Yale’s Panhellenic Council wants to bring a fourth sorority to campus, but national experts said it will be years before that happens.
Before Panhel can even contact the National Panhellenic Conference to begin introducing a new group, a process called “extension,” Yale’s three existing sororities must equalize their memberships — a goal that Panhel President Stephanie Cuevas ’12 said was not achieved during this year’s recent rush process. A lack of administrative infrastructure for Greek organizations presents an even bigger hurdle to Panhel’s goals, National Panhellenic Conference’s College Advisor for Connecticut Patricia Disque said.
Although the number of women who undergo sorority rush at Yale has doubled in the past five years, Disque said interest in Greek life has not grown as much at Yale as it has on other campuses. While Disque called two of the University’s sororities, Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi, “bigger than they need to be,” Kappa Kappa Gamma is undersubscribed, meaning it is difficult to make the case that Yale really needs a fourth sisterhood.
“It’s not a small feat to go through the extension process,” said Patricia Disque, the National Panhellenic Conference’s college advisor for Connecticut. “We’re in a investigative phase right now, not in a let’s-do-it-tomorrow phase.”
BRIDGING THE GAP
Cuevas said although there is work to do before Panhel can request that an additional group put down roots at Yale, she remains optimistic that the existing sororities will have equalized their membership by next fall.
As of the most recent recruitment process, held last month, Pi Phi and Theta offered 46 bids each, all of which were accepted. Kappa offered 40 bids, but only 30 rushees accepted them.
Kappa President Rachael Styer ’12 said she does not know if her group will be able to catch up with the other two next fall.
“It’s anyone’s game right now,” Styer said. “I don’t know what the outcome will be.”
Both Cuevas and Styer said they are relying on the informal recruitment Kappa holds each fall to make up for the 26 members the sorority needs to meet the house total of 111. Styer added that the gap is “ambitious” given that informal recruitment pulls almost exclusively from the current members’ circles of friends, and that 14 seniors will graduate this May.
Styer said she does not view a fourth sorority as a threat to Kappa’s efforts to increase membership, as the number of girls rushing has been going up.
“The drive [to bring in a fourth group] is part of our reason behind trying to reach house total,” she said. “But the main push for it comes from Panhel. They are the ones who match up the bids and can’t pair up all the girls [who want to be in sororities]. They see the need for the fourth sorority.”
Cuevas agreed that adding a fourth sisterhood would help Panhel offer more bids to interested girls and keep chapter sizes manageable. Currently, Theta has 142 members, Pi Phi 133 and Kappa 85.
There is no definite timeline for the extension process yet, Cuevas said, and she does not expect to see this project realized during her term on the council.
Pi Phi President Jenny Guyton ’12 declined to comment due to regulations from their national organization. Theta President Emily Dominski ’12 did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Panhel’s plans are also complicated by the fact that Yale does not have a Panhellenic advisor, Disque said. At other schools, sorority enrollment and statistics are tracked by an on-site adult advisor who is paid by the university. Yale’s sororities will have to produce those numbers before conversations about a fourth group can begin, Cuevas said, which will involve a great deal of archival research and counting for current members.
The University’s area advisor, Disque, is responsible for all of Connecticut, and Yale does not have its own Panhellenic Advisor.
Cuevas also acknowledged that Yale does not have a Panhellenic support system like many other college campuses, but she said she doesn’t think the lack of an on-site advisor will negatively affect Panhel’s efforts to open for extension.
“It may mean that the council must work a bit harder and put forth more efforts, but I think if we decide to go through with extension, that is an opportunity we welcome,” she said.
THE “SAME KIND OF PROBLEMS”
Although Cuevas and the rest of her council will continue to push forward, Disque explained that even if Yale Panhel voted tomorrow to open the extension process, it would still take over a year to investigate which sororities are interested in coming to campus.
“Just because [Yale is] open for extension, doesn’t mean that a group is going to apply for it,” said National Panhellenic Extension Conference Extension Chairman Carole Jones.
Disque returned as Yale’s area advisor in 2007 after a stint in the early ’90s, and she said membership in the University’s three sororities has not grown much since then. She added that if Yale had a Panhellenic advisor, the University’s Panhel would have help in keeping track of enrollment.
“Yale’s sororities still have the same kind of problems since the early ’90s. A third group trailing behind is not really normal,” she said. “It’s not an ideal situation to lack somebody within the administration helping to do things.”
Disque said Yale has not seen a surge of rushees comparable to those at other schools in the country. Even some of Yale’s peer schools have seen a sharper increase in Greek interest.
Two sororities have come to the University of Pennsylvania in the last 10 years, and Stanford University’s Inter-Sorority Council voted in December to introduce a new group, increasing the number of sororities on its campus to seven.
At Cornell University, the Panhellenic Council is allowing a 12th sorority to come next fall. Cornell Panhel President Corinna Romantic, a junior, said the process started last spring, when a group of around 25 active members formed a “sorority interest group” and appealed to their Panhellenic council. After studying the numbers, their Panhel decided to explore the possibility, Romantic added.
The extension process took less than a year at Cornell, largely due to the fact that a Panhellenic advisor tracks their sorority statistics and had the information on hand, Romantic said.
Yale, on the other hand, will have to work to compile past statistics and even out house membership before it will have a chance of bringing in a new sorority, Disque said.
“It’s not something imminent,” she said. “It’s not a done deal.”
Before a college’s Panhel votes to open for extension, an exploratory committee composed of sorority representatives, advisors and college administrators must look at recruitment statistics, chapter membership, University housing statistics, sorority growth analysis and chapter history from the past five years to determine if there is sufficient interest in the new group.