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The University of Victoria's first sorority is in the pink, but UVic students aren't rolling out the red carpet.

Almost 65 per cent of the 500 people who attended the Students' Society annual meeting said they didn't want their fees supporting a club that rejects men and fuels undesirable behaviour.

But Kappa Beta Gamma organizer Ashley Slade wasn't dissuaded. Last month, she turned down 20 women eager to join the sorority, which today has 28 members.

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"I would love to help some girls get another sorority started," said Ms. Slade, 20, a third-year English major who launched the organization in October.

UVic students want their school to maintain its reputation for inclusiveness, one sorority opponent said.

"The sorority is an exclusive organization that limits membership, creating a hierarchical structure," said Tara Paterson, 21, a fourth-year political science and women's studies student.

And transgendered students, who don't consider themselves male or female, aren't welcome.

"Sororities promote the false understanding that there are only two genders. There's a spectrum of genders," said Jaraad Marani, 24, a third-year sociology student and a Students' Society director.

Until now, the absence of sororities has lured students to the 17,000-student school, he said.

"UVic has always had a position of non-recognition of sororities. A lot of people like that. That's why they come to UVic," Mr. Marani said.

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When Ms. Slade arrived at UVic, she lived on campus but said she never felt an "emotional connection" with events or clubs.

"I want a place where girls can come and do things together like a family away from home," she said. "People are looking for structure, a way to learn roles."

Kappa Beta Gamma members meet weekly at various locations on and off campus to learn leadership skills and raise money for charity.

In Canada, there are almost 50 chapters of sororities in all but four provinces, said Julie Johnson, spokeswoman for the National Panhellenic Conference, a worldwide umbrella organization for sororities.

Keeping men out of the groups creates a supportive environment that encourages mentoring, Ms. Johnson said from Charlotte, N.C.

The chair of gender, sexuality and women's studies at sorority-free Simon Fraser University said the litmus test for Kappa Beta Gamma will be its progressiveness. With an image still tied to debutantes and cotillions, it will boil down to how socially inclusive it is, Catherine Murray said.

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Kappa Beta Gamma's 28 members include a bisexual woman, a Filipina single mom and an aboriginal, Ms. Slade said, adding that, unlike stereotypes of sorority girls, she comes from a "low-income" family.

When she lived in residence, Ms. Slade witnessed excessive drinking and fighting, she said.

She pledges that Kappa Beta Gamma will promote maturity and responsibility. And her devotion to the cause has come with a price.

The part-time shoe store employee has spent about $500 launching Kappa Beta Gamma. And her five-year relationship with her boyfriend has gone from alpha to omega.

"We broke up because I was investing so much of my time in this."

Special to The Globe and Mail

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