top of page
13333814-A223-4E7D-89BF-7CD12D37D493 2_edited.jpg


The Development of Sororities and the Inter-Sorority Council

The history of sororities is closely associated with efforts to grant educational opportunities to women at the University of Virginia. When UVA was first founded in 1819 under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, he envisioned a southern institution dedicated to educating the sons of the Southern aristocracy, training them to be the future leaders of the new nation. In keeping with this vision, the University of Virginia remained an all-male, all-white institution for much of its history. Women were permitted to attend summer teaching institutes in the 1890s and to enroll in graduate programs beginning in 1920. With this initial inclusion of women on Grounds, female fraternal organizations, commonly referred to as sororities, began to crop up to match the male fraternities that existed on Grounds since the mid-1800s. Chi Omega was the first sorority to come to Grounds in 1927, followed by Kappa Delta in 1932.

Amid rising public pressure and an impending lawsuit, the College of Arts and Sciences admitted women to its undergraduate program, effectively making the University co-educational in 1970. The academic and extracurricular environment immediately changed. In the following years, several women’s fraternities were chartered at the University. By the end of the 1970s, eleven chapters existed at UVA, with several more colonizing in the early 1980s. These female organizations provided networks of support and sisterhood for these early pioneering women.

In keeping with the tradition of “student self-governance” that all Virginia students esteem so highly, these sorority women established the Inter-Sorority Council in 1975 to serve as the governing body of the sororities on Grounds. The Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) functioned similarly to the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), charged with overseeing numerous sororities. These original women chose the name Inter-Sorority Council to demonstrate equality to their male fraternal counterparts, the University community, and the greater Charlottesville community. The ISC elected its own leaders, developed its own policies, procedures, and programs, and sought to further the unifying mission of each sorority while providing networks of academic and social support for the women of UVA. The ISC became completely self-sufficient and student-run like many organizations around Grounds.

The Present Inter-Sorority Council

In December 2005, the chapter delegates of each of the active ISC chapters voted to formally affiliate with the national governing body of sororities, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). However, given the rich tradition associated with the name “Inter-Sorority Council” and the struggle women faced to even attend UVA, the chapter delegates opted to continue to refer to the collegiate governing board as the Inter-Sorority Council. Members of the University administration, including those within the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and area NPC delegates supported the ISC in this decision because of the culture and heritage associated with the name. However, the ISC has taken great steps to revise its procedures and policies to ensure compliance with NPC policies and rules. Members of the ISC Executive Board, including the President, Vice President of Recruitment, and Vice President of Judiciary, annually attend the Southeastern Panhellenic Conference (SEPC), the largest annual meeting of collegiate NPC governing boards in the United States including representatives from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and others.

Today, the Inter-Sorority Council governs 15 NPC chapters and over 2700 women, making it the largest organization of women on Grounds. Sorority women are extremely active within the UVA community and hold leadership positions in many of UVA’s most visible organizations. Sorority women have been chairs of both the University Judiciary Committee and Honor Committee, President of Class Councils and Trustees, representatives on Student and School Councils, and active members in the University Guide Service, as well as numerous positions in other organizations. ISC women are also involved in athletic organizations, including varsity, club, and intramural sports. The women of the ISC excel academically. The Greek female GPA is consistently higher than the non-Greek female GPA at UVA.

The ISC strives to uphold the five pillars of Sisterhood, Service, Scholarship, Support, and Student Leadership. The ISC’s mission is to support and promote the well-being of the 15 chapters of the ISC in their interactions with each other, as well as within the Greek, University, and Charlottesville communities. The tradition of female Greek involvement and dedication is strong, as the ISC continues its pursuit in honor of UVA's past pioneering women.

bottom of page