Sisterhood for all, except the 99 percent

By Morgan Reppert

(Elizabeth Polvere / Daily Collegian)

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the University of Massachusetts’ official sorority recruitment process, for a cost of $20. The process was six days long and consisted of visits and tours of the various sororities, and several rounds of speed-dating-like conversations. On the final day came preference night, where potential new members were given exclusive looks into the chosen chapter’s sisterhood and what it truly means to be part of Greek life.

I was incredibly skeptical of the legitimacy of Greek life going into recruitment. Why did I have to pay over $700 in dues for an unhoused chapter? Does being part of sorority allow me to network with women across the country? Despite the lack of information I had and the stereotypes that I had heard about Greek life, I decided to give it a chance.

I quickly learned that my jeans and a nice blouse were not enough. I was given suggestions to wear “nicer” shoes and a “dressier” necklace. Not only were my clothes not suitable, but I was expected to miss my classes to be able to attend all of the house events. I found it hard to understand that a program that preaches “academia first” was asking me to miss my classes so I wouldn’t face being dropped by the chapter.

But what came hardest to me was being judged on my appearance, race, clothes and how successful I was at being relatable and fun while having a conversation in an overcrowded basement. There was no conversation about my resume or my credentials, because it wasn’t about what I had accomplished or my grade point average. The recruitment process didn’t guarantee that I would get to join a predominantly white, middle-upper class group of girls, but it did guarantee that I left questioning my self-worth and why I did or didn’t fit in.

The argument can be raised that Greek life, including here at UMass, perpetuates classism by attracting students of a certain socioeconomic status, with an informal vetting process enacted simply by having set dues; if you can’t afford them, you cannot join the chapter. Princeton University is one of the few schools that has collected information and data about the Greek system. Their research only furthers the concept that Greek life is discriminatory on the basis of wealth and race. For example, senior surveys of Princeton’s classes of 2009 and 2010 prove that higher-income and white students are far more likely to participate in sororities and fraternities. Princeton’s data revealed that 77 percent of those in sororities and 73 percent of those in fraternities were white, whereas the entire student body was only 51 percent white in 2009.

When taking a step back from the discriminatory issues of Greek life, I do strongly believe that it can be a great outlet for new students who are having a difficult time adjusting. UMass can be hard to navigate and rather intimidating to new, transfer and even multi-year students. Greek life offers students who are having difficulty adjusting to a new place to establish bonds and friendships with people they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten the opportunity to meet. Greek life also helps students get involved with both local and national charities. Whether their philanthropy effort is big or small, they are still enacting the concept of being charitable among college students.

I don’t want to tarnish your opinion of Greek life, but a conversation needs to be had about their archaic and invalid recruitment process. I truly think if certain practices within the system were revised and reformed, there would be less discrimination and students of all backgrounds would be more inclined to join.

Editor’s Note: The photo accompanying this article originally was from Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority. This organization does not participate in Pan-Hellenic practices.

Morgan Reppert is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].