Musings on Greeks – or living up to your words

Let me share where I’m coming from.

In college, lo these 30 years ago, I joined a greek-letter society.  That experience gave me sisters, socialization, friends, and support I probably would not have had otherwise.  Mind you, the group was fewer than 20 people at its largest; I might not have been as happy with the 50-80+ member groups so common today.  

Based on some communications with sisters lately, I started looking and thinking.  I viewed many of the web sites of the 26 women’s fraternities and sororities of the National Panhellenic Conference (  Most have some form of “to provide leadership opportunities….” phrasing as part of their goals, either on their front page or not too deeply inside.

Is this leadership:  Vote for XXX on Dancing with the Stars, because she’s a sister.

Is this leadership:  Vote for this pageant contestant because she’s a sister.

Is this leadership:  Vote for this photographer because she’s a sister.

Is this leadership:  Vote for XXX in November, because she’s a sister.

No.  That’s following.  It’s doing what someone else says.  It’s not letting YOUR voice be heard. 

Of course, if that’s the way you would have voted anyway, great.  Support your sister.  That’s one of our roles.  But NOT the primary one.  I would no more vote for a political candidate of whose stance on the issues differs from mine just because she’s a sister than I would send money to an organization whose cause I scorn.  Sheep follow the flock.  Leaders are out in front.

No, the Greek groups don’t seem to be teaching women to think for themselves.  At least mine urges its members to sign up for the Fraternal Caucus ( without telling us what that is.  By the way, as near as I can tell it’s a group that wants all fraternities and sororities to think the same way and follow, not lead.  “This website is intended to harness the collective voice of nine million fraternity and sorority members nationwide. Please start your involvement by registering on the website (see the Get Involved tab above) and giving us the information we need to contact you in the future to take specific actions that help Greek life.”  Translation:  we’ll call when we need you and tell you what to do.  The first thing I wanted to do when I saw the “join the fraternal caucus” line was research WHY.  Did the group provide me the “why”?  No.  How again are we developing leaders?

Seems to me we’re promoting leadership by PowerPoint.  Do you know the “right” things to say?  Do you know how to be political?

Not once on any of the member sites did I find a mention of finding a passion and pursuing it.  Not once did I find an exhortation to take a leadership role in something not promoted by that particular group.  Not once did I find anything more than lip service to the vast power of individuals.

Here’s a check.  Go look at the “Greek Man of the Year” and “Greek Woman of the Year” – anywhere.  College campuses.  On line.  Individual organization web pages.  Find ONE, just ONE, who’s cited for activity outside: Big Brothers/Sisters, Blood Drives, Student Organizations.  Find ONE who’s cited for political activism, for championing a cause or a right.  Find one who started an organization to fill a need (not a cause, a need).  Find ONE who faced criticism for doing what s/he believed, though it be apart from the mainstream. Please post your results here.  

Published in: on October 1, 2007 at 10:50 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Leadership opportunities are in every chapter across the country. I joined as a shy girl, and I was able to learn what it takes to become a leader because of my chapter. I held many important positions both as a collegiate and as an alumna, and I learned a ton about myself. No one ever asked me to vote for someone in order to become a leader or that I’d become one by voting for someone. You don’t site your sources here, and I’m missing the connection. A group may ask that of its members, but I have never seen them connecting such a request to leadership.

    I’ve also known a bunch of sisters in my group who are leaders on campus (Greek Woman of the Year types) who are involved in a great deal outside of Greek life. Maybe you should do some searching on your own. I’m sure you’d find plenty in your own organization.

  2. OK, a quickie on this one. Think of as the AARP of Greek Life. You’ll find my political views fairly cynical, but not shockingly so. In our current American political atmosphere, if you don’t have a lobby in Washington, you’re nobody. Worse yet, you have no way of making yourself heard. Individuals just don’t count anymore, but I still vote in every primary and every election, because that’s my right as an American citizen and my commitment to being one. All that notwithstanding, the whole concept of “” gives me the creeps.

  3. I despise AARP, but that notwithstanding, I understand clout in numbers. How could I live near DC and not understand . I also vote on everything – though I’m hoping SOME DAY I can find a candidate to vote FOR instead of AGAINST – and rue how things work. Unless you have a lobby organization with a pretty brick storefront in Old Town Alexandria or downtown DC, you can’t possibly be meaningful.

    I wouldn’t even have a problem if Anchors Online said something like “There is power in numbers. Consider looking at and sharing your voice.” Instead, it tells me I should join and speak.

    Frankly, I disagree partially with the Greek Housing act efforts, so I won’t ask my congressional representatives to agree or disagree. I personally believe each house should be owned by the National organization, or its house corp or however it wants to hold title, and lease the land from the schools.

  4. I honestly think you’re overreacting to a simple notation on your national site. Seriously.

    As far as your last paragraph, I seriously doubt that the Greek Man/Woman of the year will be the person who unionized the cafeteria workers or demanded the school stop having its football uniforms made in sweatshops. Not because Greeks are against such efforts, but because people are awarded those titles because of what they do for and in the GREEK community – not the COLLEGE community. It’s hard to be an effective Panhellenic president and be flying off to Congress to advance the bill you championed at the same time. Most students are sensible enough to not bite off more than they can chew. As an alumna of a smaller chapter, I despised when people wanted to give certain members who were super involved in other groups (including political groups) a “pass” because they were a “good image” for the chapter. I didn’t care about image – I wanted them THERE to be my sister. If they can’t fulfill that obligation, they need to get gone. Don’t criticize because someone isn’t chapter president, homecoming queen, student senate president and Che Guavera all at the same time.

  5. OK, I’ll be glad to give you one: Minda Riley, a Phi Mu at the University of Alabama…some 20 years ago. These days, she’s married and a mother and a lawyer, but back in her student days she ran for president of UA’s SGA. Because she was female, she was assaulted and harrassed by The Machine (you can Google it for more info). But she stood up to them, and she’s a hero to me. BTW, her dad is the current governor of Alabama, and probably the best we’ve ever had. Just wish she had been a member of our own sorority…but then our chapter wasn’t there at the time, so she never had a chance!
    I enjoy your writing, both here and on greekchat, and agree with you a lot of times. Especially on the subject of guns at college. Especially now.

  6. Thank you, Cathy. One.

    I wish it were more.

    What is SGA?

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