“We’re not a cult and there’s no scary rituals” – Founding Sisters
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
The word sorority is generally associated with out-of-control college parties, borderline-tortuous hazing, and embarrassing initiation rituals and as a result, Greek life has a huge stigma attached to it. A group of seven girls at Lakehead University’s Thunder Bay Campus are working towards breaking the traditional sorority stereotypes through LU’S newest sorority, Alpha Pi Phi—K appa Chapter, a name that translates into “love, loyalty and friendship.”
It all began over a year ago when a group of girls came together and founded the Greek Life Interest Association Club through LUSU. The club is open to all LU students who are interested in Greek Life or starting a fraternity or sorority and is where the founding seven sisters of Alpha Pi Phi – Kappa Chapter came together. This sorority, however, is not Lakehead’s first. The Alpha Pi Phi sorority has an Epsilon chapter located at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus which was founded in 2014. The Alpha Pi Phi organization is an international sorority for female-identifying students which was founded in 2009. To date there are 10 chapters, two of which are located in the U.S. Each chapter gets its name from the Greek letter their time of establishment aligns with. Thunder Bay’s chapter is the 10th to be established within the organization and therefore the 10th letter in the Greek alphabet, Kappa, is the chapters assigned name. Abby Viers, the local sorority’s Membership Developing Officer says, “each chapter is their own separate entity, but we all kind of interact with each other and are all governed by same international council,” which is a group made up of sorority alumni.
In order to get chapter status, the group first had to establish what is called a “colony.” “Colony status” for a sorority is essentially a trial period before the international council approves their “chapter status.” This gives interested members the opportunity to fill the necessary positions for a chapter, which in Thunder Bay, includes the President: Zaira Gocatek, Vice President: Shaylee D’Amours, Treasurer: Siobhan Stewart, Secretary: Brianna Beale, External Programming Officer: Josephine Ngo, Membership Developing Officer: Abby Viers, and New Member Support Officer: Cameron Charlton. While in colony status, the group held a public information table and two small fundraisers to raise funds for their establishment as well as the Canadian Alzheimer’s Society, Alpha Pi Phi’s official philanthropic organization. Once granted chapter status, the sorority began their recruitment process in order to welcome more “sisters.”
Alpha Pi Phi has four main “pillars” in which the organization is built on that include leadership, philanthropy, sisterhood, and academics. President of the Kappa chapter, Zaira Gocatek, emphasized that those who are granted “sister status” are individuals who the group feels maintain those four core values in their own life and contribute positively to the sorority and community.
Both Viers and Gocatek agreed that sororities and fraternities have a standing reputation for wild parties, binge drinking, often violence of many forms and bullying. They both feel as though Alpha Pi Phi as an organization challenges those stereotypes and they want to show the Thunder Bay Community that Greek Life in Canada isn’t like the movies. “I think Greek life in Canada is a lot more diverse than it is in the states and our [sorority] is something that’s really different [from those I’ve seen in the states] – but I like that because it’s something that’s for everyone,” Viers says.
A common concern regarding Greek life is hazing – a problem that University’ clubs and teams across Canada has struggled with in the past. Alpha Pi Phi has a strict anti-hazing policy in which they define hazing as “any mental or physical requirement, request, or obligation placed upon any person which could be harmful to the health and/or welfare of the person, is personally degrading to the individual involved, and/or violates any federal, provincial, or municipal laws or University policy.” The policy clearly states that any member found in violation of the hazing policy will be subject to disciplinary action that may include probation or “termination of membership.” In addition, Lakehead University also has a strict hazing policy in which the consequence for violating the policy can include but are not limited to, a warning statement, censuring, probation from extracurricular activities, a fine, compulsory service, reimbursement for damages, academic penalties, suspension, and expulsion from a course, a department/faculty or the University. Viers and Gocatek guarantee that their organization is “tame in terms of partying” in order to stay in line with their sorority’s drug and alcohol policy which lays out rules for members to ensure that the Sorority is not affiliated with out of control alcohol and/or drug use.
Despite the stereotypes regarding hazing in Greek life and LU’s strict hazing policy, Viers and Gocatek say there has not been any concern re-laid to them from the University’s administration. Viers adds, “we’ve had faculty come up to us during some of our promotional events and if anything, they were more than supportive.” When The Argus approached the Upper Administrative offices of the University for their thoughts about the Sorority’s presence there was little opinion as the sorority hadn’t made their radar and they had little information about the new development on Campus. Administration asked for direction as to where they could find information on the Sorority before stating, “as the University is not involved in the approval process of LUSU clubs or organizations, it would not be appropriate to comment.” Although sponsored by the LUSU club, Greek Life Interest Association, Alpha Pi Phi- Kappa Chapter is not a LUSU club and therefore not affiliated with LUSU, but it does identify itself as a Lakehead University Sorority.
For students interested in joining the sorority, Fall RUSH events are currently taking place and there will be a second RUSH in the winter term. These are events where interested students can get information about the requirements of members, meet the current members and make their impressions on the founding sisters. Once the sorority has chosen their new pledging members from all those who expressed interest, they all must then go through a six-week “pledging period” where they attend classes once a week to “learn about the Sorority and all its inner workings. According to Viers and Gocatek, November is when [pledging members] do [their] initiation,” which is a ceremony where the pledging members receive their “Active Sister Status.” Due to the sheer size of the sorority as it stands, Viers says they would have to cut off the number of members they could accept at some point. She adds, “we’re trying to take as many girls as we can and we want [make] as many people feel accepted as we can.”
Gocatek notes, “our biggest road block is being something that is radically brand new to such a small community like this—our best way to tackle on this road block is just to educate for now and promote what we really stand for.” The group plans to do just that through philanthropic involvement with the community and the continuation of demonstrating their values to students and citizens of Thunder Bay. To get more information about Alpha Pi Phi and their upcoming events visit their Instagram and Facebook pages.