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The world that we live in is constantly changing, and with the fast pace of collegiate life and regular additions of new members, your sorority chapter is no exception to this. Whether you are a current member or an alumna who graduated decades past, there was likely a time when a change needed to be made, or someone proposed a change and it introduced a point of contention and conflict. Navigating change can be difficult in any situation, but especially in sororities where our membership spans multiple generations and is supported by our formal and informal traditions of sisterhood. Despite these challenges, finding a balance between tradition and necessary change is important to ensure the longevity of the sorority experience for many generations to come. 

Evaluating Tradition

Just because something has been done, does not mean that it is always the best way or should continue unchecked. As time passes, certain traditions may become outdated or even harmful to outside groups and our own members if we do not address the changing culture and campus communities. All chapters need to regularly reflect on your chapter traditions and think about who they are for, what impact they have and if the impact is still positive. If you find yourself uncomfortable making the decision, it may be time to start a dialogue with your chapter members about establishing new traditions that fall more in line with your goals as an organization. 

Advocating for Change

Change is always difficult, but it can be especially challenging to change a long-rooted tradition. It is likely that you will encounter some pushback from others who do not see the necessity for the change. Some members may be frustrated or stressed about the change or just generally do not care for the conversation. In order to address all of these concerns, remember that big decisions like changes to a longstanding tradition should not be happening without open dialogue with as many members as possible. Even if the ultimate decision lies with one individual, there will be less resistance to the end result if members feel as if they have been appropriately supported, listened to and advocated for during the decision-making process. 

Reviewing resources like the Kubler-Ross Change Curve can help you understand how people typically react to big changes and tailor the decision-making process to that experience. If you find that the change you are undertaking is rather large, or you are experiencing more pushback than anticipated, reach out to your advisors for more support. They may have access to more resources you will find useful or be able to put you in contact with someone who can assist you with guiding the dialogue among your members. 

Traditions are born each year, so don’t be afraid to introduce the idea of a new tradition as well. If an older tradition is no longer serving your chapter, it can be an incredible bonding experience to work with your members to create a new cherished tradition to take its place that can be celebrated by members for years to come. 

Being a Change Agent

The steps to making change happen within your chapter will vary and shift depending on what specific change you are trying to enact, but there are some reliable ways to ensure you are on the right path moving forward. Remember that hearing and interpreting your sister’s feedback will only serve to strengthen your ultimate decision-making. 

  • Step 1: Identify a need or desire within the chapter.
  • Step 2: Gather your team – whether they are leaders, advisors, committee members or general members who will assist you in leading the feedback process, or will support you as you work through this change.
  • Step 3: Develop your plan.
  • Step 4: Determine the best way to gather information. Feedback is important, but so is how you get that feedback, so think about the method that you will gather your sister’s thoughts.
  • Step 5:  Gather feedback.
  • Step 6: Re-evaluate your plan with gathered feedback.
  • Step 7: Depending on the complexity of the situation you are trying to tackle, this step may vary. This may be the time where you present your final plan to the chapter and move forward to adopt it. If you are working through a more difficult change this may be a good time to return back to your chapter for an additional round of feedback before moving forward.

Written by Baelee Whelburg

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