The Lie that my Sorority Told: My Experience and Why I Dropped

Relief. Cold and refreshing, like pool water on a hot June day, washed over me when I sent that final email. As someone who is admittedly image-obsessed, I had been living with anxiety for weeks and months over the decision that lay before me. Should I drop my sorority? The question had worked its way into my brain at the beginning of my sophomore year. No, I assured myself, I couldn’t. I dismissed my apprehensions and continued to work through my stress. But starting in the spring semester, I began to take more challenging classes within my major and assume more responsibilities in my other clubs. My sorority fell to the bottom of my to-do list. The time that I was able to give to them was taken up by chapter meetings and mandatory events. The fun things, like movie nights and pledge class get-togethers, were just impossible for me to work into my schedule. Out of necessity, I began to think practically about my sorority life to determine what my future would look like.

This analytical process weighed heavily on me, because Delta Nu had given me the opportunity to meet and bond with some amazing women who are now my soul sisters. I loved, and still love, individuals in Delta Nu, but I take issue with the sorority as an organization. First of all, it seemed ridiculous to me that we were only allowed three excuses per semester for academics. I understand that some people would abuse academic excuses if there were no limits, but as a 4.0 student with my eye on graduate school, I take my grades very seriously. If I had an essay to write or an exam to study for, that would always come before my sororal duties. The three-excuse policy makes sense if Delta Nu is all that you’re involved in, or if it sits above other clubs on your priority list. For me, however, Delta Nu was my last priority. My classes were number one, and my other clubs, like HC and my religious organization, came next.

Greek culture, however, does not acknowledge even the concept of a priority list with other clubs on it. The recruitment process, which boasts about the indivisible ties between sisters, inherent duty to Delta Nu, and the accomplishments of our foremothers, makes potential new members and current chapter members alike forget that a sorority is just a club –– and nothing more. When Delta Nu tops the priority list, the three-excuse policy and fine system appear reasonable; sisters might need to miss a recruitment workshop (in April, no less, which is a separate discussion altogether) for their number two or number three.

Exclusivity is another factor which can make women feel indebted to their sorority. Despite the claims of several sororities at Rhodes who insist they value inclusivity, the air during rush is rife with cliquey rhetoric and snobbery. Sororities rate women on a scale based on her grades, her activity on campus, and the opinions of sisters who know her to determine how actively they should pursue her as a future chapter member. Many first-year women are aware of this to a certain degree going in, which can erode your confidence when you know you are under constant scrutiny. To then disaffiliate from the sorority that liked what they saw can seem treasonous, especially the longer you stay in. Two kinds of exclusivity are at work here: one, in the recruitment process, and the other, when sororities expect members to return the favor and give them near-exclusive rights to their time. Picking women so early in their college experience to be a life-long member of an exclusive club restricts women’s ability to explore other on-campus organizations. In retrospect, I see that one semester to test the waters of student activities was not enough for me to sign away my soul to a sorority.

That semester when other demands on my time increased, I refused to be deterred by constrictive rules or drawn in by propaganda. My priorities are a decision for me to make, not for an organization to coerce me into. I can understand the logic behind fining members for not coming to events and/or meetings from an organizational standpoint: sororities at Rhodes are small, and if you have half of your members show, that’s only about 70 people. If half of a sorority’s members show up at Ole Miss, that’s about 186 people. It’s a bad look to have 70 people show up at a sorority event. But from the perspective of a chapter member, fines send the message that Delta Nu should be your top priority. They act like a speeding ticket: you break the law, you pay a fine. But continuously choosing classes and other clubs over a sorority shouldn’t be “illegal.”

This is where the special status policy comes into play. Sisters who find themselves unable to fulfill the duties of an average sorority member may apply for on-campus special status. This means that you are excused from all mandatory events for one semester. The handbook states that to apply, a member must be taking a full course load, working a minimum of 10 hours a week at a job or noncredit-earning internship, and be involved in a third activity that consumes a minimum of 10 hours a week. I was unable to even apply for special status because I don’t have a job or internship. I work twice as long as other students for my courses, and am in leadership positions in two other organizations, so it’s not as if I wanted to apply for special status just to slack off. At that point, the only option left to me to reclaim my sanity was to drop.

But I was scared. Scared of what people would think of me. What people would say. “She hates us.” “She’s a quitter.” “Oh, she dropped? She’s not worth talking to anymore.” Rhodes sororities would have you believe that they’re different from stereotypical state school sororities. And while there are good women in Rhodes greek life, women who have stood by me despite my decision to leave, the cattiness, the cliques, and the stigma still permeate our Greek culture. 

About two weeks after I officially dropped, I found myself running on fumes while finishing the first of two research papers at Muddy’s. I was buried in the back room beneath the multitude of books I had checked out from the library when two of my former sisters approached the counter to purchase their goodies. I really was not in the mood to talk, so I kept my eyes glued to my work, but kept watch out of the corner of my eye. One of the girls turned, swung her head into the room, clearly saw me, and turned the other way. My emotions were part grateful, part not surprised. This was one of the cattier girls of the sorority, so I felt validated in my expectation of upturned noses. As I encountered other former sisters (granted, on better days when I didn’t have carpal tunnel syndrome and Advil handy at all times), I smiled and waved. Some responded with no hesitation, others were apprehensive, and some avoided me at all costs.

Ultimately, though, I knew I had made the right decision. I was thrilled that I would never have to go through recruitment again, would never pay another fine or due, would never have required service hours, events or meetings, would never receive another email, would never have to study our founders for an exam, would never have girls be nice to me just because I wore arbitrary letters on my chest! The t-shirts, formals, and networking perks were not worth it. 

As I’ve written this piece, I’ve felt as if I’m stating the obvious when I assert that sisters should have the right to choose whether or not to remain in their sorority without having to worry about becoming a social pariah. And really, that is stating the obvious. The problem is that women are being misinformed about Rhodes Greek culture and joining based on false pretenses. Once you’re in, you feel stuck. Dropping is made out to be a betrayal of all the sisters who have loved you along the way. But if support and love depend upon compliance to an organization’s rules and standards, then the choice to “stay” or “leave” seems like an illusion to sisters. I’m here to tell you this: Leaving is a valid option. If you leave and your friends turn their nose up at you, then they were not true friends to begin with. Do not let others dictate the decisions that you –– and you alone –– are entitled to make.