September 27, 2010

I ain't no baby!

Each fall semester (or spring) our chapters recruit and welcome outstanding, quality women into our organization. They are excited to get involved and are eager to learn and embrace all there is to know about Alpha Phi.

So why do we demean and humiliate our newest members by calling them things other than what they are? They are sisters, first and foremost. How difficult is it to refer to them that way?

The photo above appeared in my newsfeed on my Facebook page. I always love seeing photos of our newest members or hearing about a chapter’s recruitment numbers...we all do. However, my heart dropped as I noticed the sign in the corner that reads “Ahoy Baby Phis.”

Since my time working at the office it seems each year I am having a conversation with a collegiate sister about the use of the term “babies” to describe their new members. This ugly practice seems to be common on many of our campuses. 

In Alpha Phi we do not refer to our new members as babies, pledges, newbies, or any other term that is humiliating. New Members are referred to as new members or new sisters. Because we respect our newest members, we should not degrade them by giving them inappropriate nicknames. They are young adult women and should be treated as such.

I know this can be difficult to do especially if your campus culture promotes such terminology. But why can’t Alpha Phi be the group to help stop this problem? It may take some time, but role modeling the correct language is the first step. We are leaders not only on our campuses but also on an international Greek level, so why not behave like one? 

I ask that you start educating your chapter members on this and encourage you to not tolerate the use of demeaning nicknames. Even though this may seem harmless, it is in fact hazing. 

Stefania Rudd is the Manager of Resources and Training Initiatives at the Alpha Phi Executive Office. One of her focus areas is the new member program and chapter education. She can be reached at


jsbh said...

Great post. I feel the same about the use of "PC", ex. PC '10. To my knowledge, all NPC groups stopped using the term pledge at least a decade or more ago, but this incorrect term persists on many campuses.

Yours in Panhellenic,
Alpha Chi Omega Alumna

AMCIT said...

I strongly agree with the dislike for the term "baby". We pledge young women.

But we do "pledge". We ask that they take a pledge to approach sisterhood with a collegiate mindset and a view toward a lifetime commitment. If that doesn't require a pledge, I don't know what does.

Delta Gamma (initiated '74)

Diana Elizabeth said...

I honestly don't see the harm - so long the "nicknames" are terms of endearment and not hurtful.

My chapter (and my university overall), made it a fun way for the new women to bond with each other and older sisters. I held the recruitment chair position on my college's Panhellenic Council and would have never allowed such a tradition to continue if it were done in a mean-spirited way.

Yes, sisterhood is sacred and should be taken seriously, but it's also supposed to be fun.

- AXO Alumni

Victory said...

I don't see the harm in using the term "baby." Like someone stated before, it's a term of endearment. Calling our new girls "babies" isn't demeaning, it's playful. Yes, we like to respect our sisters, but we like to have fun with them to, and referring to our newest members as babies only demonstrates our pride and excitement for them, like a mother with her new born child. Restricting chapters to referring to new members only as new members is boring and takes some of the excitement out of the pledging process.

After I received my bid, my pledge sisters and I loved being called babies because it was informal and just brought us closer with our older sisters. Only being referred to as a new member is like everyone only calling you by your full name. We have spring recruitment coming up and I am SO excited for our new girls to come in, but this definitely takes away from some of the excitement by having new restrictions placed on us once again.

- Alpha Phi '11

Kristin said...

I found this article very interesting, so I decided to do some research myself. According to, an organization that battles hazing through education, “Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate." To say that calling the new members "babies" is considered humiliating or degrading is taking the term entirely out of context. This extreme scrutiny could be taken to levels that could eventually ban the ritual of initiation because it would be obligatory to call it "hazing."
Here is the link to the California state law that defines and punishes hazing:
In no way does calling new members "babies" come near violating any hazing laws. Alpha Phi is held to a higher standard, and for this reason, it is a sorority that I am proud to be a part of and to see grow each year. But to twist a term of endearment from one sister to another, such as "baby sis," or "the babies," into a form of hazing is not wrong, but offensive.

yoohoo said...

I agree wholeheartedly that the terms 'baby' and 'newbie' are terms of endearment. I remember my bid day well... I had wanted another sorority over Alpha Phi, but ultimately my bid card told me that Alpha Phi had wanted me more. I went into bid day with an open mind, but I wasn't too happy at the time. Hearing all of the older girls talk about how proud they were of their baby Phis made me feel like I had a special bond to these girls, something that I don't feel the term New Member fully conveys. After that day, I went on to hold two Executive Board positions, included New Member Educator. I loved welcoming the new girls into our house each year, and felt like a proud 'mama' when they became fully initiated members of Alpha Phi. Needless to say, I see no harm in these words.

Jen said...

I hate hearing the term "baby" referring to new members. I think infantilizing grown women isn't something an organization would want to promote, term of endearment or not.

I'm all for no more baby phis, baby hooters (!!), baby squirrels, baby angels and the like.

EllieJ said...

You'll always have the ignorant ones...the ones who whine and cry there is nothing wrong with the way it's always been done & this blog is over analyzing. Of course "babies" is appropriate to them.

Whining. Crying. Ignorant.

Isn't that the true definition of a baby- whining to get what they want, crying to express emotion and sweet and ignorant from the greater challenges of the world.

If I were reading this post and felt the "whining, crying" jab referred to me, I would be offended.

Why then, in the context of new membership, is the title "baby" suddenly appropriate? #RSM