In 1867, a century before women were allowed to enter Harvard's Lamont Library, Bettie Locke enrolled in Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University). Hoping to create an organization that could offer friendship and support during her college years and help advocate for women to succeed in higher education, Bettie founded the Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity and held the first meeting on January 27, 1870. Over 100 years later, women at Harvard still lacked full integration into the University's community. Harvard Yard was not open to female residents until 1972 and limits on the number of women undergraduates existed through 1975.
In 1993, Grace Wang and a group of like-minded Harvard undergraduates recognized the need for a supportive community of sisters on Harvard's campus. Compelled by Kappa Alpha Theta's long tradition of empowering college women, and the opportunities gained by being a part of an international organization with over 200,000 members, these leading women chose to affiliate their group with Kappa Alpha Theta, becoming the Zeta Xi chapter. For 25 years, the Zeta Xi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta thrived at Harvard despite being an unrecognized group. The chapter won numerous awards from the Fraternity headquarters and was filled with Harvard women committed to leadership in both academic and extracurricular life on campus.
In May 2016, Harvard College announced a new policy that members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will not be permitted to hold leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams and that they will also not be eligible for letters of recommendation for scholarship opportunities, including the Rhodes and the Marshall. Following two years of uncertainty surrounding the implementation of this policy, on December 2017, it was announced that the Harvard Corporation voted to keep the May 2016 policy in place to be reviewed after five years.
These announcements presented the opportunity for the undergraduate members of the Zeta Xi chapter to reflect on their values and priorities. Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity's motto is "leading women," and the members were proud of Kappa Alpha Theta's founding story and purpose both in 1870 and at Harvard in 1993. However, if the Zeta Xi chapter chose to remain a nationally affiliated sorority, Harvard's social organization policy would force students to make a choice between holding leadership positions and applying for scholarships and fellowships, and being members of a Kappa Alpha Theta chapter that that was specifically designed to support and empower women to have those aspirations.
In Spring 2018, the members of the Zeta Xi chapter voted unanimously to surrender their college chapter charter and incorporate as an independent organization with gender-neutral membership criteria. This transition marked a critical time of reflection and a turning point for the organization's history.The choice made in response to the codification of Harvard's 2016 social organization policy was not easy; however, this decision ultimately reflected the memberships commitment to be an organization that upholds our mission and values, supporting our members to take full advantage of the academic and leadership opportunities available to them as Harvard students.
In September 2018, the members of the former Zeta Xi chapter incorporated a new gender-neutral social organization in the state of Massachusetts and received official recognition from the school. After many discussions, the 2018 leadership chose "Themis Asteri" as the new name for the organization. "Themis" is the Greek goddess of virtue, which the founders saw as reflective of our organization's commitment to always strive to make decisions that are in the best interest of current and future Harvard students. And "Asteri" is the Greek word for star. One of Kappa Alpha Theta's symbols is the twin star and this helps keep our organization connected to our history.