Sororities will return to Swarthmore College next spring after a nearly 80-year ban, NBC News reports.
The future sisters of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority have said members will be diverse, welcoming, and dedicated to community service and civic engagement.
Senior Julia Melin said she helped started Not Yet Sisters — which will become Kappa Alpha Theta during the spring semester — because she felt the school’s female students needed better mentoring and professional connections. Melin said sororities are “about having a social support system during college and after college.”
Established in 1891, Kappa Alpha Theta was the first sorority at Swarthmore. Forty years later, about 77 percent of the school’s female students belonged to a sorority. Some of the groups, however, discriminated against Jewish students, causing Molly Yard — who went on to become president of the National Organization of Women from 1987 to 1991 — to campaign for female students to vote to abolish sororities from campus. The vote passed in 1933.
Yard was initially a member of Kappa Alpha Theta but later campaigned against sororities because they were “unfair and discriminatory.” Yard said there was a Jewish student from Chicago named Babette Schiller whom she wanted to become a member of KAP. The sorority leaders would not consider her, however, but they wouldn’t said why. Yard said she didn’t know if it was because Schiller was Jewish, but, after other such incidents, she and others decided to “eliminate the source of such unfairness.”
“We educated all women students on the unfairness of the sorority system and gradually got more and more of them to agree with us,” Yard said.
School officials said they are facilitating the establishment of a group students want and that Title IX demands. Title IX requires colleges to provide equal opportunities for men and women, and, since Swarthmore has two fraternities, it must provide female students with a sorority.
Dean of students Liz Braun said the college has a written agreement with the national Kappa Alpha Theta organization that ensures the new chapter will uphold the college’s founding principles of inclusivity and diversity. This includes allowing students who identify as female to join, regardless of their actual gender.
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