During formal/open recruitment our chapters recruit and welcome outstanding, quality women into our organization. These newest members are excited to get involved and are eager to learn and embrace all there is to know about Alpha Phi. We as initiated members are excited in welcoming and making our newest members feel connected to our sisterhood. We do this by the actions we take and most importantly by what we say.
Since my time working at the office (5 years) it seems after every recruitment season, I am having a conversation with a collegiate sister or an alumna about the use of the term “babies” in referring to new members. This ugly practice seems to be common on many of our campuses. Often times I am reminded of this when a Facebook photo has been posted from Bid Day, an enthusiastic Tweet has been sent, or an alumna member points it out in an email.
In Alpha Phi we do not call our new members babies, pledges, newbies, or any other term that could be perceived as belittling or demeaning. New Members are referred to as new members, new sisters or sisters. Often times, collegians will try to defend the use of nicknames for new members by saying they are thought of as “cute,” “endearing” or that “the new members like it.” However, as young adult women who are welcoming new sisters to our chapters, we ultimately want to show respect and courtesy to them. They, too, are young adult women and should be treated as such.
By calling your new members babies you are freeing them of responsibilities. Babies are not adults. Babies don’t have to pay dues, attend meetings, or are expected to carry out the legacy of our chapters. Even if we are not treating our new members like babies, by calling them that we set a standard that they are below us in stature and that we as the initiated members don’t expect much out of them. We want our new members to get involved, take on leadership roles, and contribute to our chapter success.
I know this can be difficult to do especially if your campus culture promotes such terminology. But why can’t Alpha Phi be the group to help stop this problem? It may take some time, but role modeling the correct language is the first step. The second step is to take action and kindly address that using the term babies to identify new members is inappropriate. Alpha Phis are not only leaders on our campuses but also on an international Greek level, so why not behave like one?
I challenge you start this change of not using demeaning nicknames in your chapter, with your alumnae, and on your campus. Even though you think it may be harmless, it is in fact hazing.
Stefania Rudd is the Manager of Resources and Training Initiatives at the Alpha Phi Executive Office. One of her focus areas is the new member program and chapter education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org