This post isn’t about T-shirts, but I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I am a lurker on most of the listservs and blogs I read. I like to take in the information, think about it, maybe discuss it with friends and colleagues. I’ve never really been one to comment on anything except Facebook and Twitter posts. Frankly, there are too many mean people out there hiding behind the Internet flaming people to make themselves feel better. As someone who teaches rhetoric and professional communication, I find that sad and disheartening.

But last month something came across my RSS feed that I couldn’t ignore, even though I knew the risk of flaming was very high. As a faculty member, I regularly read the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is basically the newspaper of my industry. They have many reports, articles and blogs related to every segment of higher education. The blog post that caught my attention was about the Greek system. So I opened the article and began to read. As I read, my emotions ranged from sad, to angry, to just plain confused. The author of the post wrote about her admittedly terrible experience with a sorority when she was in college. She joined because her friends did, but never really felt she fit in. She also became really uncomfortable with practices she said her chapter had (the actual sorority was never identified, nor the campus of her undergraduate education). She told stories of how she sat in the back of the room during MS, unwilling to participate as the sisters ranked women by looks and social standing. Of how she hated that the group was so exclusive and somewhat demeaning. About how removing her status was the best decision she ever made. Her conclusion was basically that the Greek system was a terrible, exclusive, drunken, elitist system that should be done away with because it had no redeeming qualities. The authors of the comments I read mostly agreed with the author, saying she was obviously not a mindless joiner since she rightly removed herself from the organization (ignoring the fact that she joined just because her friends did in the first place). I’m sure by now you are as upset as I was about the characterization. So I got up the nerve, and I responded. I expressed sadness for her experience, but also dismay that she would paint the entire system with just a broad brush. Her prejudice just dripped all over the post, which was unfair to the changes the Panhellenic system has made to avoid practices like she mentioned. I argued my side, that my experience was completely different. That I felt accepted, open to other groups on campus not exclusive to, that I learned leadership, and how to break out of my shyness. I talked about the fact that I am an intelligent woman who makes my own choices and doesn’t just follow along with what people tell me too. I argued that any group of college aged students has the potential to engage in underage drinking, hazing and poor choices. Just look at recent news about sports and band hazing.

One of the commenters argued that the author’s chapter obviously had no role models or advisors, so I talked about how I mentor the women I work with and help them deal with the consequences of their actions, both positive and negative. I tried so hard to paint a picture that was positive and well argued, simply because my experience was the complete opposite of the author’s. In all honesty, I posted and ran. I haven’t been back to see how people responded to my post. I hope my earnestness came through and my respect for the author’s opinion – and my sincere hope that she would listen to mine rather than spread more hate. The author unfortunately is just perpetuating stereotypes rather than being part of the solution, not a good place for a faculty member on a college campus to come from. But I feel good about defending myself and my sisters. Sigma Kappa is a special organization, more than just a stereotype – about as far from it as you can get really. So thanks for being my sisters and for making my sorority experience amazing. Together we can fight opinions like the author of the Chronicle post and change the system from the inside out when we need to.

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9 Responses to A Matter of Pride

  1. Amanda Ries says:

    Rebecca, incredibly well-said! Thank you for not only this post, but for doing your part to spread the positive Greek message via the Chronicle as well.

  2. Martha Wewer says:

    Very well-said, Becca. It’s sad to me that there are so many people that have amazing positive experiences with the Greek system but only those who have “bad” experiences get heard.

  3. Michelle Fleer says:

    This is a great post. Would love to know the feedback to your comments. Even if one person’s perception was changed, or at least challenged, by your comment, then it’s a step in the right direction of debunking the popular, but misinformed, stereotype of Greek organizations.

  4. Molly Harbst says:

    Great article, Becky. Sigma Kappa was such a wonderful experience for me and I think all of us collectively. I remember going to college as a freshman and my mom telling me that I didn’t have to join a sorority, but she would strongly suggest it. She said she made her best friends there and I have to agree that I did as well (even though I didn’t join hers…ha!) Sounds like the author’s story was that of the Lifetime movies that we all so deeply love. Do those things happen? Probably. Just like car accidents, plane crashes and hot coffee spills at McDonalds. However, the amount of good that comes from Greek life far outweighs that unfortunate experience. 1

  5. Robin Whitsell says:

    So well said, Becca! In college, I was a woman in a male-dominated major; I was frequently the only woman in the class room or lab. My EK sisters were part of a desperately-needed support system, one I am thankful for even now, years later. How sad that the writer didn’t have that experience, how sad that she didn’t have sisters, and how sad that she painted the whole Greek system with that brush.

    • Teri Centner Teri Centner says:

      I joined Sigma Kappa because I was looking for a female support system too! I was in ROTC and Engineering, so most of my friends were guys. Almost 25 years later, my Sigma Kappa sisters — some from college and some I met in alumnae chapters — are still my support system.

  6. Teri Centner Teri Centner says:

    Your post reminded me of a cool NPC video they showed at Convention last Summer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un6c-MY4FEY

  7. Anne says:

    Great post…I find myself constantly defending the Greek system and the positive impact it has. I too was unsure it was for me because my mom (also a sig kap) said it was cool! Lol I wish I had listened and joined freshman year instead of sophomore. I only hope my girls find their place – be it as a Sigma (hopefully) or in a different sorority….it’s a positive experience for so many young women

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