Miller: The price you pay to join Greek Life

Various Greek Life members stand together in the Chamberlain Student Center. - Photo / Rowan University

It is no secret that Greek Life is one of the most common and well-known parts of the “college experience” across campuses everywhere. College can be a difficult transition for lots of people, and sometimes finding a big group of friends can alleviate some of the loneliness that may come with being away from home. Having an organization dedicated to creating relationships and fostering positive relationships with others seems incredibly appealing. It is advertised as a fun way for students to make friends and have the option of participating in events on campus. However, what happens when those friendships turn into something that feels more like a chore?

On Nov. 9, 2022, I submitted my resignation to my sorority, and even though it was a hard decision to make, it was one that I do not regret.

Now, the point of this piece is not to scare anyone away from joining a Greek Life organization. It can be a great way for some students to network, get involved in philanthropic events and find a community on campus. I do not regret joining either. I learned a lot in each experience that I had — both good and bad — but in the end, I discovered that this is a part of college that I wanted nothing to do with, which is just as valuable as it would have been if I really loved it. I simply want to share my own personal experience, and help students factor in these downsides that come with joining an on-campus sorority — downsides that are not clear when you sign up for recruitment.

Perhaps my biggest personal struggle with my former sorority was the lack of consideration for students who are not privileged enough to not work while also attending college. I pay for my bills and almost all other expenses myself, which requires me to work weekends as a server. At the beginning of the fall semester, I had to work doubles on Sundays — a crucial money-making day at my local sports bar — and was met not with compromise but penalization. Rather than work toward a compromise, I was told that our bylaws state that these meetings were mandatory and the sorority had no choice but to fine me for every meeting I missed.

This penalization actively discourages hard work, one of the fundamental aspects that these organizations claim to teach. Sisters are given four missed-event excuses for the entire semester, and when you run out, you are forced to pay. These fines are not cheap either. Some are small, only $15, but others can be expensive. I was fined $50 several times for missing a Sunday night meeting that had a ritual. For someone who is already working to pay for their rent, utilities and groceries — these fines and expenses are no small inconvenience. I racked up a whopping $160 in fines, in addition to the already expensive $342.45 dues that active sisters have to pay.

Active sisters can also be fined for missing social gatherings. Once, when I was scheduled to work a double on Sunday, I was fined $30 for missing the mandatory sisterhood picnic. Shouldn’t spending time with your friends be something you want to do, not a way to avoid financial burden?

I could have avoided this by taking Sundays out of my work availability, but Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays were the easiest days for me to work without sacrificing my school work. This was a club I joined to have fun and make friends, not so that I could have other women my age tell me what days I can and cannot work and how I have to spend my time — especially when my income depends heavily on how busy the restaurant is and how many sales I have. 

My second issue with the sorority was the rigid rules surrounding each member’s social life. It is no secret that Greek Life organizations on campus host a lot of social gatherings. What they do not advertise during recruitment is the fact that almost everything they do is a “mandatory” event. I can understand this for philanthropy or sorority events like big-little or bid day, but for me, I did not feel comfortable being told that it was mandatory for me to attend “sisterhood events.” I, like most people, am a busy college student, and while I love to go out and have fun with my friends just as much as the next person, I do not like being forced to go out when I am not in the mood to do so.

There were often exclusive fraternity parties, or mixers, on school nights that would be “mandatory” for all sisters to attend. Since they couldn’t fine us for not attending parties, there was a point system my organization used to keep members attending the events they planned. If you did not attend enough of these events, you would lose or attain points that would eventually count against you when it came to things like taking a little or being invited to date parties. In order to not lose points, you needed to submit physical proof that you had a class or had work to go to.

The sorority also had rules that dictated how long you had to be in attendance at an event as well — no matter when it was. They consistently pushed girls to stay until 1 a.m, regardless of if the girls wanted to. And if people left early, they would lose points. On multiple occasions, there were passive-aggressive messages and rules about the point system throughout the night and the next day following a mandatory party.

Recruitment is another part of the process that also rubs me the wrong way. 

This is not a trait unique to my organization, it exists in every single sorority at Rowan, and most sororities elsewhere as well. When you go through formal or informal recruitment, you are entering yourself into a system where you are ranked on anything each member deems to be important. I was not involved in this side of spring recruitment, but during the fall, we were given a list of names and were told to rank each woman on a scale from 1-5. Women who were ranked high were invited to join the sorority and those who did not rank, or did not rank high enough, were not.

The same goes for big-little. You are given a list of 28 women and told to rank them based on who you would want the most as your big. This seemed less harmful to me when it was happening, but when I told people not involved in Greek Life about it, they seemed to feel uncomfortable about how we were ranking these women based on the minimal interactions — similar to speed dating conversations — we had with them throughout the month. 

Women’s names were even put in a spreadsheet before recruitment begins, especially if they were friends with women in the organization and expressed an interest in signing up for recruitment. From there the recruitment team will look at your social media, and if they like what they see they send you information about recruitment and special events. I received my first invitation to a “meet the sisters” event as early as the second week of my freshman year, despite the fact that freshmen are unable to rush until their second semester. Only the recruitment team is allowed to invite girls to these events.

In the spring, when I rushed, I went through the formal recruitment process. After meeting girls in the organization and being shown a lot of friendliness, I thought it might be a nice way to build another network of friends on campus. I visited rooms each day where I spoke with different girls about anything. I had conversations about makeup, our majors, philanthropy, musicals and even internet fads that were popular at the time. Based on this minuscule amount of information, each organization, including my own, had the members I spoke to rank me in relation to other girls that they spoke to in the room that day. 

I found out later that I had actually ranked high, along with many of my friends in the organization, but despite this, I still had an unpleasant experience.

Hazing is perhaps one of the most controversial parts of greek life culture as a whole. During my time in sorority life, I was not hazed. But during my new member process, when concerns were voiced about our initiation being extended, we were told that we were lucky for the absence of hazing compared to other organizations on campus.

Why were these women, who I was supposed to be friends with, holding this statement over my head like it was a prize to be won? Why should I be thankful to someone because they did not decide to physically or emotionally abuse me? How sisterly!

It wasn’t all bad though. I liked the attention, the parties I was invited to, the glitz and the glamor and all of the new people I was meeting. I felt like I was building up a social network in this brand-new town and, being a commuter student, it also made it easier to see friends on campus. People started to know who I was, and I liked that feeling. I had fun, and I even decided to move in with some of the women I met in the organization. Before everything went south, I even took it upon myself to encourage people who were not involved in Greek Life to join.

What started off as something so exciting, unfortunately, became something that negatively deteriorated my mental health on a daily basis. Even when the organization was not sending me fines or guilting me to attend events I did not have the time or desire to go to, I still, every day, had to hear different rumors about me circulate between mutual friends in the organization. It became clear that when I stopped going out to as many events, my absence was taken as a personal attack against the organization. It was really just my way of trying to prioritize work and school. 

When I woke up and realized that I had no desire to be a part this “sisterhood,” I watched as girls who were supposed to be my lifelong friends, suddenly take a vow of silence when I entered rooms or spread harmful rumors about me and the people I care about. 

I feel like I deserved some of it. I definitely could have been more “sisterly” and played into the entire thing a bit more — but the more I came to discover who I was, the less willing I was to be a part of it. Which is the entire point of this opinion piece. It is not to slander these women or make them out to be villainous people, it is simply to educate Rowan students on what exactly they are signing up for when they sign up for recruitment in the spring. Greek life is not for everyone, some people will enjoy it, while others will feel the opposite. It is simply a matter of what your lifestyle looks like and what you are willing to commit to in order to make friends. Greek Life is a consuming and rigid commitment. When you become a member of one of these panhellenic sororities on campus, you are signing away your time and you are willingly letting people tell you what you can and cannot do with it. 

I don’t regret the time that I spent in Greek Life. I met some great people and, for a period of time, it provided me with a sense of community at school. However, as I grow up and spend more time at Rowan, I have discovered that I am unwilling to give up the integrity of my schoolwork, my work ethic, or my freedom for the sake of wearing stitched letters around campus and having “friends” who have not spoken to me since my resignation was filed.

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  1. Good for you for speaking the truth & being brave enough to share. I am sure it was not easy, but I am ALSO sure this article will help someone else who needs it. I also think that anyone who says anything nasty about this article MAY need to take a look at themselves.

  2. Honestly, this felt more like a rant on someone’s Instagram about the things they didn’t like about their organization rather than a real article that deserved to be published. There’s nothing concrete, just opinions and bias. I know multiple orgs that accommodate brothers and sisters outside lives and financial concerns. Personally, I don’t necessarily disagree with the author, Greek life is corrupt and full of flaws, but this should’ve been approached in a much more professional way, rather than coming off as victimizing and immature. There was no advice for resolution, no differing perspectives, no genuine issues that weren’t personal. Just felt a bit whinny. 6/10

  3. This is extremely well written. There are a lot of pros to greek life, but when an exec begins to create a culture where the sorority is more important than an individual’s job/school/family, the environment and experience is compromised for current and future members.

    With an exec unwilling to compromise on these concerns, you absolutely did the right thing to at least inform PNMs about what the culture is actually like if the exec still doesn’t take steps to change after being prompted by this article. Kudos for speaking up about the culture issues within that sorority and hopefully this prompts the leadership to reflect on their actions and attitudes to make meaningful changes so greek life can be a good experience for future sisters.

    If this chapter hopes to survive at Rowan, let alone actually expand to more schools, this sorority should appreciate being held publicly accountable like this and see it as an opportunity to actually improve the sisterhood’s experience. More greek organizations need to adopt the mindset that if people aren’t attending events (especially social events), it is leadership’s fault, not the members’.

  4. I actually love this. Admirable & truthful. Sorority as a whole has turned into a reputation status game rather than sisterhood. She is brave enough to now be slandered and torn to shreds from her once “girly pop best friends”, who’d rather turn a blind eye to her blatant hurt than reach out if she was doing okay. Make it make sense. The girls who are hurt, are hurt because deep down they understand where she was coming from, they know, but won’t admit it, again for reputation. For some, without Greek life they have absolutely nothing. It’s sad. This article is a great example of bravery, and these orgs should be exposed more often for the stuff they pull.

  5. I’m not and never have been a member of Greek Life, but I’m proud of you for speaking out. I hope you’re in a better place now!

  6. I’m not sure what the point of posting this article was. If you go on any of this girl’s social media all she did was post her with her sisters and about how much she loved her “sisters.” The narrative changed as soon as she couldn’t meet the financial obligations anymore. To which she admits in this article.

    This article lacks a ton of factual evidence to back her stories. I’m fairly certain you sign contracts and documents agreeing to all of the said rules and policies she had a problem with in the article. Why would you sign something you don’t agree with may I ask? Seems like she got caught up in the “glitz and glamour” of the sorority without actually reading into what she was signing up for. Then blamed the sorority for following their own rules.

    Poor journalism to not prove your points and shame to the Whit for not looking into the story before it was posted.

    • while all the rules are disclosed, being in a sorority is not legally binding. her opinion on someone or something is allowed to change over time and that’s called growing up. as someone who was in greek life i can attest to the fact that majority of what was wrote is true and majority of the time they don’t tell you everything until you’re an active member.

    • You can love sisters & still not understand the organization. As a whole Exec should’ve been compromising with her, and all sisters who need a break financially. I don’t think this is anything about “loving sisters”. The rules became entrapment & toxic. She has the right to voice her experience.

    • Your comment is dumb, especially because if a sister cannot afford something than the org should help her during these times rather than piling on fines.

  7. I hate when white women play victim bc they can’t make in friends in an institution they chose to be in. There are WAY bigger problems in the world than boohooing because you don’t like being in a sorority

  8. This is probably the most immature article i’ve ever read in my life, it is extremely selfish and for someone who was once a part of an organization to talk on it this badly and this disrespectfully should not be allowed to share their biased “opinions” with a university.

    • this comment is immature. she wasn’t being selfish, she was allowing girls to see what it’s really like being in an organization. allowing them to know some of the rules and how it works before they make a huge commitment to something. she did not talk badly on the organization, only on its members who were disrespectful to her for realizing and doing what was best for herself mentally and financially. and the last time i checked all “opinions” are biased, and you wouldn’t have put opinions in quotation marks if what she was saying wasn’t true.