Effective spring 2014, UM freshmen interested in joining a sorority will have more options.
The Panhellenic Council at the University of Miami approved Chi Omega’s application to recolonize at UM.
Though plans to undergo Panhellenic extension have been in the works for approximately three years, action began this year.
According to Panhellenic Association President Caitlin Giles, the popularity of Greek life on campus has grown exponentially.
“Since I was a freshman, our numbers in recruitment have doubled,” she said. “Almost 500 people go through recruitment. This year we’re expecting close to 600. There are only seven sororities, so you could tell how large our chapters are becoming. Since we don’t have houses, we can’t really accommodate chapters that are that large.”
According to Tony Lake, associate dean of students and director of judicial affairs, an “extension committee” composed of one current undergraduate student and one alumni advisor from each of the seven sororities on campus, came together to discuss how to better expand.
The committee decided to publish a statement in the national Panhellenic newsletter inviting organizations to apply.
Out of the 26 Panhellenic sororities in the nation, UM received 13 applications, according to Giles.
During the past summer, several organizations visited campus. They then submitted information packets that, according to Lake, “formally announced their interest in becoming a part of our community.”
The committee then selected three finalists – Alpha Phi, Chi Omega and Gamma Phi Beta. At the start of the semester, the three groups visited campus. They participated in interviews, gave presentations and interacted with community members. After, the committee recommended Chi Omega return to campus and recolonize.
“The University of Miami Panhellenic Association is happy to announce the return of Chi Omega Women’s Fraternity,” Lake said. “Chi Omega has a proud history of having been a part of the Hurricane family for many years previously and is excited about their pending recolonization.”
On Tuesday night, members from the Panhellenic Association’s seven sororities unanimously cast a vote and approved the extension committee’s recommendation.
According to Lake, Chi Omega officially accepted the offer Wednesday morning.
Giles said that advisors from Chi Omega will visit campus in fall 2013 to participate in informal recruitment. This means that Chi Omega will run recruitment during the fall on their own, and “not through Panhellenic,” Giles said.
Though freshman cannot rush until spring, upperclassmen will have the opportunity to join the sorority in the fall and later conduct formal recruitment for freshmen during spring 2014.
“They will be able to be founding members of this sorority, and that’s a really cool experience,” Giles said. “I think a lot of upperclassmen will benefit from the opportunity. It’s a huge leadership role to create a new sorority from scratch.”
Additionally, Chi Omega will be given access to a suite in the campus’s Panhellenic Building.
“The big obstacle to expansion was that there were no suites,” Giles said. “We didn’t want to have an imbalance of not having a sorority with a suite since there’s only seven of us, so we were able to work with higher administrators to reclaim two suites that were other offices to other buildings.”
The Multiethnic Greek Council, composed of historically multi-ethnic groups, will have a suite so they can host meetings and “hang out,” according to Giles.
“We couldn’t give each of those organizations their own, but we gave one for the councils,” she said.
The second suite will be for Chi Omega, which will be allowed to redesign it.
UM’s Greek life last expanded in 2004, when the Alpha Delta Pi sorority was added to campus. Administrators and students alike offered welcoming remarks for the new chapter coming to campus.
Giles and Danielle Landau, vice president of administration for Panhellenic, expressed similar sentiments.
“I think we were very lucky in that everyone at the extension committee meeting was very much interested in the same things for our community: a group that would fit in well with this type of a campus and this type of a city,” Landau said. “They were all great candidates, so it was really just picking the best of the best.”
Giles is excited for an increase in service at UM.
“[Chi Omega’s] mission statement is ‘sisters inspired by our values who serve the world while keeping Chi Omega ever at heart,’ and the UM Greek life can only be strengthened through this kind of service,” Giles said.
Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs, looks forward to the addition.
“We are excited to welcome a new sorority to campus,” Whitely said. “Interest in sorority life has increased over the last few years and a recognized national group will provide another opportunity for our female students to engage, experience and be involved in the many positive aspects of Greek life.”
Landau believes it will further enhance the Greek presence on campus.
“I think it’ll just bring the Greek community higher,” she said. “I think that on campus we’re leaders, and we are a strong group of women. Having another chapter here will just show another side of us, that we’re a group of women who can lead and be confident on campus.”