More on Greeks … ’cause it’s been on my mind

So, I started reading forums, particularly those on greek life and on rush (they call it recruitment now, like it’s job interviews).  What I see disturbs me even more about the system than before.

Disclaimer: Even when I pledged, in 1973, I never understood Panhellenic.  I do understand banding together to  reach common goals, but I don’t understand setting common goals in such a way that differences disappear.  I do understand as well that CMU in the 70s was not UT of the 00s, too.

So many rush systems are set (even CMU’s, it seems) to get the girls to every house in the shortest period of time.  Imagine, often these girls are voting on who will become their sisters for life without ever having met the girls.  The rushees will have spent a grand total of less than three hours in the place they’ll pledge loyalty to for life.  Some girls will be cut from consideration on less than 20 minutes’ impression.  No wonder there were stories lately about women being chosen and then judged and punished based on looks.  I’m betting that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So many campuses are pushing the idea that any sorority is good.  Doesn’t matter which one, really.  If you don’t get your first choice, that’s okay, they’re all alike.  But you must visit every one, because you aren’t smart enough to do research on a group’s goals, philanthropy, and culture.  You have to visit for fifteen minutes to learn this.

Worse yet, some have rush before classes start, and then some girls get cut by every house in the first day or two.  Nothing like saying “we won’t take the time to get to know you, but, oh, hey, here’s a t-shirt to say you wanted to join one but we didn’t care enough.”  And you pay for that privilege.

Girls, don’t you get tired of going to college to have people tell you that you aren’t smart enough to figure things out?  That you’re not able to research?  That you’re too stupid to make an intelligent choice without pledge guides hiding their affiliation and convincing you one is as good as the other?

And isn’t it amazing that those who don’t think about sororities before they get to school — then learn that there are these organizations that have real meaning, and bonds forever, and friendships, and good purposes — aren’t as desirable as sophomores as they were as freshmen?  Do you realize how many schools are likely to cut a sophomore or junior – one they can find something about – than they are a freshman who’s not sure about her life, is away from home for the first time, and might or might not take to college life?

Then, schools, national headquarters, and panhellenic come along to tell you what traditions you can keep and which aren’t “right.”  It appears some beloved traditions, enjoyed by everyone, might, just might, by someone not there, be considered hazing.  The definition of hazing got so out of control that things everyone might want, that students might have thought through, can still be called hazing.  We’ll have a RISK MANAGEMENT program – that means not that you get to learn how to manage risk, but that we’ll consider anything that might cause you to even get your feelings hurt a No-No.  That’s our definition of risk management.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to change things from the outside.  I doubt there’s much of a way to change things from the inside.

Published in: on October 6, 2007 at 9:57 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. A bit of my nomenclature: the term “DG Corp” represents the Council, Cabinet, and Executive Offices of Delta Gamma Fraternity. That broad brush stroke describes my point of view, although I acknowledge that individuals do have differing opinions.

    I’ve been there. I was a chapter adviser to Beta Nu for about ten years (84-94) and then a Province Alumnae Chairman for two years after that. Mostly I don’t talk about the latter because it was an unmitigated disaster for me. I pay my Per Capita dues, but I still don’t wear my DG badge or belong to any alumnae groups.

    Yes, I watched in abject horror as the rush period was moved earlier and shortened from three weeks to one at CMU. And the pledge period was shortened by 2/3! Everything you say is true about those changes. You and I come from another time and place…think of today’s pledgeship as more like an arranged marriage. I’ve been at those parties, membership selection meetings, bid matching, and pledge periods. I can assure you that what goes on in the shortened period (snap judgments about otherwise reasonable women) is very similar to what went on when we joined. You can learn to love the organization you pledge. It is still mostly the case that you can tell the difference between the atmosphere at Tri-Delt and DG at a single party. Most of the time, women join where they want to. And if it turns out not to be a good fit, then you can de-pledge and re-pledge without much of a penalty. However, if you change your mind after initiation, that’s another story. DG Corp specifies the philanthropy, the colors, the mascot, but the culture on each campus can be very different: think CMU vs. Penn State. As for research? I think joining a sorority is like getting married. You can talk to your friends and read all you want but until you’re actually at that rush party on your particular campus, you just don’t know.

    Sororities and women’s fraternities do have philantropic goals and I know of no Panhellenic group that doesn’t at least try to stress that. Yes, teaching leadership beyond being a party chair can be elusive, but even party chairs learn a few things about getting along with people. Unfortunately, one of the primary lessons learned these days is about our litiginous society. The concept “Risk Management” nauseates me because it glosses over some serious issues about how you behave with your fellow person. DG Corp has tried to offer educational programs to its women about people issues, including health concerns. If the Panhellenic groups pooled their resources to focus on these sorts of things I think we’d find that we have a lot in common with our Tri-Delt sisters. I still like to think of Greek women (of all stripes) a force to be reckoned with if we would respect and support one another. I think the groups who formed Panhellenic in the 1920’s did have a good idea, but like all ideas the implementation doesn’t always live up to what we’d hoped.

    Frankly, I still miss the suspense of blindfolds and the ambience of open flames, but I understand why they were dispensed with. Risk management. Tess, thanks for listening.

    I am yours, in the bonds,

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