The Panhellenic Council plans to allow a new sorority to come to Cornell beginning in Fall 2011. The eleven chapters are currently filled to capacity and leaders agree that the system and its members would benefit from expansion.
“We’re excited for a new chapter,” said Alexandra Hildreth ’11, the Panhellenic Council Vice President of Recruitment, Publicity and Extension. “We want any woman who wants to join the Greek system to have the opportunity.”
“The sororities are now bursting at the seams,” Panhellenic Council President Nora Allen ’11 said. “They are filled to capacity and some girls don’t get bids.”
Besides some students leaving rush week without bids, Panhel members said they are also concerned about the size of the average new member class, which is currently about 45 people. According to Hildreth, smaller new member classes would be more manageable.
However, bringing a new sorority to campus is a long process, and Panhel has not yet decided which sorority will be chosen. The council plans to make a decision by the end of the fall semester.
The process began last spring when a group of girls, led by Molly McMahon ’12, a transfer student who became a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon when she attended Monmouth University, wanted to instate a new chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon at Cornell. The group consists of about 25 active members who hold weekly meetings in dorm conference rooms and participate together in philanthropy.
The Panhellenic Council interviewed the group and began to follow the the National Panhellenic Council’s guidelines for allowing a new chapter on campus.
The council will consider the interest from the DPhiE group, but the decision must be made within the council, Allen said.
The council first held a vote to extend the system. According to Allen, two-thirds of the 11 chapters had to vote yes. The vote passed by one vote. Allen explained why some sororities may have opposed the extension. Chapters with lower numbers might worry that a new sorority would bring their numbers down, which could eventually lead to their national organizations shutting the house down. Also, some chapters are comfortable with the system as it is and a new sorority would be an unknown, Allen said.
She also noted that new sororities are not always successful.
The most recent sororities that tried to start a chapter at Cornell were Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Xi Delta, Chi Omega and DPhiE. AOPi was closed in 2008 by its national due to issues related to the national’s number of chapters. Alpha Xi Delta, which began at Cornell in the spring of 2005, was the last successful colonization. DPhiE closed in the fall of 2005 and ChiO in spring 2004.
“A lot of times, new chapters are scared,” Allen said. “Nationals come in a lot for the first two years and make them follow every rule.”
According to Allen, the Panhellenic Council at Cornell does not hold the chapters to the standards that their nationals do. “It’s a more liberal and looser system,” Allen said.
For example, some nationals do not allow mixers, but Cornell’s Panhellenic Council does.
However, Allen said she believes that the council’s New Recognition Policy will create a more equal playing field because every potential new sorority will be held to the same rules.
A memo was then sent to the National Panhellenic Council, which is composed of 26 member chapters, and each sorority was given an offer to apply to extend to Cornell.
Nine were interested initially and some came to visit Cornell over the summer.
Five sororities — Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Delta Pi, Delta Phi Epsilon, Delta Zeta, and Phi Sigma Sigma — chose to submit applications and interest packets.
The extension exploratory committee, which consists of one woman from each of the 11 chapters, will now look through the interest packets. By Sept. 1, they will select three out of the five which they believe are most likely to be successful at Cornell. The committee will set criteria to determine which are likely to meet success, such as the presence of local alumni and opportunities for members.
The executive board will then vote and approve the decision.
Next, the three sororities will send representatives to the University for interviews and give presentations.
“The one with the strongest presentation will probably get the invite for fall eleven,” Hildreth said.
Members of the new sorority interest group — the students supporting DPhiE — said they feel that DPhiE has a unique appeal, primarily because of McMahon’s affiliation. However, they said they will be willing to adopt whichever sorority the Panhellenic Council chooses.
IFC president Allen Miller ’11 said he believes that the addition of a new chapter “will lead to a stronger and more sustainable Greek system.”
“I had no idea how entailed the process was,” McMahon said. “The group really appreciates what goes into building a sorority.”
“It’s really nice to know that something will be happening,” she said. “We’ve worked so hard, we’ve come this far, and we’re all so into this.”