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Increase in sorority total seen as an opportunity for Greek women

Correction: Originally, the article stated that the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) was in charge of membership in chapters; the Panhellenic Association is in charge of membership and increased the membership total, and there are 26 organizations in the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), not National Pan-Hellenic Conference. The article also originally stated Phi Mu owned a house at the UW, but Chi Mu is the NPC chapter that owns a UW house.

UW sorority houses may soon be filled with new members as sorority chapter recruitment continues to grow.

The Panhellenic Association (Panhellenic), which is in charge of membership in chapters across the country, recently increased the encouraged total for UW sororities. With the growing interest in sorority life, houses are attempting to grow pledge classes, and Panhellenic is considering opening a new UW chapter.

Panhellenic increased the membership total for each sorority from 100 to 109 on Oct. 19, allowing sororities to continue recruiting if they haven’t met that number. Some reasons for the growth include hopes to evenly distribute membership in the sororities as well as efforts to gain enough recruits to begin a new sorority house.

If the UW shows a significant growth of interest in sorority life, Panhellenic will recommend opening a new sorority chapter at the UW.

“It’s showing that [the UW has] a lot of interest in Greek life, which is also why we expand chapters,” said Allie Goodman, vice president of recruitment for the UW Panhellenic Association.

The increase in UW interest in pledging, Goodman said, is apparent with the quota increase from 32 to 37 per pledge class in each house — the quota is dependent on how many new members there are at the end of formal recruitment the night before Bid Day at the beginning of each academic year.

This year, 713 women signed up for recruitment, 100 more than last year.

The Panhellenic exploratory committee is looking at the idea of beginning a new chapter at the UW. David Hotz, an adviser for UW Panhllenic, said no decision has been made so far, and that the first step is for the campus group to make a recommendation to add another chapter.

If the recommendation is accepted by current Panhellenic houses at the UW, then national sorority organizations not already present at the UW can submit an application to be considered as a new addition to the university’s Greek community.

“[We want to] have room for all those women who want to join our organizations,” Goodman said.

Of the 26 National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) chapters, 17 are already present at the UW. Alpha Omicron Pi and Chi Mu are possible new chapters, and both already have houses at the UW that closed after they were unable to sustain their memberships previously.

The median number of women in UW sorority chapters hovers around 109, and the chapters that have a membership of less than 109 look to recruit new members with continuous open bidding throughout the year.

Sorority memberships depend on yearly quotas for new pledge classes and the total number of people per house. This year the total increased to even up the membership between sororities — chapters previously had a wide range of membership counts, a range of about 30 — and encouraging chapters to increase totals to 109 will make the chapters more even.

One potential difficulty for some chapters is finding enough room to accommodate the new members. Sorority houses have an average number of 91 beds per house, and those with memberships exceeding the capacity of their houses have their sisters live out, sleep in annexes, or reside in other accommodations set in place.

“We actually don’t really see it as a challenge; we more see it as an opportunity,” UW Panhellenic President Lesley Schreiber said, excited to welcome more women into the chapters.

Goodman said sororities have the goal of reaching both the quota and the total, but the national Panhellenic organization does not require all chapters to meet the total number. She said that, if a new sorority house opens, the total would decrease again and place less pressure on the current sorority chapters to increase their memberships.

“There’s no rule that says that they have to have 109 members, but National prefers them to have 109,” Goodman said. “[Pan-Hellenic allows chapters] to recruit as many people as you’re able.”

Alpha Gamma Delta member Devin Pearsall, a sophomore, said some of her sorority senior members live out of the house due to space constraints, but also because they wanted to live out and gain more independence from the house. Her house also has many members studying abroad and some seniors graduating early, allowing more space for new members.

“Luckily we won’t have problems that some other chapters are going to have with space,” Pearsall said. “[With] the flux of people coming in and out, it won’t be a huge deal.”

Goodman said sororities want new members to live in the house in order to become a part of the community, become involved, and gain leadership positions. Those who have already lived in the house for years tend to live out and become more independent from their sororities before graduating.

Reach Features Editor Hayat Norimine at news@dailyuw.com.

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