It's Greek to Me

On the surface, the world of fraternities and sororities at the collegiate level is not looking too pretty these days. From the vile racist SAE chant in Oklahoma to the USC AXO “appearance guidelines” for their members and potential pledges, the Greek system appears to be full of disgusting jerks and shallow bitches.  Most of us know that the majority of young people who claim membership to these organizations are honorable. They raise money for various charities, support important causes, and help universities with their visions for the future.

Why do students join? For most kids, it is their first time away from home. They want a group to give them a sense of community. The Greeks promise this during Rush. “Join us! We will love you! You are special! Your life will never be boring again!” They offer up a clan. Even the language supports this mentality….sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers. Now a college student can also find “family” in dorm life, clubs, sports, music, and publications. Greek life is just one of many options. The appeal for many, though, is the concept of exclusivity. “They chose me!”

Each organization is different and unique in its structure and power. Much of how it functions is up to the leaders at the local and national level. I honestly do not know how things can be fixed. I'm not that smart. What I do know is that if you are a college student and you are looking to join a sorority or fraternity, you need to gaze carefully at the members. Do they fit with your philosophy? Will you find kindred souls? Will these people build you up as an individual? Will being a member of this organization make your life at college better?

Going Greek for me back in the 70s was almost an afterthought. I never saw myself as a sorority girl. That wasn’t me….until it was. I transferred from ISU to Millikin University my sophomore year and decided to go through rush on a whim. What I discovered was a group of girls that were anything but typical, so I joined. Overnight I was a sorority girl! Back then, though, we did NOT have service projects or raise awareness. We drank excessive amounts of warm beer in the disgusting basements of fraternities on campus. Girls smoked cigarettes in their rooms, the dining hall, the bathrooms, and even in the phone nook. We fought over what soda to put in the machines. We got called before Standards Board if we snuck in liquor or made too much noise at night. Important ceremonies were not taken as solemnly as were expected. We pulled silly pranks on each other out of sheer silliness and boredom. One time I came back from class to see that all of my teddy bears had hung themselves from the ceiling in my room. They even left little suicide notes that declared the futility of their lives. This was our college life.

What AXO gave me is life-long friendships. I am still close to many of these fabulous women. Each of them has a narrative that far surpasses the halls of the sorority house. My life would be so different and empty without them and the stories we share. But more importantly...every time I hear "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge I am automatically transported back to the late 70s when we would lay out in the parking lot of the house on warm Friday afternoons while we sipped on contraband alcohol and chatted about who killed JR, Falcon Crest vs. Dallas, whether disco really was dead, Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album and that poster, how many times my big sis Barbie watched Ice Castles, and which fraternity party we might attend that weekend.  My Alpha Chi sisters were... and will always be my family.