Tom and I recently watched The Social Network. It had my brain going on lots of different directions, but one I personally wanted to address was the way that sororities were portrayed.
I certainly can’t speak for how honestly the sorority that was a part of the movie was portrayed, but I know that it and pretty much any sorority I have seen in tv shows or movies is always shown in one of two ways:
1. Wild Party Houses. These are the ones that look like all the girls love to make out with each other, throw crazy co-ed parties where the girls run around half-naked and have jello wrestling matches, get wasted, and get high.
2. A Private Dream House. These are the ones where there are so few girls in the sorority that they all get their own bedrooms, which are spacious enough to have big beds and everything just how they want. Generally there are 20-50 girls in the sorority.
Neither of those is a reality for any Panhellenic sorority I’ve ever seen. Maybe some fraternities. (I didn’t really spend much time in fraternity houses, so I wouldn’t know.) But not sororities.
I think that if I had not been in a sorority and was judging solely on what I “knew” about them from the negative press I see (which is often-and unfairly-the only press Greeks get) and on how they are portrayed in movies and tv shows, I would never let my daughter rush for Sorority life. (Rush is what the several days of meeting, and ranking of and by sororities is called when sororities and future “sisters” find out where they would best fit with each other.)
But having gone through it, and having been a fairly level-headed participant through all four years of college, I can honestly give it a high recommendation, and wanted to set the record straight.
*At least at UGA, where I attended college, there were beautiful houses, but the girls almost all shared rooms. In my sorority, there were about…on average, 200 girls per year. Only so many of the girls could live in the house at a time, usually one or two pledge classes at the most (plus all the executive members of the sorority for that year) at a time for the majority of the sororities.
In many sororities, the girls had dorm like rooms. In the few houses where they lived in the original house instead of an addition, they had bigger rooms with more roommates. All roommates would agree on the decor (paint, etc.) before moving in and do the work themselves to get the room they would share how they liked it before rush began.
*There is a “House Mother” in every single house. She has her own room and bathroom, and she is paid to live there. She enforces the rules of the house and makes sure that girls are safe in the house. She doesn’t attend chapter meetings, but she does live in the house.
Definitely a hit or miss here- you might get a crazy sasquatch of a house mom (speaking from experience)- but usually, the house moms are fine and are only concerned with fulfilling their duties, not getting all up in the girls’ business.
*Boys are not allowed in certain parts of the house, and they are only allowed during certain hours. I didn’t live in our sorority house (I had no interest in having 4 roommates in my actual bedroom, even though I loved my sorority sisters). But guys did come over to the house, and I’m pretty sure that they had to be gone by around 10 or 11 at night. They also weren’t allowed up in the bedrooms.
*No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the property. I’m sure some girls sneak alcohol in, but if something were to happen, like our house burn down, and they found even one empty beer bottle, the insurance company could deny our claim. So, those kegger parties you see on tv? Not at a sorority house.
Sororities even get penalized if a picture with a solo cup or any alcohol visible in it is out during rush. You will often see stickers covering up various parts of pictures from date nights or socials during rush, even though the sister in the picture might be legal to drink or not even have been the one with alcohol in the picture.
*Sororities are HUGELY involved in philanthropic events. Most host a huge philanthropy each semester, and they also participate in tons of the various philanthropies hosted across campus by various other charities and Greek organizations. (Below are pictures from Gamma Phi’s annual Chili Cook Off, our fall semester philanthropy.)
I wish I knew how many thousands of dollars were raised in just the four years I was involved. With 200 girls in the sorority working each of our own events plus all of us being involved in one or more other philanthropies, I can’t even imagine how much each pledge class had raised by the time they graduated.
*Good grades are important. I maybe met one or two girls in college who didn’t seem to take classes seriously. And guess what? They didn’t stay sisters. Sororities aren’t just pretty faces pasted on empty heads. These girls are held to a high standard.
When you pledge a sorority, you give up the right to keep your GPA private.There is an officer in the sorority whose goal is to make sure we keep our grades up, and if your GPA dips below what is deemed “acceptable,” you get put on academic probation.
I know this because it happened to me after my first semester, freshman year. Oops.
I wasn’t out partying or drinking, but I was in a major that held no interest for me, and in classes that were my weak points. I also had been able to make A’s in high school AP classes with much less effort than was required for a college student, so I had to change my perception of studying. I was so mortified when I went home for Christmas break at how poorly I had done.
I decided to switch into a major that I found more interesting, and I signed up for core classes that most of my freshman classmates had been smart enough to take the previous semester, as they eased into college life.
But that meant that my Greek life was put on pause. In order to be sure I was focusing on school first and foremost, I was not allowed to run for any office, and I could only participate in philanthropies, practices (I was in our competition a capella group) and competitions, one social, and our formal for the entire spring semester. My GPA was then reviewed (I had pulled off a 3.9 or something for the second semester), and when it was averaged with my previous semester’s GPA, it was enough to put me back into good academic standing. The probation was over.
I tell you this not to embarrass myself but to make a point that Greeks know that they are primarily at school for school. Not for social activities. And it is their goal to be sure that their members are well-rounded students, not well-rounded party-goers.
*Now, that said, social activities are what draw most girls to sororities. It’s what drew me. You get into a big school where you know few people and in a sorority find a huge group of girls with which to identify yourself. No, you won’t be close to everyone. Yes, this is a very mixed group of girls from all over the country with different morals, faiths, political affiliations, and opinions.
But something about them is similar enough that they end up in the same group, and they become sisters. There are also lots of fun events that the sororities will participate in over each year. Semi-formals, formals, themed socials (also known as mixers), date nights, mother/daughter teas, daddy/daughter game dates, parent weekends, etc. It’s just fun to be a part of it all!
Personally, I didn’t do a ton of socials after freshman year. I had guy friends at UGA, but I wasn’t really interested in just going to socials to mix with guys from the fraternities because I was dating Tom and not looking to date anyone else. I went my freshman year because I didn’t want to look like a stick-in-the-mud. After that, I felt comfortable enough to skip them and not worry what anyone thought.
The reality? In the end, I know that if my daughter goes Greek, she will be held accountable as a student by her peers, learn the value of working hard so that those less fortunate can benefit, be able to socialize with people from all walks of life, and make friends with people that will start out as strangers and end up as her best friends and maybe even her bridesmaids. I know that’s what it did for me.
These girls represent about a third of my bridesmaids, and each of these four gorgeous ladies I met because I went Greek. Love them!
Just thought it was time someone stood up for the classy sorority ladies out there. I truly believe that they represent the majority in the Greek system!