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The addition of new sorority Kappa Delta will mark the first time in 30 years that a sorority has joined Brown’s Greek system.

Originally small organizations within Pembroke College — the University’s former women’s school — sororities have a history that reaches almost as far back as Pembroke itself.


Unique Greek 

The team involved in selecting Kappa Delta as the newest sorority included Assistant Director of Summer and Special Programs Kate Tompkins, Greek Council Chair Tommy Fink ’13 and Panhellenic Council President Lena Weiss ’13. All three said they were impressed with Kappa Delta’s knowledge of the Brown community and the existing sorority culture in particular.

“It’s very different from, I think, most other schools that have sorority systems,” Weiss said. “It’s a lot more laid-back, both in terms of how we operate, recruitment process and pretty much everything.”

Maggie Johnson ’16, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She said her friends who went to Southern universities found sorority life to be much more intense, and the rush process more rigid.

“Hearing about their rush stuff sounded really intense and kind of insane,” she said. “At Brown it was comforting to see that it was natural. It was more about being yourself and finding a place where you fit in than conforming to a certain stereotype.”

Tompkins said sorority culture on campus is more a result of student direction than an attempt by the University to cultivate any specific principles in the Greek system.

“We allow the Greek community to shape themselves, whereas if you look at Greek institutions in other systems, it’s very rigid,” she said. “(That) doesn’t fit with the culture here.”

Kappa Delta’s national leadership will start recruitment later this month once both Theta and Alpha Chi Omega are finished with their recruitment season. They will select the chapter’s leadership from the recruited members, Tompkins said.

“This specific recruiting process will likely bring in more rising seniors and rising juniors as an opportunity to take a leadership position and to really be part of the base of establishing this chapter,” she said.

Weiss said one common frustration with the current Greek system  is that the two existing sororities do not have space to offer bids to every student who shows interest — a problem Weiss said she hopes Kappa Delta will fix.

“We want everyone who’s interested to find somewhere where they want to be,” she said. “We shouldn’t be turning people away.”

Though they said they are excited that Kappa Delta will relieve some of the pressure of high applicant loads, Weiss and Tompkins said there are currently no plans to expand beyond the addition of Kappa Delta.

It’s “too soon to tell where this will go,” Weiss said.


Starting sisterhood

The first sorority at Brown, Alpha Beta, was formed in 1893, two years after the Women’s College was founded. Its initial constitution stated, “The object of (the) society shall be to promote the mental and moral development of its members and to further social intercourse.”

Alpha Beta’s first president was Mary Emma Woolley 1894 — the namesake of Woolley Hall — who eventually went on to become the 11th president of Mount Holyoke College.

One of the organization’s major focal points was forming bonds of sisterhood through reading plays, a tradition that eventually led to a yearly staged performance. The first such Alpha Beta Play was “Twelfth Night” in 1896, followed by “As You Like It” the following year.

According to Encyclopedia Brunoniana, the number of sororities increased until 1911, when Pembroke’s Executive Committee voted to disband all Greek organizations in the college.

“In our opinion, the multiplication of exclusive self-perpetuating societies and their permanent control by exterior organizations would be deleterious to the welfare of the College,” the Committee wrote in its 1911 report.

The Committee voted to bar sororities from accepting new members, and the sororities were discontinued once their final members graduated.

“The class of 1912 leaves wishing … a happy year for the few who are left to keep up the name of Alpha Beta in college,” wrote secretary Ollie Randall 1912 in Alpha Beta’s 1911-1912 Annual Report.

Though Alpha Beta and other sororities ceased to have a presence at Pembroke College, Alpha Beta alums continued to meet until at least the mid-1960s, when the sorority held its 70th-anniversary celebration.

“Though sororities no longer exist at Pembroke, Alpha Beta has gone down in history as having contributed something of real value to the University and the community,” said Lillie McIntire in her address at the event.

A new sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, was chartered in the spring of 1974 by 14 black women in the newly gender-integrated College, The Herald reported at the time. Alpha Kappa Alpha still exists today as a non-residential sorority.

“The girls have formed a colony since last semester,” one of AKA’s national officers told The Herald at the time.

Two other black sororities, Delta Sigma Theta and Sigma Gamma Rho, were also founded around this time, but eventually became defunct, according to Encyclopedia Brunoniana.

AXO, Brown’s oldest currently active sorority, was founded in 1979.  Theta was formed four years later.


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