I always like reading articles that criticize Greek life on college campuses because I've noticed that a lot of the claims are the same. People say that you pay for your friends when you join a sorority. They say that all fraternity men are alcoholics. They say that Greeks don't care about school and get terrible grades. They say a lot of other things too (most of which are too nasty for me to want to include in this article), and what I've found during my experience in a sorority is that a majority of the individuals who say and believe these things have little to no experience with Greek life. They believe that the portrayal of sorority and fraternity culture that we get from movies and television is completely accurate. But, in my experience, it's not.
I found this article, titled "Why I Didn't Rush", while I was tucked into bed a few nights ago and scrolling through my social media feeds. To be honest, my initial reaction was anger. My sorority chapter is something that I hold near and dear to my heart, and to hear someone attack an institution and an experience that impacted my life in such an overwhelmingly positive way was frustrating.
But lashing out is never productive, nor is it how my parents or the women in my chapter taught me how to conduct myself. So the point of this article isn't to attack someone for what they believe. All I want is to ensure that the anti-Greek voice isn't the only voice that we hear.
"Maybe this will help an incoming freshman girl decide which side of the line she'll fall on."
Choosing whether or not to join a sorority doesn't mean picking one side or another. Yes, sorority women differ from women who aren't in a sorority in that they wear the letters of an established Greek organization. But it's just like the difference between someone who performs in a choir, and someone who doesn't. It's a matter of affiliation. When I was in school, I chose to be affiliated with Kappa Alpha Theta. One of the girls that I met in the dorms freshman year and eventually shared an apartment with for two years, chose to be affiliated with a dance crew on campus. I didn't fall on either side of a line when I joined a sorority, just like my friend didn't fall on either side of a line when she joined a dance crew. This isn't war. It's college.
"I don't own a pair of wedges. I don't own a white lace dress. I don't have waist-long blonde hair. I'm not rail-skinny. I don't spend my time in Zumba classes with my girlfriends. I don't like to drink. I don't ever want anyone to tell me what to do, or what to wear. I don't want to have to spend so many hours doing this or that. I don't want to have to pretend to like a group of girls on the off-chance that I really didn't like them."
I don't own a white lace dress either, nor do I have waist-length blonde hair or a slender figure. I've never been to a Zumba class before, but I do own a pair of modest black suede wedges that I purchased long before I considered joining a sorority.
I know plenty of people in Greek life who don't drink alcohol, but still have a great time whenever they go out. For the most part, nobody really cares whether you drink or not. People just want to have a good time and know that you're having a good time as well, especially if they're the ones who are hosting the party.
As far as not wanting to be told what to do, that has nothing to do with being in a sorority. That's just a part of life. Your boss at work is going to tell you to take down meeting minutes and send them out to the company. Your professor is going to tell you to read pages 30-68 before the next lecture. The person on the other end of the line when you call tech support is going to tell you to restart your router to see if that's why your Internet isn't working. Most jobs also have a general dress code, so there's going to be someone regulating what you wear (to a certain extent) to make sure that you're representing the company in a professional manner.
That's not to say that you have absolutely no free will or agency to make your own choices. There's always a choice. I'm just saying that you're not always going to be the head honcho. Sometimes you're top dog and it's your way or the highway, and other times you're just the person who has to go out and buy everyone's coffees.
I was never bossed or pushed around when I was an active member of my chapter, nor was I ever required to do something that went against my values or made me uncomfortable.
You're always going to have to spend hours doing this or that. It's not called being in a sorority. It's called being productive.
"But the [sorority moms] I grew up around, the ones that had daughters who would be legacies at UT and Alabama and yada yada... yeah, they were like that. They were always in everyone's business. They were always putting me down because I wasn't wearing Lily Pulitzer or buying MAC makeup. Oh, and did I mention they were my fellow church members? Hmmm."
I'll admit that I don't know much about sorority mom culture. It didn't really exist at my school as far as I knew. In my chapter, we only had two legacies; myself (via my older sister) and one of my pledge sisters (via her mother). I will say that I do think it's terrible that there were people out there who put the author of this article down for not wearing a certain brand of clothing, or having a certain brand of makeup. Those are superficial things that nobody should ever be shamed for.
"College is expensive as hell. I didn't want yet another bill coming in for me (or my parents) to figure out how to pay. Private chef or no private chef, I didn't want to spend God knows how much money on being a part of some organization."
Honestly, I agree. College is expensive, and finances are an extremely important thing to consider when joining a sorority. Every chapter has mandatory dues that go towards things like philanthropy events, facility maintenance, social events, and dinner for chapter members before weekly meetings. A large number of girls find a way to afford these dues every term, whether that means stricter budgeting or a part-time job. But that's because it's worth it to them. The benefits of being a part of an established Greek organization (personal and professional networking, a support system, leadership opportunities) outweigh the cost to them. Some teachers pay to be a part of a union because the benefits (legal representation, pooling of resources, protection from unreasonable termination of employment) are more important to them than the dues they have pay to maintain their membership. Most professional organizations also require some sort of fee, but people still join them because the networking opportunities are more of a priority than the money it costs to gain access to those opportunities.
It's a choice that you (and your parents if they're helping you pay for college) have to make about what works best for you. If it's something that you want, you'll make it work. If it's not that important to you, then don't do it.
If you are interested in joining a sorority, a good first step to determining whether you can afford it is to go online to each chapter's website and find out how much their dues actually cost. If it's not on their website, there's always contact information for people who you can call or email with questions.
"I was a total dork in high school. I was the drum major of our band, I played bassoon, and I spent the majority of my time studying and working. When I moved to Knoxville to start college, I didn't want to jump into some huge organization where there were expectations of how I would dress or act. I didn't want to have to pretend like I was rich and happy all the time. I wasn't turned on by the thought of having 100 'sisters'. Not my deal."
The only times when there were ever guidelines on what I had to wear were recruitment, philanthropy events, and Monday night meetings. Recruitment and philanthropy events always had themes based on what we were doing (like a baseball theme for our Kat at Bat event), and Monday night meetings always had a business casual dress code because we wanted to conduct official chapter business in a professional manner.
I never pretended like I was rich around my sisters, and they didn't do that around me either. If anything, we bonded over talking about how difficult it was to pay for all of the expenses of college like textbooks, rent, food, and lab fees.
I personally loved having a large group of sisters. I played the drums in the high school marching band for four years. There were a few girls in the front ensemble my freshman year, but when I joined the drumline during my sophomore year, I was basically the only girl among a bunch of adolescent boys. Those guys were great and a ton of fun to be around, but it was a different dynamic than if they had all been girls. When I joined my sorority, it felt nice to have so many people that I could relate to and that could relate to me in different ways than the guys I had been friends with in drumline could.
"Mixers? Formals? This and that? Yeah. Sounds like a ball of fun if I weren't taking 18 hours of classes and trying to keep a perfect GPA. I knew I wouldn't have time to live up to the expectations that a sorority puts on a girl. No no no."
I'll be honest and say that of course there were social events happening all the time in college, especially at the beginning of the year, and yeah it was tempting to put off doing my reading or finishing my lab report to go out. But there was never any pressure or expectation to go out from my sisters, because everyone in my chapter agreed that school was more important than any party or kickback that came up. We had something call Studious Sundays, where we would get together at the chapter house, order food, and study together on Sunday mornings. We had a minimum GPA that you had to stay at or above in order to stay active in the chapter. People regularly got together in the library and had group study sessions. Being active in a sorority and getting good grades aren't mutually exclusive.
"[Sorority recruitment] sounded like it freaking sucks. You walk from house to house and try to get people to like you? And then they offer you a spot based on the five minute conversation they had with you the day before? What if you're just not feeling it? What if you wake up with a headache? Sounds like that's just as effective as taking the ACT one time and sending that score to every university across the nation. You'd be accepted based solely on that score? Everyone I know has a problem with that. How is rushing any different? I knew that wasn't for me."
Sorority recruitment isn't much different from what I do as a full-time job. I do marketing for an environmental services company, so my job is to travel around to different businesses and build professional relationships with them in the hope of working together in the future. The specific logistics of sorority recruitment and marketing for an environmental services company may not be exactly the same, but the end goal is. The point is to meet people and get to know each other better so that you can determine whether there is a connection, and whether it's a relationship that both parties want to work on building and maintaining.
Sorority chapters want to find new members in order to build their sisterhood and ensure that their legacy and good works continue into the future. Businesses want new clients so that they can stay active and continue to provide the service or product that they specialize in.
"Let's pretend for a minute that I did join a sorority. Sorority LLL (because my name is Lorena and I hear most sororities have three letters? I actually don't know). If I got into LLL as a freshman and stayed in it through my senior year, and then applied for a job or an internship... and I told them I was a part of this sorority, they automatically have an idea of what kind of person they think I am, don't they? Whether they do or don't, the LLL girl they knew in college who slept around becomes part of my identity. I didn't want that. I didn't want another girl's actions, or another chapter's actions, to dictate what people thought about me."
I had no problem finding a job after graduating college. I received an offer for every job that I interviewed for, and every single interviewer that I met knew that I was in a sorority from the first time we met. Not that I wrote it on my forehead or brought it up out of the blue. The matter of my sorority affiliation just always came up in conversation naturally when I would talk about the leadership and marketing experience that I gained from being a Panhellenic recruitment counselor.
If anything, being in a sorority helped me get a job after college. When I was interviewing for the job that I currently have, I was asked to submit a list of references. Every single one of the names on that list was one of my sisters. They were the ones who knew me, my personality, and what I was capable of the best because they were the ones I had spent countless hours getting to know over the two years that I was active in my chapter.
Besides, if the person who is interviewing you can't look past the fact that you were in a sorority and focus instead on what actually matters (your skills, your experience, your personality, and all of the other potential ways that you could help the company grow and be successful), then that's probably not an individual who you would want to work for anyway. Chances are that their tendency to judge a book by it's cover doesn't stop at whether or not you are or were in a sorority. It will extend to things like how you style your hair, how you do your makeup, or what sort of music you listen to.
"...the choice was between rushing or the Honors program. Which would benefit me more down the road? Which would really be worth the time? Yeah. Hands down, I decided to be an Honors student. And I've never been more happy with my choice. Sure there are some who try to do both, and there are a lot who can't do it. For those of you who are completely dominating -- congrats. But I wanted to focus my time on studying."
I wasn't in any sort of honors program when I was in college, so I don't know what kind of expectations that a program like that has, but I'm glad that the author of this article found a way to enrich her college experience. I'm glad that she made a choice based on who she is and what she wants in life, because that's what college is really about. It's about creating your own life the way you want it.
At the end of the day, your opinion is the only one that matters. Don't let someone else's negative experiences or judgments affect the choices you make. Don't let someone else's positive experiences or judgments make you feel obligated to try something either. The last thing I would ever want to do is pressure someone into joining a sorority just because it was such an incredible experience for me. Everybody's different. All I could ever ask for is that you find some sort of sport, activity, or organization in college that you're passionate about; something that makes you excited to get up in the morning because you know that you have a family to lean on and are doing something that makes you happy.
For me, it was joining Kappa Alpha Theta. For you, who knows?
Full Article "Why I Didn't Rush": https://www.theodysseyonline.com/why-didnt-rush