Baylor reinstates Sigma Gamma Rho

MJ Routh | Multimedia Journalist

By Maya Butler | Reporter

The Greek letters of Sigma Gamma Rho, a historically African-American sorority, have returned to Baylor’s campus this fall.

The national sorority’s chapter at Baylor, Xi Chi, was chartered in 1996 and served as a part of Baylor greek life under the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) until 2003, when they deactivated due to low membership. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that the possibility of reinstating the sorority would come up.

According to the sorority’s national website, their mission statement is “to enhance the quality of life for women and their families in the U.S. and globally through community service, civil and social action.”

Alta Vann, a graduate of Sam Houston State University, joined Sigma Gamma Rho as a sophomore in college. Her senior year, she served as president of the university’s chapter and now serves as president of the graduate chapter, Alpha Rho Sigma.

“I came to Waco via a job,” Vann said. “I found the local chapter that was here, Alpha Rho Sigma at the time, and I joined them and throughout the course of a couple of years, I started to take on more leadership roles, and one of those was the advisor to the chapter that was here.”

Vann served as the chapter’s advisor for the next three years before it deactivated.

In 2012, Vann was contacted by Baylor University about possibly reinstating the chapter once again.

“Initially, the university contacted us because people were going to them asking about a chapter, and if they’d heard of Sigma Gamma Rho — if there was ever going to be a chapter,” Vann said.

However, communication between the sorority and the university didn’t go too far the first time around.

“It was six years ago that the initial contact was made, and then it kind of died out,” Vann said. “We just kind of lost touch — they weren’t contacting us, we weren’t contacting them, life happens, and maybe three years after that, we said, ‘Ok, we got to do this now,’ because at the time, there weren’t a lot of NPHC organizations at Baylor.”

Ashley Fitzpatrick, advisor and assistant director of Greek life, explained in an email the process behind the decision to reach out to Sigma Gamma Rho.

“Ideally, the NPHC at each university would include all of the established organizations given the chapters prove to be sustainable, healthy and beneficial to the council, and university student body,” Fitzpatrick said. “Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. would be a valuable asset to the NPHC community at Baylor University, and since 2012 we have sought to bring them back as a thriving, sustainable chapter.”

As one of the first steps toward possibly reopening the chapter, the sorority did a presentation in April of 2017 in front of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which is responsible for five of the Divine Nine historically African-American fraternities and sororities chartered at Baylor University, according to Baylor’s website.

Vann discussed the topics that were touched on at the meeting, including what the sorority’s policies and process for recruitment would be like.

“There was like a long list of all these things,” Vann said. “Who our national officers were, how many people we had in the chapter, what our processes for becoming a member are, an estimated cost of how much it cost to join, our policies on hazing, alcohol abuse, risk management plan, did we have insurance…”

Following the presentation, Vann and other Sigma Gamma Rho members were invited to last year’s Late Night to see how many students would be interested in joining. Last spring, the sorority received final approval to be reinstated.

Since the sorority received approval only last spring, they decided to attend the most recent Late Night to restart recruitment for the upcoming year. While Sigma Gamma Rho has received approval from Baylor, they still have to submit paperwork to the sorority’s regional and national headquarters to fully begin the process of recruitment. After that, the chapter will hold an informational meeting for those interested in joining the sorority.

Dr. Kara Poe Alexander, an associate professor of the English department and director of the writing center, will serve as the chapter’s advisor.

“I believe in the vision and mission of SGR, and a sorority like this — one that emphasizes leadership and service for all women, but African-American women specifically — is needed at Baylor,” Alexander said. “A lot of great student organizations exist at Baylor, but I think SGR fills a significant gap at Baylor for female students who are people of color to join.”

Beaumont junior Dylan Allison, who currently serves as president of the NPHC, shared his thoughts on what the return of Sigma Gamma Rho will mean for the university.

“It will bring more diversity,” said Allison. “Each organization has certain values that they uphold, and so bringing that diversity on campus will make Baylor more active.”

With the reactivation of Sigma Gamma Rho’s chapter, six of the “Divine Nine” NPHC sororities and fraternities will now have an active chapter at Baylor.