For this article, the Trinitonian reached out to nine formerly active Greek life members from both fraternities and sororities; only three agreed to be interviewed.
After all the excitement of Bid Day last week, many students are now new active members of Greek organizations and are now undergoing orientation. Opinions on Greek life tend to be mixed, however. To some, the clubs offer invaluable opportunities to form strong friendships, while to others, Greek life creates unnecessary financial burdens and social pressures.
Those who enter a Greek organization and find it’s not what they expected have two choices: they can go inactive, which leaves the ability to rejoin, or they can fully quit the organization.
Senior Syne Barr went inactive from the Alpha Chi Lambda sorority this year. She rushed Alpha Chi her sophomore year, feeling that she needed more friends, and had already begun to know and like many Alpha Chi members.
However, Barr faced multiple issues within the club. The financial aspect was a limiting factor, as Alpha Chi’s dues are about $200 per semester. There are waivers, but it was often awkward for Barr to submit these to be reviewed by her fellow sorority members.
“A struggle for me during the whole thing was paying for it: I didn’t like doing that. One, I didn’t have the money, and two, it made me feel weird. It felt like I was just paying for the mixers we had each week, and I didn’t even go to most of them because I didn’t really enjoy them,” Barr said.
In addition, Barr worked and was not always able to make the weekly meetings, which were often about event planning she didn’t care for. She added that while she still respects and likes a lot of the members, her closest friends weren’t even in the sorority, and she felt she was just taking part in it for no reason.
“I just didn’t find my place in there,” Barr said. “I didn’t find that I was growing or becoming better in any way, that it was shaping me into anything. I get it, they’re supposed to be fun and social, but I wasn’t having fun.”
Senior Hannah Braley was a member of Gamma Chi Delta and joined in 2016 but has since left the sorority.
“[While studying abroad in New Zealand,] people kept asking me if I was in a sorority, and I found myself not wanting to tell the truth. I would say no, or I would say yes but I’m quitting, or I would say yes but sororities at my school aren’t ‘real sororities’ as we all like to think at Trinity. This helped me realize that I really was done being a part of the Greek life system: the fact that I didn’t want to admit to others that I participated in it,” Braley wrote in an email.
She decided to quit upon returning from this trip, before starting the fall 2018 semester. Even though she is no longer active, Braley does not regret forming relationships with other Gammas.
“The women I met in Gammas have helped shape my Trinity experience, and they have been good, loyal friends to me whether I have been in the club or not,” Braley wrote. “I don’t have any hard feelings against them whatsoever, and I’m grateful for the time I had with them and the things I learned.”
While Braley appreciates the relationships she made through this experience, she often found herself in anxiety-inducing and compromising situations.
“I didn’t feel like I was a very good person when I was heavily invested in Greek life,” Braley said. “I felt like the people that I surrounded myself with did not bring out the best in me, and I found myself acting in judgmental ways that made me feel badly about myself.”
Senior Maddie Kennedy is a former Alpha Chi member and 2015 pledge. She wrote in an email that as a queer individual, she feels that the Greek system in general reinforces a heterosexual, gendered binary that excludes the LGBTQ+ community.
Braley and Barr also both identified problematic aspects of the system in regard to acceptance of all types of people. According to Braley, Greek life has been exclusive in its selection process where new members are voted in and has a tradition of secrecy in regard to their practices.
“I personally believe that the exclusivity and voting model of the Greek life system is based on a racist, classist, sexist model,” Braley wrote. “This is not to say that people in Greek life at Trinity are all racist, sexist and classist. But I do think that, because the hive mentality that goes along with sororities and fraternities runs so deep and is so pervasive, it is easy for members to get caught up.”
Barr felt similarly, emphasizing how uncomfortable Greek life can be for minorities.
“Being a black woman, it didn’t really feel like a safe space,” Barr said. “It was just majority white women who I’d say were decently more progressive and liberal but not enough where I would feel comfortable, and it’s hard because it’s a systemic thing: sororities in general are white, and if they’re not white they’re literally black sororities, which we don’t have here.”
Barr added that while her sorority was good at addressing problems when people brought them up, she didn’t understand why she was having so many problems in a group that should have been a safe one between friends. Instead, she sometimes noticed microagressions within Greek life, such as use of racial slurs and insensitive comments about socio-economic status.
“I wanted sororities to be a unit of change for womanhood and moving forward, but it’s just white feminism, not intersectional. I did get the girl power part of it, but if you’re leaving out part of the girls, then it’s not,” Barr said.
She added that it would take much more than just representation of people of color to change the mentality and exclusivity of the system.
Moreover, Braley stated that she knows many people in Greek Life who have been affected by sexual assault, felt targeted or unsupported by their organization, and have suffered mentally due to Greek life practices.
“I know many people who have been sexually assaulted at Greek life events, many people that have felt targeted and unsupported by the organizations they have joined that are supposed to be their closest confidants and biggest cheerleaders, and countless people whose mental health has suffered specifically due to Greek life practices, whether those be during orientation or at a Fall Formal event,” Braley wrote.
Kennedy also wrote in her email that she believes the Greek system encourages rape culture.
“For fraternities especially, considering how their club treats women — are they bodies to flirt with? Are they people to give alcohol for sex? Should mixer themes like ‘Hunters and the Hunted’ really be allowed? In addition, how are allegations of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and dating violence treated in your club?” Kennedy wrote. “I have seen too many examples of fraternities excusing this behavior and I know this continues to this day.”
The interviewees all expressed that Greek life at Trinity and nationally needs to change, though the emphasis on tradition makes this challenging.
“Greek life has so much power on this campus, and they don’t use it nearly enough to help others who do not have its privilege and sense of community,” Braley wrote. “I would love to see them prove me wrong, and I think that a good portion of them both want to and have the means to.”