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The women of Alpha Xi Delta pose with their house mom and advisor. Winona Yearbook | Courtesy

Many Hillsdale stu­dents and faculty assume Alpha Xi Delta sorority has been gone for decades. It only went defunct 14 years ago, however, and its departure played a role in shaping today’s informal recruitment process to what it is today.

AXD was created in 1982 and departed in 2004 fol­lowing many years of extreme growth and campus involvement. It wasn’t until a sudden con­tro­versy that caused a third of their house to quit that they had to con­sider ending their chapter. Two years after their departure, as another one of the soror­ities on campus began to shrink, Hillsdale’s Pan­hel­lenic Council created a new recruitment process to prevent the decline of another house.

The Zeta Sigma chapter of AXD, which was active at Hillsdale from 1983 to 2004, is one of 86 inactive chapters of AXD. There are cur­rently 134 active AXD chapters, six of which are in Michigan.

AXD, first pro­posed to join Hillsdale in 1977, was the first sorority addition to campus since Chi Omega in 1924. In the 15 years leading up to its founding on campus, 10 groups had unsuc­cess­fully attempted to start a new sorority at Hillsdale, The Col­legian reported in Sep­tember of 1982.

The process of bringing AXD to campus began in the spring of 1982, when former student Pat Dzialowski ‘83 noticed the increasing number of inde­pendent girls who were inter­ested in joining a house but were unable to due to the pre­vi­ously-estab­lished soror­ities’ mem­bership rules. Dzialowski attracted three others girls who rec­og­nized the same need, and they began their joint effort to form an official sorority, orig­i­nally dubbing them­selves the Athelias.

The Athelias held regular meetings and finally chose Alpha Xi Delta as their official sorority. The Athelias worked closely with former Dean of Women Carol Ann Barker in speaking with the national sorority. The college played a direct role in orga­nizing the chapter at first, but AXD grew increas­ingly inde­pendent once in contact with the AXD national head­quarters. After a year of working to bring the sorority to campus, the Athelias offi­cially pledged AXD.

The Col­legian reported in 1983 that the sorority had grown extremely fast through each stage of devel­opment nec­essary to have active members of AXD. During its first year on campus, AXD picked up 23 pledges, which is seven more girls than the sorority with the largest spring 2018 pledge class. In 1985, it grew so large that its current home was no longer fit to house the sorority, and the chapter found a new home at 306 N. West St., which housed 11 members. Today, the three sorority houses hold any­where from 22 to 37 girls.

During AXD’s rel­a­tively brief time on campus, it cel­e­brated many achieve­ments, including success in com­pe­tition with other Greek houses, most of which had higher mem­bership and a longer history on their side. AXD won the Home­coming Mock Rock dance com­pe­tition in 1997, as well as Sigma Chi Derby Daze in 1995.

“Although they are the smallest house on campus, the women of Alpha Xi Delta work as hard as the others to raise money for charity,” the Col­legian reported in 1986.

The Col­legian often rec­og­nized AXD for their extensive vol­unteer efforts, reporting in 2000 that “The phil­an­thropic spirit lit­erally con­sumed this house last year when they won the Greek Week fundraiser with the greatest number of con­struction paper links bought in their name to fund the charity of their choice.”

The sorority’s praised pur­suits were not only social and char­i­table but aca­demic as well. AXD com­monly took home the schol­arship cup, holding it for three con­sec­utive semesters in 1986 through 1987. During its last semester at Hillsdale, AXD won the schol­arship cup with an overall GPA of 3.435, while the all-school average was 3.132.

Despite its apparent success as a chapter, AXD even­tually began to struggle with mem­bership.

“We had thriving mem­bership for many years, but I think we picked up sort of a problem pledge class my senior year which changed the house culture,” said Jaminda Springer ‘95, who joined AXD the fall semester of her sophomore year and is now the wife of Pro­fessor of Art Bryan Springer.

After a few years of declining mem­bership, a third of the sorority sud­denly left in May 2002, when AXD member Amber Briggs’ ‘02 exhibited behavior many in the sorority found unac­ceptable.

“She likes to have fun,” The Col­legian noted. “Parties, frat boys and off color humor were things that defined her, and endeared many.”

According to The Col­legian in 2002, the debate over Briggs’ actions cli­maxed during an exec­utive com­mittee meeting on April 24. “Words flew and tears flowed,” The Col­legian reported.

The AXD Exec­utive Com­mittee decided to suspend Briggs after she refused to sign a con­tract putting her on pro­bation and requiring her to go to anger man­agement classes. Five other members deac­ti­vated shortly after, refusing to sign a con­tract requiring them to pay for a spot in the house for a year, citing the sorority’s treatment of Briggs as moti­vation to leave.

In their last year, members split the chapter’s 28 offices between all 14 members.

“Our chapter of 15 accom­plished what other houses did with 70 members,” Courtney Kaye, who was the chapter’s pres­ident at the time, said in a 2003 letter to The Col­legian.

During this time, the chapter received a national award for sound man­agement prac­tices for their last four years, in addition to receiving a perfect score in financial man­agement and receiving national honors for schol­arship the three years prior.

In October of 2003, The Col­legian reported that AXD decided to close the Zeta Sigma chapter, effective May 2004. The choice came after their chapter’s national council gave them the option of quadru­paling their size within three pledge classes, or ending their chapter at the end of the semester or year.

The seniors in the sorority thought it unfair to hand such a dif­ficult task off to new members, Kaye told The Col­legian.

Springer said she believes the mem­bership chal­lenges were due to the lack of an estab­lished culture on campus.

“Our oldest alumni were only 10 years out of college, and they were busy starting fam­ilies and having kids,” Springer said. “Other houses have the kind of proper advising that will notice house issues right away and help fix them.”

Former Dean of Women Car­olAnn Barker told The Col­legian in October 2003 that the decision came quickly, and that she was never at all con­tacted before the decision was made by AXD.

“‘We’ve never lost a sorority,’ Barker told The Col­legian, adding that the admin­is­tration never con­sidered the pos­si­bility of the chapter closing.

Only two years after AXD left campus did Hillsdale decide to switch to a new recruiting process. After seeing a growing dis­parity in numbers between the three houses, Dell said they needed to take pre­cau­tionary mea­sures with a new recruiting system to prevent what hap­pened to AXD to happen to another sorority.

“We weren’t doing what was in line with NPC [National Pan­hel­lenic Council],” said Asso­ciate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell, who also serves as Pan­hel­lenic Advisor for Women’s Greek Life.

Kappa Kappa Gamma member Dana Falvo, a senior at the time, told The Col­legian in 2004 that AXD’s departure was a “loss for the Greek com­munity.”

“It says some­thing for the college to have strong national orga­ni­za­tions,” she said.