Just recently, Kappa Alpha Theta released a national statement from their headquarters office, announcing that the Grand Council meeting on July 10th had voted to eliminate preferential treatment of legacies during recruitment.
And I could not be any more proud of this decision.
Through emails, an online petition, and organized listening, the voices of many Thetas nationwide were heard and acknowledged. In order to honor those opinions and emotions, Theta chose to modernize practices regarding legacies.
I personally believe that this is a great step in the right direction.
As a first-generation college student here in America, I definitely did not understand the concept of legacies until my Pi Chis explained it to me during recruitment last year. Legacies are defined as women whose family members were initiated as members of a sorority. This policy often gives automatic points to these young women during recruitment, allowing them to go on to the next round within a specific sorority that the other potential new members (PNMs) do not get.
This policy allows for priority for these young women, although many of those factors allowing for them to become a legacy are beyond their control, such as race, the socioeconomic status of their parents, and more.
At first, I didn’t think too much about this policy, although I do identify as a biracial woman of color and as an immigrant. No one in my family had ever gone to a university in the U.S. before, let alone joined Greek Life, so I was starstruck and excited all the same. At the time, I did not mind that I was not a legacy like one of my friends was, because I trusted the process and hoped that the sisterhood meant for me would still welcome me with open arms, regardless of my family line. And I’m so grateful they did!
But with everything going on these past few months, further examination of the legacy policy has allowed me to rethink my initial take on the matter. Giving legacies priority for a bid adds to the favoring of white women rather than WOC, who historically do not have the same access to Greek Life connections.
As members of Greek Life, we are contributing to a much greater system than we might’ve first thought. We have people looking up to us. We also possess a vast network of accomplished young men and women who we share our organizations with across the country and across history.
Yet, Greek Life on many college campuses here in America is composed of mostly white, upper-class men and women. There is also a great deal of racism historically involving Greek Life.
This is a major problem.
Although it’s easy to say that “my sorority or fraternity is not racist,” if we do not hold ourselves and our own organizations accountable for their intentional or unintentional contributions to a racist system with preferences, then we are only becoming a part of the problem rather than helping to solve it.
Therefore, I’m glad I was able to research and further educate myself (as well as my sisters) about the legacy policy, and how this creates an uninclusive environment, especially for first-generation college students like me, who come from a diverse array of different backgrounds.
The legacy policy in our Greek Life system establishes unequal treatment of potential new members, many of which are interested in rushing and going through the recruitment process to find their perfect fit. The legacy policy gives an unfair advantage and alienates BIPOC, who are historically underrepresented. It’s important to recognize that many PNMs do not come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Some also have not had the opportunity for people in their families to have gotten access to higher education due to race.
Thus, removing barriers such as the legacy policy allows for more equity in terms of socioeconomic status as well as race. It creates a more level playing field, allowing for fairness in terms of receiving points as well as bids from sororities and fraternities.
Diversity, inclusion, and equity are dire in making Greek Life better for all of its members. I am so happy that Theta chose to eliminate the legacy policy. I believe it’s for the best.
Kappa Alpha Theta’s mission is to “help women grow, both intellectually and personally, and access to those opportunities should not depend on generational privilege.”
Although no sorority or fraternity is perfect, it is important to still continue the necessary and challenging conversations of what our different privileges look like, and how we as Greek organizations can become more inclusive and open to as many different people as possible.
Our work here is not yet done, and our progress now will help create a better atmosphere and environment for so many members who will come after us.
Let’s continue to make our voices heard, educate ourselves and each other, and be proactive in taking the proper action to create positive and beautiful change. One policy at a time.
Please check out bit.ly/thetainclusion for more updates on Theta’s actions regarding the efforts on inclusion and diversity within our organization.
Xx, Maria Cieslarczyk
Saint Louis University, Kappa Alpha Theta