Birth of a Sorority: Unrecognized sorority struggles to gain appreciation

Andre Augustine

On April 15, 2011, junior Jessica Robbins was rushed to the hospital from Lawrence after seriously breaking her leg. Without any of her family there to take care of her, one would have thought she would be alone to endure that situation; however, her sisters were there to support her.

The girls of the African American sorority, Christian-based Beta Psi Nu quickly rushed to Robbins’ aid, wearing their crush and cream jackets to show their sister that they were there to support her as sisters. However, since that tragic accident, rumors about Beta Psi Nu spread concerning the purpose of the organization.

“People will use anything against us to make us look odd,” said Robbins. “They would see them wearing their jackets and helping me out, and they would say ‘what is wrong with you guys?’ and I would say, ‘those are my sisters’.”

Despite outside skeptcism, the sisterhood has remained closely knit for the four years it has been on campus.

Beta Psi Nu is a predominantly African American sorority that was established in 2009 in Green Bay by 17 founders, nine of which are Lawrence alumni, and others who were from  schools such as the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. It branched off from the fraternity Beta Psi Omega, which was founded in 1968.

“When the founders came on the Lawrence campus, they felt isolated and they felt different and felt like they weren’t appreciated or celebrated by the Lawrence community,” said sophomore and secretary Brienne Colston. “When they approached by the Beta Omega president, they grabbed onto it as soon as possible.”

Most of the girls expressed that there was a need for a group in which people understood their experiences and their differences, so as a result, they helped start the organization Beta Psi Nu, which is currently functioning on a couple of campuses in Wisconsin, with Beta Psi Omega constitutionally bound as their brothers.

Although the group may be functioning at Lawrence, they are currently not a recognized organization at Lawrence or on the Panhellenic Council, which houses the three other sororities on campus, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Kappa Gamma.

“One of the main reasons why we can’t be recognized as a sorority is because we’re not national yet,” said senior and president Katrina Boston “Lawrence would only be able to recognize us as a sorority if we were national.”

Another contributing factor that hinders them from becoming recognized on this campus is the fact that they would also have to change some of the foundational aspects of their sorority.

“Being recognized at Lawrence would mean that we would have to be like the other sororities,” said Colson, “which means that we would have to change our structure, and we don’t want to do that because it’s part of our tradition.”

One of the main things that they would have to get rid of is formal pledging, a process that girls have to go through before becoming recognized as members of Beta Psi Nu.

“We pledge as a way to figure out what kind of girls we want in the sorority. We want women who are confident and strong,” Boston said. “And we want girls to want the same things as we want and not want to be in the group for just a name.”

In addition to this, the pledging process also helps the girls build the sisterhood that the sorority bases itself upon.

“Instead of just signing a paper and paying dues, we actually try to go through something together,” said Robbins.

Although the girls face some struggles in becoming officially recognized, they are aware that there are many advantages to formal recognition; for example, minority women on campus would know that there is a place where they can feel welcome.

“We would be able to pledge girls during bid seasons,” said Boston. “While Lawrence is a diverse campus, it can be homogenous at times. [Beta Psi Nu] will give women of color a place to feel welcomed.”

“While we may be closely associated with some of the cultural clubs at Lawrence, such as BOS, ACC and VIVA, we are more than just a club, we’re a sisterhood,” said Colston.

Sophomore Alysa Bennet shared how this sisterhood has made her experience at Lawrence so much more worthwhile, being supported by that same level of sisterhood that supported Robbins. “Everyone needs that support system to help make that college transition much easier,” said Bennet. “Freshman year was rough for me because I was taking a lot of classes. But the sisterhood, and having people there, makes a difference.”

Because Beta Psi Nu is not officially recognized on campus, they are not able to advertise events on campus; however, they try as much as they can to stay involved within the Lawrence and Appleton community and develop a sisterhood. They are planning on working with different organizations in the area including the Boys and Girls Club, Harbor House and Glamor Gals.

“Since we are limited by what we can do, we focus on serving as a support system,” said Bennet. “We plan study groups and sisterhood nights, where we can just bond with each other.”

Their larger goal is to try to expand Beta Psi Nu from just a Wisconsin sorority into a national sorority, and sharing that same level of sisterhood past the Lawrence campus.

“We want to spread to historically Black colleges and universities and all the way to the East Coast,” said Boston. “However, we can’t do that if Lawrence does not give us a chance.”

As Beta Psi Nu continues their goals in becoming a recognized sorority locally and nationally, their sisterhood will still persist between the girls. The girls are still looking for new recruits and for ways in which they can fulfill their mission to empower women of color and spread their philanthropy into the community.

“The hardest thing about actually being in a sorority is the names that they attached to us,” said Robbins. “But at the end of the day, we’re still a sisterhood. I love being a Beta, and I wear my colors proud. So recognized or unrecognized, I will always have their backs.”