At Millsaps College, 57 percent of students are members of the nine existing sororities and fraternities.
In spring 2011, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Lambda Iota chapter, was banned from the Millsaps College campus due to an incident involving hazing. Their ban required the organization to remove itself from the campus for four years. In 2012, the Delta Sigma Theta national headquarters disbanded The Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Rho Tau chapter, saying “Millsaps could not sustain the chapter.” In 2012, the last on-campus member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Omicron Gamma chapter, graduated. It currently has no undergraduate members. This leaves Millsaps College with no active historically black sororities, and only one historically black fraternity.
Sophomore Courtney Warner is one of several women on campus working to restart black sororities, “It’s really important to us. It’s a great opportunity. It’s a bonding experience,” Warner says. “We have been told that I can join an existing sorority, but that’s not where I fit in. They [existing sororities] do have African Americans in those chapters, but for a lot of African Americans we want to have our own.”
In their pursuit to restart an all-black sorority, Warner and others have already faced many roadblocks. The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority Lambda Iota chapter, founded in 1977, is under a sanction that can be reviewed in the fall of 2015, allowing a new class to join in spring 2016. The ban is placed on the AKA chapter by the school. Earlier attempts to have the ban lifted were not successful.
After a study conducted by Delta Sigma Theta regional officers, the Rho Tau chapter was retired due to inactivity and an inability to obtain members. In the four years leading up to its retirement, the Rho Tau chapters’ membership dropped from nine to zero members.
The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is still an active chapter on Millsaps campus, though it currently has no members. It is the only remaining Greek chapter on campus that is allowed to have members from other schools in the surrounding area.“We have had issues with non-Millsaps students being a part of chapters because we have no jurisdiction on them. Mississippi College and Belhaven do not recognize their greek affiliation. In the past, we have allowed that for all groups, but we have realized the issues that have come into when you have judicial cases and you have no jurisdiction over those members,” Megan James, director of greek life, says. Future chapters will have to be Millsaps-based and Millsaps students only. In order for a chapter to restart, they need at least seven members.
Warner sees the necessity of having at least two chapters on campus. AKA is the first black sorority, founded in 1908; it has a popular draw because it was the first. “I think if we have both and people are educated about both, then people can make a decision about which sorority is best for them,” Warner says.
James agrees, “Having not only the option but also having the choice of what organization fits the individual student the best. Because —just like any sorority or fraternity—there are common threads, common missions but each organization has a different purpose and a different philanthropy and a different set of ideals. That gives the student the opportunity to find the group that aligns best with their personal goals as well.”