The Greek War of Independence: Kappa Delta Leaves Nationals Behind
By Ben Whedon '18
No, the Turks have not occupied Hellenic soil, though the Russians may still sink their fleet sometime soon. Rather, the sororities on Frank Parsons Way find themselves embroiled in conflict with their national organizations, leading many to question the merits of continuing their affiliation. Though the local chapters have historically clashed with their nationals over issues such as parties and rush, they tended to avoid any open confrontation. Tensions reached an all-time high this year when Kappa Delta, one of the six sororities at W&L, chose to disaffiliate and create an entirely local entity.
The prompt removal of the Greek letters from the sorority pediment has left a conspicuous reminder of the impact of this decision. The complete separation of the chapter marks a decided escalation of the issue campus-wide. KD President Jane Chiavelli ’18 offered some insight into the motivations for their decision. Initially, Chiavelli opposed disaffiliation but, upon being elected sorority president, was placed under tremendous pressure from nationals leading her to slowly change her stance. Unlike some other sororities, Chiavelli insists the local KD chapter “never had a bad relationship with nationals.” They were not under probation and had generally been able to work with them.
The trouble came when nationals learned of the local chapter’s discussion of disaffiliation. Chiavelli asserts she was bombarded with emails and texts requesting information. Moreover, nationals repeatedly demanded to skype into all meetings she had with the administration. “It was like big brother,” she stated. The local chapter did make an effort to work with nationals at first but gradually came to feel the organization was not receptive to their requests. Ultimately, the chapter felt that KD nationals did not understand the demands that W&L places on its students and was unwilling to make concessions. The last straw came when nationals sent representatives to the chapter to talk about the important services they offered the local chapter. This reportedly lead many additional members to change camps and back independence.
Thus far, the transition to a local sorority has gone rather smoothly. The KDs were able to remain in their house with the housing corporation terminating the old lease. Much of the support has come from the Department of Student Affairs which is lending its aid to the women in their transition process. Eventually, the new sorority, which will be known simply as “Delta,” will charter as a student organization under University recognition. It will be treated in the same manner as the Outing Club or the College Republicans. The former, which retains the exclusive use of a Davidson Park residence, offers a convenient precedent for the former KDs in that the school will allow them to keep control of their house on Sorority Row.
When asked about the short-term impacts of the decision, Chiavelli insisted they would be minimal. “We’re going to stay a Greek organization. We will still have a GPA requirement and do community service and charity work,” she said. As far as their relationships with other sororities are concerned, there will likely be little change. Delta plans to file for associate membership on the Panhellenic Council and will still conform to the same rush standards as the other sororities. Some small changes will come as the women take greater control of their activities; among these will be the triumphant return of “Wieners at Windfall,” the longstanding charity event shut down by KD nationals last year.
The net effect of disaffiliation seems to have been to generate a tremendous rise in enthusiasm for the group amongst its members. Chapter attendance has increased dramatically while the number of women wearing “Delta” shirts or jackets is higher than it ever was for Kappa Delta. Without the burdens placed on the women by nationals, it is now for them to voluntarily offer their input, which they have readily done.
KD was not the only sorority to consider disaffiliation, however. Both Kappa Kappa Gamma and Alpha Delta Pi held their own votes on the matter. While the latter group voted decisively against any such measure, former Kappa President Pinkney Beal ’17 described more complex developments for their chapter. Unlike KD, Kappa had a longstanding tension with their national organization. Kappa has been on probation for over a year. Despite making every effort to comply with national demands, Beal asserts, the national organization declined to lift the probation, citing the need for a “fundamental cultural shift.” She also expressed the widespread resentment of Kappa policies, which prevents them from organizing sober driving rings among other restrictions on social events. Beal expressed that the national organization doesn’t understand the unique aspects of W&L, a concern shared with the former Kappa Deltas.
Unlike KD, the local KKG chapter chose to vote on an individual basis in which members expressed their personal willingness to disaffiliate rather than hold a binding resolution. While a good number elected to do this, it was not unanimous. The largest hiccup in the process was that the housing corporation refused to terminate their lease, which would have meant abandoning their traditional sorority house. Those that had tendered their resignations to nationals consequently rescinded them, and negotiations remain ongoing. While Beal expressed hope that the local chapter could reconcile with nationals, she was not overly optimistic. Though it may take some time, Kappa could be the next to disaffiliate.
With KD officially out and Kappa on the verge of leaving, the future of national sororities at W&L appears uncertain. When asked about the possibility of more sororities leaving, now-Delta President Jane Chiavelli opined, “I think people want to see what happens to us first.” KD will no doubt serve as the model for any potential action by other sororities in the future. Aware that the eyes of the school are upon them, Chiavelli acknowledged, “We are the first ones to do this. We have to hold ourselves accountable.” With the transition far from complete, there remain many hurdles for the Deltas before they achieve some semblance of normality again.