Valpo’s Fraternity and Sorority Life is preparing to open its arms to a new sorority. Zeta Phi Beta, a historically African American sorority, will join Kappa Alpha Psi and Sigma Lambda Gamma (SLG) as one of three cultural fraternities and sororities on campus this spring.
Zeta Phi Beta was founded in 1920 at Howard University. The sorority promotes scholarship, service, sisterhood and finer womanhood. There are currently over 800 chapters in five different regions of the world.
“Zeta is a wonderful organization. It absolutely matches the values of our institution and our current sorority community around scholarship and service,” said Carolyn Whittier, Associate Dean of Students. “One of their pieces is called finer womanhood and it's very similar to just building confidence in women and wanting, you know, women to be strong and support one another and things like that,”
The majority of sororities on Valpo’s campus are members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). These chapters include Alpha Gamma Delta, Chi Omega, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Pi Beta Phi. Zeta Phi Beta is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) which is made up of nine historically African American sororities, often called the Divine Nine.
The goal is for Zeta Phi Beta to begin the formal recruitment process in the spring of 2022. Earlier plans to begin the founding of a chapter last spring were pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a national moratorium in the fall. Meetings have already begun to gage interest in starting a chapter on campus as soon as possible.
“So technically, a chapter needs to have eight or more members in order to be fully active on campus. But in an effort to support the establishment of culturally based groups, we are allowing the graduate chapter to make those decisions,” Whittier said. “So for example, Kappa Alpha Psi started with six and that was great… We're waiting to hear from Zeta Phi Beta, how many women will be in the inaugural kind of class that crosses into the chapter.”
Support in creating the chapter is coming from the graduate Zeta Phi Beta chapter of East Chicago, Indiana. These women are sponsoring the efforts and are making the majority of decisions for how the chapter will be run.
Similarly to Sigma Lambda Gamma, Zeta Phi Beta will participate only in the first round of primary recruitment, Campus Involvement Round. Women interested in joining will complete an application and further interview steps that differ from NPC recruitment.
“We do that because we want to make sure that every woman who is considering joining a sorority knows all of her options, and not just some of her options and so, moving forward and recruitment in 2022, Zeta will participate the same way that SLG does in the first round, then they'll withdraw, then they'll have their own informational application and interview process,” Whittier said.
The inclusion of a historically African American sorority coincides with a greater focus on diversity throughout Valpo.
“To have our community be as old as it is, and to not have ever had a historically African American story on campus is disappointing, confounding, odd...,” Whittier said. “We just want to make sure that we are not impeding anybody's ability to join a fraternity or sorority and some students will come to campus and only want to join a historically African American group or only want to join one of our traditional groups. And that's okay. We want to make sure we're offering the full diverse array of options so students have the ultimate kind of choice in their own experience.”
While NPHC sororities are typically joined by women of color and NPC are more traditionally white, the goal of expanding campus options is not to create further division.
While women of any race can become members of any of the sororities on campus, having a variety of options is important because each group offers a different experience. “Women join other women... They want to be in organizations, with their friends. So as we continue to have important conversations on campus, in our state in our country, and then also in our fraternity and sorority community around race… it's an important part of the dialogue, we need to be better, we need to be doing more...to make sure that we have members who are creating environments that are welcoming and safe for all students,” Whittier said.
Women who are interested in joining Zeta Phi Beta or seeking more information can reach out to Carrie Whittier or the East Chicago graduate chapter.