Each year during Recruitment I’m reminded of the changing times and the passing years. Elaborate choreographed skits, matching t-shirts, and meticulously crafted names tags have been replaced by thoughtful presentations, chic casual attire and magnetic professionally produced nameplates. ‘Parties’ are now ‘events’ and ‘Rush Guides’ are ‘Panhellenic Counselors.’ And, if I dare call a PNM (Potential New Member) a ‘girl,’ my advisees are quick to correct me with a unison “woman.”
Yet, each Bid Day when the women we chose to share our sisterhood with come running home, my Facebook newsfeed is flooded with statuses and pictures about ‘babies.’ These aren’t the normal pictures of friends’ children that I’m used to seeing plastered all over my favorite social media sites, increasingly so, as the years pass by. In fact, these aren’t babies at all. So, you can imagine my shock and awe when I discovered that they were talking about the WOMEN they just spent that past week recruiting. My mind was blown.
I’m not exactly sure when the trend started, but it has spread like wildfire across our chapters at an alarming rate. The title appears in different forms, ‘Babies,’ ‘Baby Pearls,’ ‘Newbies,’ etc., but it’s all the same. Each is equally demoralizing and a subtle form of hazing, slowly crumbling the foundation on which Sigma Delta Tau was built. We strive to empower women through our programming and leadership development. Our organization provides advantages that our mothers, grandmothers, and founders were not afforded, all within a framework of mutual respect and high ethical standards. Why perpetuate regressive pet-names that women everywhere have worked so hard to fight against?
In an era when everything is expected to be impossibly adorable, it can be difficult to combat this dilemma. Exponentially so, if universities promote the terminology by allowing their Recruitment Counselors to refer to PNMs as ‘Pi Chi Babies’ or when other sororities on campus use similar language. Sometimes, we get trapped in the ‘sorority bubble’ and it is difficult to view things from an outside perspective. Our new members don’t want to be treated like children. They want to cultivate their leadership abilities, expand their horizons and aspire to the “…highest precepts of true womanhood, democracy, and humanity.” And that is what we want for them. We need to stop trying to fit them into tiny, cute little boxes that diminish the value of their accomplishments and destroy their self worth.
Besides, what message are we sending to our newest sisters? Babies are not expected to do anything for themselves. They aren’t capable of rational thought, nor are they held accountable for their actions. They drool, wear diapers, and are constantly covered in boogers and chocolate. Is this the expectation of a Sigma Delta Tau sister? Through our new member education process, we are not only teaching our soon to be sisters about our history and values. We are laying the foundation for their sorority experience. Do we want a chapter of strong, capable leaders prepared to carry on the SDT legacy or a crowd of toddlers?
I challenge our chapters to remove these demeaning nicknames from our vocabulary and start fresh this semester. Let’s abandon all terminology that does not speak to the caliber and maturity of the women we recruit. Let’s serve as role models for our community and set the standard for what is acceptable language. Let’s make this class of SDT new members feel as welcome to our sisterhood as they truly are and let them know they are more than just ‘babies’ in our eyes. They are our sisters.
Blog post by Carley Kramer, Chapter Services Coordinator and National Council member. Carley is a graduate of the Alpha Zeta chapter at the University of Pittsburgh.