What Happens When a Sorority Pulls Its Charter?

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Greek letter organizations are a centuries-old tradition on college campuses nationwide. The National Panhellenic Conference grants charters for national sororities, and it holds members to a strict code of conduct. The host campus often imposes its own standards as well, and organizations that fail to abide by these rules are sanctioned. The final stage of sanction -- reserved for the most grievous of misconduct -- is the revocation of the sorority's charter.

Why Is a Charter Revoked?

  • The loss of a charter is the strictest sanction against a sorority, and it typically follows serious misconduct like hazing. Hazing is harassment, humiliation and other forms of abuse as an initiation ritual. Other violations of university codes of conduct, such as underage drinking and drug use, are grounds for revocation. Sororities may choose to surrender their charter to maintain the sorority's national reputation rather than face formal reprimand.

Low Membership Revocation

  • Sororities may have their charters revoked for nonpunitive reasons as well. Some sororities are expected to meet a quota during each recruitment period to ensure the chapter remains viable. If a sorority's membership is low and the national chapter cannot foresee recovery, the chapter may be forced to close. Chapter members who are forced to disaffiliate because of low membership may choose to establish a local sorority not affiliated with the national sorority.

Revocation Process

  • When a complaint is levied against a sorority, the university launches an investigation of the misconduct. The office of student affairs usually oversees the investigation, and some schools have established committees specifically for Greek organization review. If a sorority is found culpable, it faces various levels of sanctions. A singular, minor occurrence may result in a warning from the university's Panhellenic council. Standards review boards may take further action, including restriction from Greek life activities, suspension from campus or, ultimately, charter revocation. When a charter is revoked, the university and/or the national chapter will issue a cease-and-desist order for all sorority functions. If the campus has provided a sorority house, housing privileges are revoked as well. The sorority is finally disbanded, and members are disaffiliated.

Recolonization

  • Charters can be re-established on a campus at the national chapter's discretion and with university permission. Sororities typically wait until all members at the time of revocation have graduated or left the university. The sorority can then begin rebuilding its chapter, or "recolonizing" under alumnae supervision.

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