Sorority healing following a catastrophic event
Janasiewicz, Megan Jo
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In 1978, Ted Bundy took the lives of two women in the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University. This was just one part of a horrific list of crimes, but it impacted the sorority members, the organization, the university, and the community for years. Campus crisis management has developed over the years, but in 1978, universities and their partners were underprepared to handle the support of a student organization and its members. Grounded in Powley’s (2012) theory of Organizational Healing, this qualitative historical case study explores how healing occurs through the mechanisms of collective action, leadership, empathy, and interventions. The nine participants of this study each participated in a single interview and shared their perspective on the events that took place from a personal and organizational perspective. Of the participants, five were from the original 1978 era, one from the 1989 era when Bundy was executed, and three from the past 15 years who spoke about the long term impact on the organization. Document analysis was also employed to provide additional information and depth to the interview data; documents reviewed included chapter meeting minutes, chapter archive letters and correspondence, and newspaper articles. The findings were framed using the four mechanisms for organizational healing and described how they were present in the organizational healing. The findings also articulate where the mechanisms were not present and how that impeded the healing process. The long-term impact to the organization is described through two additional timelines: 1989 during the execution of Ted Bundy, and the lingering impact from the perspective of chapter leaders during the last 15 years. The experiences shared shed light on how the organization healed over time and the mechanisms that helped and hurt that process. Implications and recommendations for universities and sorority national organizations are given to promote organizational healing following a catastrophic event.