Birth of a Sorority: Possibility of recognition presents pros and cons

Megan Farrer

Obtaining recognition as a sorority at Lawrence has been a struggle for members of Beta Psi Nu. Lawrence has strong and long-standing institutions that make the formation of a new type of group, like Beta Psi Nu, complicated.

Student groups can be officially recognized at Lawrence in one of two ways: either as a student organization by LUCC, or as a Greek organization by the Panhellenic Council. Each type of group has different rights and restrictions. For the members of Beta Psi Nu to be recognized, they would have to identify completely as either a student organization or a Greek organization. Doing so, however, would violate some of the traditions of the sorority.

Four years ago, when Beta Psi Nu first spoke with the Campus Life Office about obtaining recognition, they were clear about what they wanted. They wanted to be called a Greek organization, but not partake in Panhellenic council.

“What they came in with was this pre-established ‘no, this is our group and we want to take the pieces of being a group that makes the most sense for us and we want the pieces of being Greek that makes the most sense for us, but we really don’t want all of either of those two pieces’,” said Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Life Curt Lauderdale.

Obtaining recognition as an official Greek organization, for any group at Lawrence, has to happen at the national level rather than the local level.

“They would have to work with our Panhellenic council here at school to see if there’s a way for them to get associated with a national group that’s already a part of the conference. Or to get in touch with the national Panhellenic conference to see how they could start a national chapter of Beta Psi Nu, but that would have to happen through the national group, that wouldn’t necessarily be at Lawrence,” said Rose Wasielewski, student organization coordinator for Campus Life.

There are several reasons why national recognition is a requirement for sororities at Lawrence. The tradition of having nationally-recognized sororities on campus and the convenience of keeping existing agreements in place contribute to Campus Life’s position.

“We really do have evidence that sororities have always had national chapters, and I think we’re very intentional about wanting to keep that, partially because of the agreements that are already out there,” Lauderdale said.

Lawrence can also more easily support fraternities and sororities that are organized nationally than those that are not part of the Panhellenic system.

“Greek life has a lot of things that go to it. Whether that be positions, rituals, networking, the brother- or sisterhood that goes with that, all of that is supported very well through the national organizations,” Lauderdale said.

Fairness is another issue for Campus Life. All Greek organizations must be held to the same standards.

“If we have organizations that are using the same terminology, [and] say they’re going to be Greek organizations, they really should be held to the same standards here,” Lauderdale said. “One shouldn’t get an advantage or disadvantage within that name group just because they’re not following the same set of rules.”

Beta Psi Nu and other sororities wishing to obtain recognition from Lawrence must begin by obtaining national recognition, either by associating with an existing sorority or by trying to get recognized themselves. This process could begin at any point.

“It’s going to take some time, but starting the process could certainly happen within the term I’m sure. At least getting the conversation going,” Wasielewski said.

Until Beta Psi Nu becomes recognized as a national sorority, there are other options that would allow them to function as a group on campus. They could become an official student organization through LUCC. According to senior Katrina Boston, president of Beta Psi Nu, this is a process the group is considering. This option, however, requires some sacrifices.

In order to be recognized as a student organization, Beta Psi Nu would have to drop their Greek name, which the girls are willing to do. Instead of being a Greek sorority, they would be a “women of color empowerment group,” Boston said.

Recognition as a campus group by LUCC comes with many benefits. As a student organization, Beta Psi Nu would be able to use campus facilities as well as apply for funding through LUCC finance committee. It is also necessary to be an official student organization in order to use the Lawrence University name.

“You really can’t say you are a Lawrence chapter of fill-in-the-blank unless you’ve been officially recognized, either by LUCC as a student organization or by being a part of a national chapter that’s recognized by Panhellenic council here on campus,” Lauderdale said.

Being a student organization does not prohibit Beta Psi Nu from having a recruitment process similar to that of a sorority, or being selective in their membership. If the members decide to be selective in their membership, however, they may encounter problems obtaining money from LUCC finance committee.

“It doesn’t have to be open to all of the Lawrence community,” said Lauderdale. “The one small caveat that comes with that is their ability to get funding through LUCC. LUCC will only give funding to things that everybody in the community has the opportunity to participate in.”

For all student groups the same rules apply. Recognition as either a student organization or a Greek organization is necessary for a group to function effectively on campus. Unfortunately for Beta Psi Nu, becoming a recognized group requires some sacrifices.

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