Feb 12, 2021 | NEWS | By Flora Block | Illustration by Xixi Qin
In the wake of the summer’s widespread awareness of structural and institutional inequalities, members of Greek life organizations across the country called on their national branches to revisit their complicity and contribution to racism, sexism, classism, and heteronormativity.
Many of the former members of Colorado College’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority took this national trend as a call to action, and decided to form a new, local Greek organization: Delta Mu.
“Over the summer, I feel like everything had a chance to slow down,” Gaby Jadotte ’22, a co-founder of Delta Mu along with Mary Nussbaumer ’22, said. “With that slow down and with all of society’s refocusing on structural issues in terms of racism, sexism, classism … [we asked ourselves]: how do we continue to be in an organization that we didn’t particularly feel strongly about in terms of our national organization, but felt strongly about in terms of the CC girls who were in it?”
Jadotte, along with other sisters from CC’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter, officially divested from the national KKG organization in mid-September. In its place, these sisters dreamt up Delta Mu, which Jadotte described as an “inclusive alternative to the traditional sorority that’s rooted more in equity, antiracism, and inclusivity as core principles.”
“Everybody has a different reason for joining a sorority,” Jadotte said. “There’s always been reasons to drop — it’s expensive, it’s based off of a classist system, and they don’t want to change anything.”
As a sophomore transfer student, Mady Kienstra ’22, now Delta Mu’s Diversity and Inclusion Chair, said that she joined KKG because she “just wanted to meet more people. I thought that Greek life would be a good opportunity to do that.”
However, Jadotte and Kienstra, along with other former KKG members, saw that “there was just something there that was missing,” particularly for women of color, “and we want to provide that for people.”
Whitney Nagle ’23, a member of Delta Mu, agreed. “[KKG as a national organization] is not the anti-racist institution that we want to represent,” she said.
To address this outstanding need, former KKG sisters reached out to their national board for codified, widespread, and mandatory change. However, the results they wanted never materialized. “We were the first chapter to [appoint] a Diversity and Inclusion chair, but they never made that mandatory,” Jadotte said. “There’s no actual change happening.”
Without change in sight, these students took matters into their own hands. Jadotte outlined their thought process at the time: “We [could] put a lot of effort from our 30-person chapter into changing a national organization that doesn’t want to change, and that’s fine for them if they don’t want to change, but it doesn’t fit with our values as CC students or individual people.”
However, simply dissolving KKG would leave many female-identifying CC students without the community they worked to create in their sorority. To maintain this community without the national organization, former KKG members looked elsewhere for guidance. Delta Mu’s structure was inspired by local Greek organizations at other schools.
“It just seemed to work better at these schools, because you can correlate whatever values that you want to the school … There’s not really a structure to them, because it depends on the school, but that’s what interested us in this,” Jadotte said. “We won’t have to listen to a national board telling us that we can’t do this [because] they don’t want us to, and not because there’s an actual reason.” Rather than having a national Greek affiliation, Delta Mu is directed under the CC Student Government Association.
Jadotte claimed that the community-specific nature of Delta Mu is “a lot more accessible to CC students.” One of the major changes that Delta Mu embodies is a community engagement model “where instead of philanthropy and only getting [community service] credit if you go to a food bank, or only getting credit if you do a very rigid model of community service, it’s more like, if you’re serving on CCSGA, that can count. If you’re helping with Planned Parenthood, that can count, because you’re helping the community.”
Although KKG works directly with the philanthropic organization “Reading is Fundamental,” Jadotte expalined that “[it] always felt like an afterthought in terms of how it was presented to us by our nationals … it wasn’t something anybody was passionate about.” In contrast, Delta Mu members are encouraged to volunteer their time with community-based organizations, which more directly connects them to the Colorado Springs community.
Another distinction that defines Delta Mu is their conduct system. In KKG, as in most national Greek organizations, the individual members follow a set of standards, which are punitive and often fine-based. According to Jadotte, this peer-enforced system “takes away from that sisterhood aspect that we’re trying to achieve.” Instead, Delta Mu is adopting a restorative justice model for accountability.
Delta Mu worked with Josh Isringhausen, Community Standards and Conduct Specialist at CC, on structuring the model. Jadotte expressed hope for this new system: “It’s just a lot better. Now we’re not going to have to put out punishment for our peers, people we’re supposed to be friendly with … We can still hold people accountable for their actions, but we can also just talk about it, and try to find a solution that helps everyone.”
The final structural change that will define Delta Mu is the use of consensus building “instead of traditional voting or majority voting,” a revision that was suggested to the founders by Rosalie Rodriguez, Director of the Butler Center at CC.
Delta Mu’s vision for consensus building is based off of a “fist-to-five” model, with members rating each proposal from a fist to five fingers, based on their level of approval. Jadotte clarified the democratic nature of this model: “If anybody gives a one or a two or a fist, you have to have a conversation, have a discussion, and maybe we’ll still go forth with whatever we’re doing and whatever we were discussing, but at least that person still got to give their input.”
Consensus building is one way that Delta Mu is striving to embody antiracist praxis. According to Jadotte, “even if your chapter is 40% people of color, which is amazing for CC, that group of people is never going to have their voice heard in terms of decision making if you do the majority version, because it’s always going to be 60% for the majority … [Consensus building] is trying to find the option that best fits everybody.”
Over the next two weeks, Delta Mu is holding recruitment information sessions. The application process is based on Delta Mu’s core principles of anti-racism and community activism, and they are looking for a specific kind of applicant.
“At the end of the day we do want people who are really passionate about anti-racism and/or community engagement and/or being part of this community of woman-identifying, femme-identifying people, who honestly just want an outside support system,” Jadotte said.