Updated, 3:30 a.m.
Sororities Alpha Omicron Pi and Gamma Phi Beta have accepted invitations to colonize at Columbia and Barnard, the Panhellenic Association announced Tuesday.
Alpha Omicron Pi—which was founded at Barnard in 1897—will open a chapter in the spring semester, and Gamma Phi Beta will be invited to colonize no sooner than 2015.
The two sororities were invited to Columbia after a week-long series of presentations by four finalists competing to come to campus.
“We believe that both organizations demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, a focus on the development of women as a whole, a strong support system for new chapters, dedication to philanthropic endeavors and a shared respect for their history,” the association said in a statement.
Kappa Kappa Gamma and Zeta Tau Alpha were finalists but were ultimately not invited.
AOII will be invited to Columbia events throughout the semester and will take part in the first round of formal recruitment next semester, Panhellenic Association President Samantha Goldfarb, CC ’14, said. “The first round is to welcome potential new members and introduce them to each of the chapters,” Goldfarb said. “We want to give the colony the opportunity to look for potential new members and set up an interview process.”
During the first round, which will take place Feb. 1, potential new members will learn the ins and outs of AOII and the four already established sororities on campus—Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Sigma Delta Tau. But the new sorority will not participate in the subsequent components of recruitment, instead interviewing and choosing potential new members at the close of the process.
GPhi will be allowed to colonize as early as spring 2015. The sorority—which is credited with coining the term “sorority” at its Alpha chapter at Syracuse University—also used to have a chapter at Barnard.
The Panhellenic Association announced in July that it would invite two sororities to start chapters on campus, a measure intended to accommodate the record number of women looking to join sororities. The average chapter size is 124 students, Goldfarb said. Last semester, nearly 400 students registered for the recruitment process—about 225 of whom ended up pledging a sorority.
After the finalists each made their pitch to colonize last week, a committee of current sorority sisters voted on Monday night to invite the two selections. Although the Panhellenic Association had said it would not announce the winners until Oct. 1, both groups accepted immediately.
“The new organizations accepted the invitation to join the Columbia community rapidly, which just really goes to show how excited organizations were to be colonizing here, especially because of their shared history with our university,” Goldfarb said. “It was a rapid process because of how enthusiastic they were to come to Columbia.”
“We gave them every reason to feel comfortable and feel prepared to colonize,” she said.
Students said they thought there was room for the Greek community to grow.
Saadia Santos, SEAS ’16, said that she thought that Columbia was “not a big school for Greek life. It’s cool that they’re expanding it, so that if someone wants to get involved, it’s easier for them to do that.”
Kiersten Gourlay, SEAS ’15, said that expansion “is good for the sorority people because it’s better to have more opportunities.”
Elisa Mirkil contributed reporting.