Why Greek Life Needs to Change

My freshman year, I came to Dickinson thinking I would never join a sorority. I wasn’t a “sorority girl;” I cared about more than partying and frat boys.

Counter to my expectations, I joined a sorority. Like many freshmen, I felt I hadn’t found my people or my place even though I was meeting new people every day. In the end, I found a group of friends I know I will have for life. I had fun while also becoming more confident and comfortable in my skin. Joining a sorority remains one of the best decisions I’ve made during my time at Dickinson.

The problem is: while I opened an amazing door, I closed others. Being on a campus as small as Dickinson’s, every sorority has a reputation that’s hard to shake. As soon as I joined Theta, I gained all its sisters and rituals and parties and formals as well as it’s stereotype. And the sad thing is, these labels are powerful. They affect how we interact with each other. Girls from certain sororities are destined to be friends, while others are automatically deemed incompatible. Girls from one sorority are lucky to hook up with a boy from a certain frat; he’s automatically out of her league (or vice versa). How often have you heard an entire group of people reduced to “these guys are weird” or “these guys are rape-y” or “these guys are hot?” We’re all guilty of it. 

And this does not just apply to our campus. Being abroad, the first thing I’m often asked is “oh, are you in a sorority?” “what’s it like at your school?” As if there is an intrinsic connection between two girls because they pay money to the same corporation hundreds of miles apart from each other.

Too often, we rank people like we rank the sororities and fraternities they belong to. And on the other side of that, we accept and conform to the stereotypes that are placed on us. Instead of celebrating ourselves as unique and getting to know people that are different than us, we keep ourselves confined to certain characteristics, friend groups, and even lunch tables - as if they were predestined. We allow our friends, hook-ups, and relationships to become status symbols. 

Not to mention, both sororities and fraternities are traditionally racist, elitist, and exclusive. At their heart, they’re corporations. These structures don’t have the recourses to support those that are not traditionally supported by private universities. They only further divide campuses and reserve certain traditional college experiences for the wealthy, white, heterosexual students who have traditionally attended these schools.

And, also not to mention, these organizations contribute to hazing, drinking deaths, and rape (though, that is not to say they cannot be support systems). All over the country, we are seeing these organizations do more harm and good to their members. 

There’s a reason that the Dickinson archives holds a “map” of who sits where in the Caf from the 70’s that holds true today, in 2018. We allow these organizations to operate in the same way as they always have, and we use them to divide ourselves and create bubbles of people that are like us rather than create a school-wide community and be exposed to people who are different than us, to have meaningful conversations, and to allow our school to change and evolve as our society changes. We cannot possibly become a diverse, liberal-minded, and sustainable community if we uphold these kinds of institutions as they are. 

All that being said, I don’t know what the solution is. How do we preserve the types of relationships and personal growth (and, of course, parties that seem to be getting slammed harder and harder) that can be found in sororities and fraternities while also making them more diverse and less divisive? Do we loosen the ties – allowing members to change groups if they need? Do we make them free? Do we break down the gender-specific aspect?

In any case, it’s clear that we need to start asking these questions.