Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporter
Dec. 10, 2013
UAF’s only sorority, Tri-Sigma, is facing the looming possibility of a shutdown by semester’s end due to years of struggling membership.
Psychology student Danielle Bouton,
wearing a dark grey pullover with the sorority’s Greek letters stitched in royal purple, spoke about the chapter’s history, as the clubs’ seven members sat around her in 413 Gruening last Tuesday.
According to the Tri-Sigma national headquarters, the sorority should have at least 30 members. But the club hasn’t had more than 10 members for years, according to Bouton and UAF and Tri-Sigma alum and chapter adviser, Sarah Schortz.
“We understand that Alaskans are not big joiners; we don’t like being told what to do or think,” Bouton said in an email a few days earlier.
Due to the chapter’s lack
of membership, especially in the last two years, the chapter is approximately $5,000 in debt . A change in the national bylaws a few years ago, required chapters who don’t meet the quota to still pay for the amount of money they would make in dues if they did.
If they continue to struggle to find new members, they face the possibility of a shutdown by the national headquarters. If the chapter is shutdown, it is unclear what will happen to the debt.
Initiated members of Tri Sigma are required to pay a $200 service fee per semester. Women who are interested in joining can still participate in the sorority before being initiated. Aside from the fee, eligibility requirements include a minimum 2.5 GPA, taking at least one credit at UAF and actively participating in the community.
“A woman who joins should be someone of character,” Bouton said.
The fee covers the costs of fundraisers, the two websites the chapter is required to maintain and membership training.
The sorority shut down briefly three years ago due to low membership, Bouton said. The chapter officials sent a charter to the national headquarters requesting the chapter be officially terminated. Headquarters refused to accept the charter and wanted the chapter to continue trying.
“We have a really good support system,” Bouton said.
Bouton said that despite the pressure
from the national Tri Sigma, the headquarters has supported the group. For the past two years, they’ve sent a national representative to UAF to help the sorority increase their membership. Despite this, the chapter continues to struggle. Chapter members also speak with representatives from the national headquarters every week to discuss the current state of the chapter.
Since the chapter has focused primarily on membership recruitment, they haven’t hosted as many events as they would like to.
“You can’t do a lot without a lot of members,” Bouton said.
Sociology student Brittany Luckman suggested that the associations people have with the word “sorority” might discourage women from joining.
Members say the sorority offers a sense of family and community. Political Science student Allyssia Garcia described the sorority as a home away from home.
Garcia, who is also a member of the co-ed fraternity Alphi Phi Omega, said that in Tri Sigma, “Everyone gets heard.” She also discussed how the chapter’s small size make it more personable and manageable.
If Tri Sigma is shut down, there will no longer be a sorority at UAF.
“It will lose strong women leaders,” Grace said.