In the eyes of many, Greek Life is not seen as a positive or welcome scene on college campuses. It seems like every day the media publishes a negative piece on fraternity and sorority organizations. I am in no way stating that Greek Life is perfect – there are flaws and weaknesses in the collegiate Greek System that need to be improved and changed.
Recently, Rolling Stone retracted an article with false information they published about a rape on the University of Virginia's campus. The article scathed reputation of Phi Psi, a fraternity on the school's campus. It turns out that the article's facts were completely false and unchecked. Yet the words of a big time media outlet like Rolling Stone were so easily believed over that of the fraternity's. It is journalistic failures like these paired with incomplete or edited interviews that frustrate me as both a student of journalism and a sorority woman.
As a proud collegiate and sorority woman, I cannot stand by and watch the media tear apart something that I care so much about. This is not only my story, but the stories, words, and expressions of the women of 6 different Panhellenic sororities at the University of Colorado.
"Don't stereotype me because of what the media says about Greek Life. AXO is one, but we are also 130 unique, funny, amazing, and beautiful individuals - Nu Chapter" - Soari Yamashita.
The first Sorority woman I spoke with was Soari Yamashita. Soari is a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder and is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, or AXO for short. Soari is a first generation sorority woman in her family, as her mother is from Japan. Although her mother doesn't perfectly understand the Greek system or the differentiation between houses, she fully supports Saori's decision to join the Greek community here at CU. Like so many other sorority women, Soari emphasized that the Greek Community has positively impacted her transition from her home of Hawaii to Colorado. She has made new friends and gained a home away from home.
"Lifelong Friends" - Blythe Befus and Haley Sladek
I received an overwhelming response from the women of Gamma Phi Beta, which is often nicknamed Gphi. My expo marker began to run dry. All 8 of the women I photographed and spoke with for this article in Gamma Phi truly do converse with ease and act like they've known each other for years. Blythe and Haley said it right when they described this group of women as lifelong friends.
"I'm proud to be in greek life because of all the people we get to help!" - Maddie Mulvahill
Maddie makes a great point that both sorority and fraternity chapters across the nation participate in efforts to raise money and commit hours of their time to contribute to a philanthropic cause. One of the organizations Gphi works with is Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run aims "to provide experiences and resources that build spiritual, mental and social resiliency in girls." This organization is one of many that sororities and fraternities across the nation work to support.
"I'm proud to be a Gamma Phi Beta because of the International Networking Opportunities!" - Erin Bode
Erin Bode is the current president of CU Boulder's chapter of Gamma Phi Beta. While going through training at the president's academy, she met international members of Gphi from places like Victoria, British Columbia. Through Gamma Phi Beta, Erin has made connections and friendships with those she otherwise never would have known. She is excited to see the opportunities these friendships will bring her in the future. As a leader, Erin has worked within her chapter's region to give input on ways to stop sexual assault both on and off of college campuses.
"I am proud to be in Greek Life because without it I wouldn't have met all my beautiful sisters!!" - Tessa Powell
Tessa Powell and I met during recruitment in the fall. Tessa and I were placed in the same Rho Gamma group, with whom you share the same schedules of house visits and mentors. Tessa is probably the most positive person alive, she's always smiling and ready to take on anything (she's the reason 8 of her sisters are in this article). Since August, Tessa and I have remained good friends; we regularly go out to grab dinner, talk about how far away our dorms are from main campus, and go to parties together. Greek Life isn't about "paying for friends" (as many outsiders often say) or forced relationships. In reality, it sets the stage for college students to find common ground with each other and build new friendships. Greek Life is an opportunity to meet new people, no matter what year you are or where you come from.
"I am proud to be in Greek Life because it gives me a home at a big school" - Sydney Lukehart
The University of Colorado at Boulder is home to about 30,000 students. Its easy to feel lost at a big university like CU. Many students like Sydney Lukehart of Gamma Phi Beta enjoy how the Greek System makes the school feel much smaller. Ever heard the saying "Home is where the heart is"? No matter how far away you are from your real home and family, the Greek system often allows college students to feel the same comfort of their real home. In addition to weekly chapter meetings, shared meals, and bonding events like movies and guest speakers, many sorority women are required at some point to live in their sorority house at CU. The houses are all in the same neighborhood, called "the hill," and allow the women to bond by living with their sisters. The houses become a place where students can feel comfortable to hang out, sleep, eat, and study. Because all members pay dues, the cost of living in a sorority house in Boulder is often much cheaper than paying rent in a nearby apartment or home.
"My Big. My Little." - Misha Tahir and Daniela Baldwin
If you have seen any TV show about sororities or any sorority woman's social media page, chances are you have heard the words "big/little." In order to help new members feel welcomed, the majority of sororities give new members a big sister to mentor her and help her feel welcomed into the group. Misha is Daniela's "big sister," and the duo was filled with laughter and smiles when I photographed them. Often, a big sister will give her little sister advice about the school, classes to take, things to do around town, social events, and even give her gifts to show her that she is appreciated and welcomed into the sorority. It helps bring together members of different pledge classes and make the community smaller and the experience more personalized for those involved.
"Delta Delta Delta has benefitted me because I've learned the responsibility of being a leader" - Carmen Pipe
Next, I stopped by the Delta Delta Delta house, or Tri-Delta, to talk to Carmen Pipe. Carmen is a sophomore. Carmen currently holds a leadership position in Delta Delta Delta, as she is the Vice President of Public Relations. Carmen's favorite part of holding a leadership role in her sorority is that she has gained valuable communication skills. Holding a position in a national organization like Tri-Delta comes with a great deal of responsibility, but it is worthwhile because it prepares young women like Carmen for internships and jobs. Often, these positions open up more leadership, internship, and even job opportunities with alumni of Greek organizations.
"I am proud to be Greek because I want my nieces and nephews to grow up in a world where young men and women are empowered to make a difference" -Delaney Asbury
Delaney Asbury is also a member of Delta Delta Delta. She revealed that she has nieces and nephews around the age of 10, and she believes the Greek system empowers youth. As an Aunt, Delaney supports the idea of her family members joining a sorority or fraternity organization because of the difference they will be able make in the community. She recalled some of the educational events that the Panhellenic Council on campus puts on to educate sorority members about things like self defense, health care, and leadership training. Because she has had such a positive experience in Delta Delta Delta, Delaney wants her legacies to partake in Greek Life when they are older.
"I am proud to be an Alpha Phi because I know that my sisters will always encourage me to do good and to live a life full of peace, love, loyalty, and appreciation" - Keli Jackson
My current roommate, Keli Jackson, is a member of Alpha Phi. Keli and I went through recruitment together and fell in love with our respective houses. Although we ended up in two different sororities, we still remain best friends and support each other by attending philanthropies, sharing dresses and shoes for formals, and cheering each other on during competitions like songfest. Greek letters don't define friendships. If anything, the Greek community at CU joins women together and creates opportunities for friendships and networking opportunities across the Greek Alphabet.
Keli finds her sisters encouraging of her academics, service, and her overall well-being. Joining Alpha Phi has helped her appreciate loyalty with the chapters traditions and rituals. Alpha Phi has created a bond of love and laughter through the attitude of her sisters. She can't walk into the house or pass a sister on the street without a warm hello and welcomed conversation about her day. Keli has maintained a near perfect GPA while being a member of Alpha Phi, due to tools like study tables that Alpha Phi offers on a weekly basis in addition to encouragement in the form of recognition of academic success during chapter meetings. She even got to attend a brunch event for her and fellow sisters with outstanding GPAs. Whoever said that sorority women are clueless have never seen Alpha Phi's study table sessions.
"Whatever you want to achieve in life, there will always be a sister here to support you. In the Greek System, we are apart of something greater than ourselves" - Chloe Remington, Fallon Porter, and Bridgit Kodenkandath.
Chloe, Bridgit, and myself are all members of Delta Gamma. Chloe is the current President of the University of Colorado's chapter of Delta Gamma, while I am the Director of Crews and Bridgit is the Director of House Management. Something that is consistent in our chapters is how supportive our sisters are of each other. Whether it be getting your engineering degree, running a marathon, or writing for The Odyssey, there is always someone ready to hold you accountable and cheer you on.
As president, something Chloe often emphasizes is that in the Greek System, we are all a part of something greater than ourselves. Delta Gamma, for example, has over 200,000 members internationally. Despite the fact that every member creates numerous friendships, puts in countless hours toward building a community where women feel empowered and welcomed, and raises thousands of dollars annually towards our philanthropy, just one member's mistake can end up in the news and ruin the reputation of the 200,000 women who share in the name of Delta Gamma.
The national controversy surrounding Greek Life is something that I feel strongly about as a sorority woman. It seems like every day, there is a new story out that reflects the Greek community in a negative way. Many times, it is the poor actions of one individual that sets the stereotype for us all. I hope that by sharing our positive experiences and working together, we can better the reputation of Greek Life on CUs campus and nationally.
Just this month, the fraternities on CU Boulder's campus voluntarily decided to take bystander training courses to stop sexual assault. Although this is just one small step, it is a step in the right direction. In chapters across the nation, the majority of Greek men and women are working towards improving our organizations to better not only the lives of our members, but of the lives of our friends, family members, peers, and community.
As you can see, not all Greeks are bad.