a location large enough to hold all of the university’s Panhellenic women.
Moving forward, the extension committee will evaluate input from women who attended the presentations, as well as the administrators who met with sorority representatives. The committee will vote on which candidate to recommend later in the semester, and then all the sororities will have a chance to affirm their recommendation in a final vote. “Our goal is that before we leave for Winter Break, the final decision will be made,” Pevarski said.
While having a new sorority will present unique challenges, many students are excited. “Adding another sorority to campus will help with diversity and philanthropic efforts and also shrink the sizes of the pledge classes,” Sorrentino said. “This sorority may also be a home for a girl who didn't find her place in any of the current sororities.”
“Regardless of who we end up with, all of them are incredibly strong organizations that would make a huge impact on our campus,” Pevarski said.
Contact reporter Chase Brightwell at email@example.com