Every so often, articles surface about Greek life, mostly when something negative occurs on a college campus. There is always a story when one random fool wreaks havoc and the Greek community is tarnished. And there are always slow news days so someone will, yet again, highlight the most popular stereotype, which is that we pay for our friends. It’s amazing that in all these years, people can’t get more creative with the insults. Nevertheless, most of these articles are written and judged by people that have never even given the Greek system a chance. Well, I did. And I am forever grateful that I not only took the chance and joined, but I made it through my college years with “big brother” watching over me. It made me a better person for not quitting when I had rules to follow, a certain standard to uphold or came into contact with another member that might not have been my best friend. All of these things built my character and made me who I am today – loyal, confident and able to handle the many personalities I face in my job everyday without quitting!
Looking back, dare I say, nearly 20 years since I first pledged, as an adult and a “semi” parent, my perspective on Greek life is even more clear and positive than it was on the first day I ran through the doors of Alpha Delta Pi on bid day. The reality is that when people say you pay for your friends, they have no idea that no amount of money could have made the other members of my chapter like me when I embarrassed them every day my freshman year by showing up to class in my pajamas and an A Dee Pi shirt. And vice-versa when members overreacted to whatever silly antics my closest friends and I had pulled thereby giving the chapter a “bad image,” in their opinions. My point is, at the end of the day, being in a sorority is just like being a member of any team or organized club. There are rules and dues and parties and obligations, and there’s always a certain standard or reputation that you are preserving, no matter what organization you tie yourself to.
Despite popular belief, the main thing that makes sorority sisters so close isn’t that we have to be because we are paid to be. Pardon the expression, but it’s because we shit, shower and shave together for 4 years. We live together, eat together, and participate in the same weekend and weekday activities together. We had no choice but to see each other pretty much every day and the odds were high that over a 4-year period, we would find something to talk about or some reason to interact even with the girls we had the least in common with. Learning to live together was only a small part of the character-building experience. Working together to plan socials, joining efforts for our philanthropy, coming together to recruit new members, competing together against other organizations, tutoring each other so we could maintain our grade point average; all of these things brought us together and made the experience educational and successful for each of us.
Do not get me wrong, being Greek isn’t always perfect. It doesn’t ensure that your college experience will be as stellar as mine. There’s a chance you could come head to head with the one random loser that believes hazing is, in fact, supposed to be a part of the Greek experience. I am sure the stories you see on Lifetime might be true to some degree. I am sure there is some spoiled brat out there who will get into office and decide that hazing is fun. And if that does happen to you, I hope you are secure enough, strong enough, and respect yourself enough to get out immediately and realize that you got mixed up with the wrong group. In every organization, there’s always a bad seed. There’s always that one jerk that ruins it for the rest of us, but stereotypes are often formed due to the one bad seed rather than the hundreds of good apples in the group.
My experience with Greek life made my college experience what it was – the best damn time of my life thus far! It is what got me through college. I always heard that USM was a suitcase college, so I expected to be going home often, but being a part of the Greek system gave me so many connections and reasons to stay and be a part of campus. It allowed me to fall in love with my university. Some people may find that connection in other organizations, but I found mine via A Dee Pi. The sorority gave me an opportunity to explore groups and offices that I would have otherwise not been a part of. The group of women I was with for 4 years challenged me, laughed with me, cried with me, taught me to be accountable for my decisions and choices, believed in me and expected me to succeed for myself and for them.
Now, 18 years after I joined this “club”, I am still in contact with a great deal of the women I was with all those years ago. We recently reunited and realized that you can go years without seeing each other yet pick up right where you left off no matter how different we all are from the girls we were back then. My best friends to this day are girls I met through the sorority and to this day we have growing pains, just like friends that I’ve met through other arenas of my life. The monthly dues didn’t conserve my friendship with these girls any more than any other friends, but we are bound together because of the experiences we had and what we shared for so many years all those years ago.
What I want people to know about being Greek is that we are much more than the dues we pay. After all, the finest things in life are not free! I will not go into the secrets of each Greek organization and sharing ritual and how it brings us closer. To be honest, if I’m writing to people that think we pay for friends, ritual is definitely beyond your scope of understanding. But I do want you to know that being a part of a sorority or fraternity is about being a team player, about giving back to the community, and about learning who you are and developing yourself at a time when you are growing into the person you will be for the rest of your life. What happens after college is something much bigger than that one chapter you are a part of.
You become a part of a legacy and a part of a community that stays with you forever. I can go anywhere in the country and know that I’ll have someone to reach out to that’s had a similar experience, and I feel comfort knowing that. I hope the guys and girls starting college this year will have the opportunity to have as great a college experience as I had. I know that not going Greek isn’t the end of the world, but choosing the right sorority or fraternity will be a decision that molds the next 4 years. And if you’re lucky and willing, that one choice can carry you through the rest of your life!