Sara Klimek

When I began my search for the perfect college in high school, I looked at a variety of factors.  Availability of majors, athletic rank, sexual assault statistics (unfortunately), and the involvement of organizations in campus-life.  No doubt, I wanted a well-rounded and ‘full’ college experience- but I had to ask myself what I was willing to sacrifice in order to support that kind of lifestyle.  Upon starting at the University of Vermont, I joined the figure skating team, newspaper staff, and landed an internship working for bSmartGuide.  It wasn’t until I started walking up the stairs in the student-life center on campus that I came across a sign that read ‘SORORITY RECRUITMENT’ and saw the gaggle of girls that were pointing at the names of each chapter.

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‘My mom was a Tri-Delta!’

‘My tour guide was in Theta!’

‘My dad’s-cousin’s-uncle’s-mom told me that I should rush to get invited to frat parties!’

Suddenly I was hit with a vision of the type of person I’d associate with the term 'sorority girl': catty, white, and couldn’t handle her alcohol.  When my friends asked if I wanted to rush (and join a sorority), I couldn’t help but sneer and laugh.  Me?  In a sorority?  Standing in a little white dress on recruitment day, holding my hand in a gesture that felt weirdly unnatural and chanting some satanic-like call to attract other girls?  I didn’t think my college experience would involve joining a cult.

All jokes (and cult-comparisons) aside, I wasn’t in good enough physical or mental shape to rush.  I don’t like to sell my soul for something I didn’t have a vested enough interest in.  My parents didn’t go Greek, and I only had a few friends who felt passionately about joining a sorority.  The morning of recruitment, I went out for my morning run and saw a pack of sorority girls taking pictures with each other, blowing kisses to an awaiting iPhone camera, and holding up their new sorority shirts.

I didn’t necessairly feel discluded from Greek life at UVM. 90% of UVM’s population isn’t involved in Greek Life, and especially at such a small state university, it really doesn’t statistically matter if you go greek or not (in comparison, Worcester PolyTech boasts a 41% Greek involvement).  There are people who are super passionate about their leadership involvement in Greek life, and others who just scoot by with 2-3 Greek letters in their Instagram bio.

I’ve come to the conclusion that sorority life works for some people, and other people would rather stay away from it at all costs. Here are some of the many reasons why I decided I wasn’t going to join a sorority.

Hazing still happens, even if the school doesn’t find out about it.

As much as colleges like to say ‘hazing isn’t an issue here’ and ‘we are accepting of ALL people,’ there is no way on Earth that they can be aware of every incident that occurs on a college campus. While many colleges have cracked down on hazing during recruitment, there have been several instances of severe injury (and even death) from sorority and fraternity rushes over the years.

If you’re looking for gender-inclusivity, sororities probably aren’t where you’re going to find it.

Sorority=girls and fraternity=boys.  Luckily, UVM offers a co-ed Greek life option for students, but many other colleges don’t have that luxury (or its not at the same caliber as other gendered organizations).  Heteronormativity, in addition, can make those in the LGBT+ community feel isolated in Greek life.

I can’t afford to join.

Sororities can cost anywhere from $100 a year to $4,000 (some include or don’t include housing).  According to the Century Foundation, colleges with very selective Greek-life programs present alarming statistics: 70% of people involved in Greek life are in the wealthiest ¼ of the population.  At Princeton University, white, higher income students were the most likely to join fraternities and sororities and 25% of Greek Life was part of the richest 1% in American society.

It’s no doubt that sororities are expensive.  While some non-Greek affiliates may argue that joining a sorority is like buying friends, I happen to disagree.  You pay a lot of money, but friends don’t just stick on you like a magnet.  You still have to work for those relationships, but having a common chapter is a way to start that bond.

There is a hotbed of misogyny and sexism intertwined with Greek culture. 

Sexual assault is the second most common fraternity-insurance claim while fraternity members are three times more likely to commit rape than non-fraternity members, a Huffington Post study finds.  If that’s something that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, I don’t know what will.  If hearing about Sigma Nu’s ‘Daughter Drop Off (and leave Mom too)’ sign at Old Dominion’s Freshman welcome doesn’t make you queasy, I don’t really know how to respond.  Does the name Brock Turner ring a bell?  Perhaps the ‘brotherhood creed’ of not talking about what happens at frat parties to protect one another is one of the most problematic aspects of Greek culture.

For awhile, I thought that this statistic was too far from home to affect members of the UVM community, until I read about an article about Sigma Phi Epsilon's attempt to return to campus after sending out a 2011 survey entitled ‘If you could rape someone, who would it be?’

But that’s all ‘frat culture,’ right?  Sororities are different, right?  Does having to watch your drink at a frat mixer show how secular Greek culture is, or being worried about the wellbeing of your sisters at a frat party mean that Greek institutions are secular of each other?  Whether you’re in a sorority or a fraternity, you can’t help but see the issue that Greek Letter Organizations (GLOs) are entire communities formed of several different chapters, but still part of the same mission, organization, and philosophy.  If one fraternity chapter does something, it has an impact on how the outside communities views Greek life at that institution.  I don’t want to be associated with anything that even remotely inhibits women from achieving their full potential.

 

Perhaps the ‘brotherhood creed’ of not talking about what happens at frat parties to protect one another is one of the most problematic aspects of Greek culture.

 

There are so many other ways to get involved in community service

Philanthropy is at the cornerstone of the sorority experience.  Arguably though, being a part of a sorority can limit the time you have to join other organizations and clubs.

I don’t have any use for sorority life. 

The benefit of going Greek is that you’re established into a network of other Greeks that you can contact for jobs and mentorship.  While I recognize that this can prove crucial in the job market, I would prefer to make my own connections.  I also make a conscious personal choice to focus on my rigorous academic schedule and to partake in activities that are just as fulfilling as going on sisterhood retreats.

The moral of this story is, Greek life isn’t something that should be merely taken as a ‘fun and easy’ part of the college experience.  For some, it is a great opportunity to build social skills and meet other women.  And for others, it’s not something we’d like to associate ourselves with.  The beauty of college is that you have a choice in what you partake in- I would just encourage you to really, really think about that decision and what it means.

More Resources About this Topic:

The Powerful Two Percent- The Price of Wearing Greek Letters

Separate But Unequal in College Greek Life

The Problem with Frats Isn’t Just Rape, It’s Power

We’ve Got to Stop Making Fun of Sorority Girls

Stop Minimizing Fraternity Misogyny

The Dark Power of Fraternities

Sara is a managing editor at bSmart and Environmental Law student at the University of Vermont. Outside of her studies, she enjoys spending time with her horses, doing yoga, and cooking.

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