Shannon Speaks: Before You Judge

Recruitment season is here! One of my favorite times of the year. Meeting new girls and sharing my passion for my sisterhood with them is such a joy. This year though, unfortunately, I have experienced much negative feedback from people that dislike Greek Life and people that dislike those involved in Greek Life.

Just a few days ago, I witnessed someone write on social media, “Sorority girls are annoying,” and on another occasion heard someone make a comment on how they can’t stand Greek Life and that they could never participate in it. When I hear those things, I feel sad not for myself, but for people who believe Greek Life is a negative community. Joining a sorority has been by far the best thing I have done for myself in college and I wish I could share that same experience with all college students.

There are so many myths, stereotypes and negative connotations out there about sororities and sorority women. Just because you have watched “Animal House” or some reality show about sorority girls, does not mean you actually know anything about what sorority life is like. There are more sorority myths than there are truths and it is time to expose them. Greek Life is a positive community on almost every college campus in America and the age-long myths and stereotypes about sororities are simply not true.

1. You are buying your friends.  Most sororities require sisters to pay dues each semester. The dues go to things such as philanthropy, clothing, recruitment events and sisterhoods. A sorority is a lot like a sports team. When I played travel softball in high school, my parents would often have to fork up thousands of dollars a year to pay for my clothes, equipment and tournaments. I hung out with my softball friends even when we weren’t at softball whether it was going out to dinner on Friday nights or watching movies all day Saturday. We enjoyed being with each other on and off the field. No one ever told me I was, “buying my softball friends” even though the cost of playing softball with my friends was triple the amount of my sorority dues. The dues are such a small portion of sorority life and it’s sad that so many focus on just that.

2. I can’t afford to join a sorority. Most sorority dues are fairly reasonable. With that said, college is already extremely expensive and sometimes even the smallest amounts of money can be a burden. Most sororities have a payment plan for those girls that are worried about paying dues on time and that makes it much easier to make the payment. I know a lot of girls on the payment plan and they pay anything from five dollars a week to twenty dollars a week until they have paid their dues entirely. Sororities are extremely understanding about money constraints.

3. Sorority girls are fake and ignorant. My sorority sisters are the most genuine girls I have ever met and if they weren’t, I would never have joined a sorority. Just because many sorority girls are friendly and nice, does not mean they are fake. Some girls would just prefer a smile over a frown.

My sorority sisters are a diverse group of women and we all bring different attributes to the table. I have gotten to know so many different women and each individual has taught me different things. To say a sorority woman is ignorant, is false. I am constantly learning from my sisters and they are constantly learning from me and they have taught me everything from their various cultures to their college major – things I would have never been exposed to if I was not a sorority woman. Part of being in a sorority is constantly learning about people and life.

4. All sorority girls do is party.There is so much more to sorority women than just partying. On St. John’s campus alone, the majority of philanthropy work that is done is done by the Greek Life community. Every girl in my sorority chapter of forty-four women are involved in more than just Greek Life. I have sisters this year that are senators in Student Government, leaders in Student Democrats, leaders in Student Republicans, a sister on the St. John’s dance team, sisters involved in dance concert, writers for the newspaper, interns, student workers, tour guides and much, much more. We attend the basketball and soccer games to cheer on St. John’s, we go to various conferences and speakers on campus and as a sorority, we meet every week too. The reasons many sororities were originally created was to bring women together to help support and encourage one another during the college years. Sorority women and being leaders goes hand in hand.

Sorority life is fun too. You get to know a lot of people and build life long friendships. You get to experience things you never would have experienced if you were not in a  sorority. It helps many new college students take the first step to get involved on campus. Events such as Greek Week, where sororities and fraternities compete in games like flag football, tug-a-war and a lip sync routines, is a fun and exciting way to get involved. Other events such as luaus, barbeques and sporting events are ways to stay active in Greek Life. You constantly have people there for you, whether it is people to eat dinner with, go out with on the weekends, study with and even call during times of crisis. The bond that my sorority sisters have is unexplainable and so deep rooted. My letters are more than just letters, they are a way of life.

5. All sorority girls are stupid. To join a sorority at St. John’s University, it is required to have a GPA of 2.5 and above and that GPA must be obtained every year in college (most universities have this requirement). Although, most girls in my sorority have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Joining a sorority actually improved my GPA by two letter grades. I learned how to manage my time and my sisters always encouraged me to work hard in school. With a chapter of 44, there is nearly always someone with the same major, or a similar one at least. Whenever I needed help studying or advice on professors to take, my sorority sisters were always there for me. This past year, we had over half of our graduating class from our sorority, graduate college with honors.

6. Joining a sorority has no benefits after college. Believe it or not, the majority of women leaders in America were sorority women. Politicians, models, artists, actresses, Olympians, dancers, singers, business leaders, news anchors, doctors, lawyers and writers. Some famous women such as Carrie Underwood, Kate Spade, Katie Couric, Nancy Grace, Laura Bush, Susan Ford, Betsey Johnson, Condoleeza Rice, Sheryl Crow and Georgia O’Keefe were all in sororities.

One sorority on my campus just celebrated 100 years of sisterhood and another 55 years. With generations of sisters behind you and with close to 5,000,000 sorority women in America, you are bound to end up in the workforce with at least one of them. Sorority women understand the bond of sisterhood, hard work and dedication. They understand each other.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in San Diego, California, on the complete opposite side of the country. I was wearing my letters at the San Diego Zoo and three girls came running up to me and embraced me in hugs. They were in the same sorority that I am, but at San Diego State. I have heard sisters in my sorority and other sororities on my campus have similar stories. Sisterhood is more than just what you do during your college years. It extends beyond.

7. You will be hazed. Hazing is illegal in most states and most campuses have extremely strict policies against hazing as well. Although hazing still exists, it is quickly becoming something of the past. Most sororities will not tolerate hazing of any kind and are educated on the negatives of hazing. With that said, joining a sorority is hard work, as is joining any sort of organization. Most of the new-member education process is learning about the founders of your sorority, your mission, goals and history. Hazing and Greek Life no longer go hand in hand.

8. You will drop your old friends after you join a sorority. Most of my sorority sisters are still friends with their friends prior to Greek Life. Just because a woman joins a sorority does not mean she is going to drop her friends that are not in a sorority. My group of friends from freshman year of college still remain and continue to be my great friends. My sorority sisters have been extremely welcoming of my group of friends and we have found that we can all be friends. I even have some friends that decided to go Greek after I joined and several of my friends encouraged me to go Greek when they joined.

When I told my Big sister in my sorority that I was writing this article, she sent me a few videos about sororities. One quote from one of the videos that really stood out to me was, “We aren’t asking you to give up anything. We are not asking you to become something you are not. We are asking you to become something more. We are inviting you to to become a part of a group of women that promise to take care of each other everyday.” The video explains that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what stage of life you are at, if you join a sorority you are always representing the women in that sorority. Whether it is when you are on a sports field or when you are reciting your wedding vows or when you are eating Sunday dinner at your mom’s house or when you are at a bar on Friday night, even when you are not wearing your sorority letters on your chest, you are still always wearing them. You represent your sorority, the women in your sorority and your letters. One mistake, one bad choice, one incident can change the outlook on your sorority forever. The importance and intensity of that is what makes Greek Life and being a member of a sorority is so powerful. What you do, matters.

9. I think I am better than you because I am in a sorority. One of the first things my Big sister said to me when I became a sorority woman was that we are not better than anyone who isn’t in a sorority, but instead, we are the best individuals we can be because we are a part of a sorority. Our letters, our bond, our mission statement, our values, our morals and our sisters behind us make us better individuals, not better than anyone else. Joining a sorority has most definitely helped me become the best individual I can be and I want that for all women.

During recruitment when I tell potential new-members joining a sorority is the best thing I have ever done, I am not just saying that for the sake of saying it. I say it because it is indeed the best thing I have ever done.

I leave you with this inspiring video, a special thanks to my Big sister for sharing:

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