Greek life as a positive force: An insider’s perspective

By Aubrey Klein

Why is it that most every time I open up The Lawrentian to an opinion piece or comic about Greek life it’s pointedly anti-Greek? This year it’s been “Greek system inherently flawed” and a “North by Midwest” comic portraying what seems to be the utter inability to understand Greek life, and that’s during just the first few weeks of Fall Term.

All this misunderstanding makes me want to run outside and scream out across campus, “I am a proud member of Greek life and you’ve got it all wrong!” I see negative attitudes towards Greek life, not only in opinions expressed in The Lawrentian, but across campus as well.

The saying goes that everyone is entitled to their own opinion; I believe that, but with the caveat that a well-informed opinion is worth more attention and consideration. That’s precisely what frustrates me the most about many anti-Greek opinions: that people outside of Greek life think they are educated enough about it and its members to judge and create stigmas against Greek life without really knowing what it’s like to be a part of it.

On the other hand, I understand and respect the opinions of those who have a valid critique of Greek life, even if I don’t necessarily agree. Take the recent article “Greek system inherently flawed” written by Gus Murphy, who was a member of the men’s music honorary society, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, for three years.

While I disagree with many of his points, I recognize the merit in his argument. In fact, like Murphy, I would like to see some changes in a Greek system that has historically been gender-segregated.

I especially appreciate Murphy’s point that some of the things he dislikes about Greek life are due more to “flaws in the groups’ structures than any individuals’ actions,” which acknowledges that it is the national rules and guidelines, rather than individual Greek students, that can make the idea of “going Greek” hard to swallow for some.

I personally have found a lot to love in Greek life, but that doesn’t mean everybody will, and Murphy is speaking from an informed perspective that certainly makes his argument valid. Nevertheless, it is truly hard to understand Greek life from the outside looking in, even if this seemingly plays into the idea that Greek life is exclusive.

It just seems ridiculous to me that you would try to judge something you’ve never experienced, or have only seen from the outside. If you still don’t get it, it’s kind of like this:

“Hey what do you think of that new movie with George Clooney?”

“Don’t waste your time. It’s shallow and cliché, and the acting sucked.”

“Oh really?”

“Yea, I didn’t see the actual movie but I saw all the previews and read about it online so I’m probably right.”

See what I mean? This is coming from someone who has experienced the difference between what you think you know about Greek life and what it’s really like. Personally, I was unsure of joining a sorority my freshman year so, when recruitment rolled around, I chickened out. But when I studied abroad my sophomore year, two other Lawrence students in my program, who just happened to be in sororities, became my best friends.

These girls never forced me to go through recruitment or bragged about their respective sororities ad nauseam. What they did do was encourage me to go Greek through the kind actions and words that led to our friendship and showed me what a proud sorority woman acts like.

On that note, I think Greek life at Lawrence needs an image change; I want to contribute by giving some insight into the sorority side of things, the side I can speak from. While I know that I can’t speak for every sorority girl, I can speak for myself and for my sisters, and here’s what I have to say.

I’m a sorority woman—but that doesn’t mean you know me, even if you think you do. In a lot of ways, sororities are just like any other organization or generalized group of people: There is a stereotype and while some people will inevitably fit that stereotype, not all of us do.

I wear my letters with pride because I am proud to be a part of my sorority and the Greek system. I am proud to represent a national organization with sisters all across the globe. I love knowing that I am a part of something that will last long after my years at Lawrence because when I made my pledge, I made it for life. I’m proud to maintain a high academic standard, to give back through philanthropy, and to know what it means to be a leader.

I can’t imagine my life without the goofy, smart, talented and caring women that I have the privilege to call my sisters. My membership dues don’t pay for my friends, but instead allow me to pursue the ideals of sisterhood, scholarship, leadership and philanthropy with my friends.

While these are a few of the reasons I love Greek life, I recognize that it is by no means perfect and that its members are not without fault. Sexual assault and alcohol abuse are prevalent problems on college campuses and, unfortunately, Greek life and culture can sometimes exacerbate these problems. It shouldn’t have to be said that when crimes are committed by students they should face the consequences swiftly and fully.

This is no different for Greek students. However, I believe that, unless it becomes a systemic problem within an organization, students should be treated on an individual basis. It is simply not fair to generalize that all members of an organization are bad or immoral based on the objectionable behavior of one individual. When Greek students break conduct, they break their pledge, and they should not be allowed to represent an organization whose ideals they do not uphold.

But, as in the news, the bad tends to outweigh the good; instances of scandal and misbehavior are well-known while the successes and merits of sorority and fraternity members stay under wraps. So here’s a fun fact for you: Nationally, graduation rates are higher for students who are a part of Greek life versus non-Greek students, 71% versus 50%. This is just one example of the ways in which participating in Greek life pushes students to maintain high standards, including academically, and provides them with a support system to reach their goals.

I know that much of what I’m saying will fall on deaf ears. Maybe you’ve heard this all before and you’re not convinced. Maybe people won’t read this article or, if they do, they will continue to stereotype Greek life based on a few people they know or one scandal they heard about.

So let this be a call to all my fellow Greek students to uphold the principles and values we pledged when we became members of our respective organizations. And to those that aren’t in Greek life, please reconsider the image that comes to mind when you hear the words “sorority girl” or “frat guy.”