Sigma Tau, a Pomona College fraternity, will remove gender restrictions for its new members in the fall semester, joining co-ed fraternity Nu Alpha Phi and leaving Kappa Delta as the only remaining all-male fraternity on Pomona’s campus.
“We voted a few weeks ago in favor of pursuing co-ed membership,” Sigma Tau President Wes Haas PO ’15 said. “The goal is not to change the organization ideologically at all, but just to open our membership to people of all genders.”
Chris Waugh, an associate dean of students at Pomona College, said that he was not surprised by Sigma Tau’s decision.
“A good student organization is always going to be thinking about what are the needs of the constituents it serves, and how do we best meet those needs?” Waugh said.
Haas, a member of Sigma Tau since the spring of his first year at Pomona, said that the fraternity’s decision was in part to relieve what he referred to as “cognitive dissonance.”
“In our classes, and in our conversations, in our interactions, we talk about equality, we talk about how to change the world, and yet we feel like this one very real example in our own personal world is unequal,” Haas said. “As a member of Sigma Tau, I have access to alumni; I have access to different job opportunities; I have access to social spaces because I am a male. That’s the only reason why. And if that’s the only reason, let’s get with it. Let’s try to change that.”
Bri Berrios PO ’16, a Nu Alpha Phi member, reflected positively on the experience of belonging to a co-ed fraternity.
“It teaches you how to deal with all different types of people, not just gender diversity, but every kind of diversity,” she said. “The men and women feel like they’re held to the same standards, and they’re on the same level in the space, when maybe they’re not in any other space.”
Kappa Delta President Don Swan PO ’15 said that members of Kappa Delta’s leadership are waiting to discuss the matter with their alumni association before responding publicly.
Haas is not sure what this change will do to the number of Sigma Tau members. About 12 new members usually join each year, he said, but the organization has no set membership limit.
Since the vote, Haas has spoken with Martin Crawford, Sigma Tau’s adviser and the director of outdoor education for Pomona College, as well as members of Kappa Delta and Nu Alpha Phi.
Sigma Tau did not involve the fraternity’s alumni in the discussion, and alumni response to the upcoming change has “been mixed,” Haas said. “We’re trying not to let it affect us too much.”
Rush will take place the week of Dec. 1. In the past, new Sigma Tau members could not vote in the leadership elections for the fraternity as the elections took place before rush week. This year, however, Haas said that Sigma Tau has changed the system to allow new members to vote and even nominate themselves in the election.
“We recognize our responsibility to the community, and we want people who have concerns to come talk to us, or, ideally, we’ll go out and contact them,” Haas said. “We don’t know exactly how people feel about this; we know how we feel about it, and we know how a handful of community members feel about it, but it’s something that affects all of us.”