Alpha Phi commences colonization

Molly Johanson

First-year Julie Peterson admits that she signed up to rush because she wanted free food. Fortunately, she found more than food. She is one of this year’s 70 new members of Whitman’s established women’s fraternities, Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Gamma and Kappa Kappa Gamma.   A record high of 130 girls signed up to rush this semester.

Credit: Marie von Hafften

This Friday, Sept. 30, Alpha Phi, Whitman’s brand new women’s fraternity, will have its bid night, which will be the culminating event in the year-long process of adding this new group to campus.

“We are super excited. It’s been a long process since we were invited last fall,” said Allie Winkelman, a recent Lake Forest College grad and education leadership consultant for Alpha Phi who will be on campus all year.

Even though Alpha Phi recruitment occurs after regular recruitment, it has the same kind of schedule. There is an activity day, a philanthropy day and a tea day all prior to bid night.

Credit: Marie von Hafften

“I wish [Alpha Phi rush] had been at the same time as the other sororities,” said first-year Mia Tabbutt, who is rushing Alpha Phi. She expressed that it was stressful having to turn down a bid from another women’s fraternity during regular recruitment in the hopes of getting into Alpha Phi.

According to Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell, having a separate recruitment schedule for the new women’s fraternity is the standard procedure. This is because there would be no current members of Alpha Phi at Whitman to participate in recruitment, and it wouldn’t be realistic to bring members from other schools. By having a separate recruitment, potential members of Alpha Phi get a more realistic view of what being in Alpha Phi at Whitman will be like.

While the other women’s fraternities enforced a recruitment cap of no more than 25 new members, Alpha Phi is hoping for around 65 new members. They plan to add members as the semester continues.

Alex Woodward, president of the Panhellenic Association at Whitman, says the goal of the recruitment cap is to make pledge classes smaller to ensure each girl gets a quality Greek experience.

According to Maxwell, ever since 2005 when the Delta Delta Delta women’s fraternity left Whitman, the size of the three remaining woman’s fraternities steadily increased.

This desire to keep pledge classes small is actually what spurred the decision to invite Alpha Phi to campus.

“[Panhellenic] wants everyone to thrive, which is the reason for the quota,” said junior Autumn Knutson, Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment.

Credit: Marie von Hafften

Alpha Phi is scheduled to move into Prentiss next year, in what is currently the mixed class Alice section. According to Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Nancy Tavelli, this shouldn’t have a big effect on first-year housing for next year, but it might have an impact for sophomores. The college will still be housing the same number of people, and because of the anticipated smaller size of woman’s fraternities, the balance between first-year and sophomore sections should even out.

Out of three contenders, Alpha Phi was chosen as the new women’s fraternity by the Panhellenic Association and a faculty vote because of its previous history at Whitman. An Alpha Phi chapter existed at Whitman between 1948 and 1979 and there are still many alumni in the area to support the women’s fraternity at Whitman.

There has also been a range of support from the Greek system itself.

“It’s great to see the rest of the Greek community – all seven of us – come together to support Alpha Phi,” said Woodward.

The established women’s fraternities have shown their support in the form of large, colorful posters in Reid. These women’s fraternities also plan to attend the Alpha Phi bid night.

The fraternities have shown support in the form of recommending girls to join Alpha Phi on a causal, individual basis.

Also, during the event planning for the rest of the semester, the Greek community incorporated Alpha Phi into their upcoming functions.

Some students have reservations about the effectiveness of Alpha Phi’s introduction into the Whitman community.

According to Winkelman, Alpha Phi has been colonizing (the term for the introduction of a new women’s fraternity) a lot of schools lately, so they are used to the process.

“It helps that Alpha Phi brought great swag,” said Woodward, referring to the colorful blue pens and sunglasses that have been available at the Alpha Phi table in Reid.

Winkelman believes that there are benefits to joining a brand-new women’s fraternity.

“Being a founding member of a sorority is different than joining an established one in that there are leadership opportunities right away.”

First-year Alex Schnabel, who is rushing Alpha Phi, agrees.

“In [Alpha Phi], you can create the sorority around your personality,” she said.

Maxwell expressed a lot of excitement about the introduction of Alpha Phi.

“I’ve heard it described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience,” she said. “but a college lifetime is four years. What [Alpha Phi] does this year will set traditions for the next 20 or 50 years. It is a unique opportunity.”