After an extended absence from campus, a sorority that was banned from VCU four years ago has returned as an active chapter.
In 2010, members of the Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority were found guilty by VCU and the National Pan-Hellenic Judicial Council for misconduct related to incidents of hazing.
Earlier this year, however, Theta Rho returned with a newly formed student council and accepted approximately 70 students as their first set of probates.
“I think reputation is something that can easily be changed, it depends on the people at the time,” said Theta Rho president Sierra Jones.
At their first event after re-establishing themselves on campus, new members and interested students met in the Commons’ Virginia Rooms C & D to hear presentations from The Well, Ram Pantry and the University College. A short discussion on “AKAademic” tips was moderated by Jones and Theta Rho vice president Stefani Bonner.
Guests were asked to bring school supplies to donate to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the East End of Richmond.
Theta Rho public relations manager, Erin Smith, said the sorority contacted the Richmond Public School Board asking what schools needed the most support prior to the event and they recommended MLK Jr. as the charity for their first event.
“This group of women know the past is in the past, we knew we wanted to bring back AKA strong,” Smith said. “We want prospective members to know that we aren’t for hazing or mistreating members. Hopefully we can bring back our reputation to a positive light, we want the campus to know we’re doing great things.”
After receiving inquiries about the status of Theta Rho and Alpha Kappa Alpha from students, the office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Upsilon Omega, worked together to reinstate Theta Rho at VCU.
“We’ve had a blank slate coming back. It’s all new faces, our graduate advisors have been really warm to us,” Jones said.
Theta Rho graduate advisor Tracey James said the interest prompted members of Upsilon Omega to form a committee to help revive Theta Rho. Several months later, members of the committee contacted Alpha Kappa Alpha Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Linda Gilliam, P.hD., to facilitate the reinstatement process.
“I was initiated into Theta Rho here at VCU in 1988,” James said. “I wanted to make sure they could come back and do positive things for the community. We’re glad to be back.”
According to both Jones and Fraternity and Sorority Life Assistant Director Lindsey Dombert, little is known about the hazing incidents that caused the chapter’s expulsion from campus. This is due to new membership within the sorority and leadership in greek life office since the ban four years ago.
Dombert, who was hired by VCU as a new assistant director in May, says she is optimistic about the sorority’s return.
“They’ve been a very positive presence in our community,” Dombert said. “The women have been really active in the council and Greek community. We’re very excited and happy to have them back on our campus.”
Jones said, to her knowledge, no policies regarding hazing have changed with Alpha Kappa Alpha since the ban was leveled against Theta Rho in 2010.
According to Alpha Kappa Alpha’s national website, the organization prohibits hazing of any existing or prospective members. Any violation against the organization’s Risk Management Policy may result in suspension, expulsion or revocation of a chapter’s charter.
“We’ve all had a couple group discussions,” Jones said. “We’re going to hold the standard and keep it that way. We’re going to do our best not to have any extra baggage or do anything that’s unnecessary.”