Considering more than half of SMU’s undergraduate population wears Greek letters, it may surprise no one that I’m in a sorority. I joined a Panhellenic chapter in the Spring 2016, and I’m happy. I feel at home with my sisters, I’ve learned skills from experiences with my chapter and I’ve forged deep friendships. While each sorority chapter is unique, you won’t find a house without women who have had the same experience.
Going Greek is not a mortal sin.
But I won’t pretend the sorority system is flawless. The process of joining a sorority can be brutal from the start. I remember sobbing when I rushed two years ago, not because I was sad, but because I was too mentally exhausted to work through another outlet. Even being in a sorority is intense, from all the practice it takes to perfect chants when everyone has lost their voices to late nights setting up for the next day. And that only scratches the surface.
Just as Greek life isn’t an unforgivable offense, neither is choosing to abstain. Even trying it out and leaving early is an option, albeit sometimes an expensive one if dues have already been paid. However, to each their own.
A problem arises when that choice is made for an entire population of women in one fell swoop. I would be more surprised that policies affecting women are enacted without consulting a single woman if that wasn’t already a notable American habit.
Harvard University enacted penalties on all members of single-gender organizations. Affecting the Fall 2017 freshman class, the institution is barring members from leadership positions in recognized student organizations, becoming varsity captains, or receiving endorsements from Harvard for prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes scholarship. This is a bold move from a university that refuses to officially recognize Greek organizations; Harvard had four fraternities, four sororities and a multitude of similarly structured final clubs.
In response, two fraternities and five final clubs have opened membership to both men and women. Both Alpha Epsilon Pi and Kappa Sigma disaffiliated from their nationals to do so and rebranded themselves “Aleph” and “KS”, respectively.
Harvard president Drew G. Faust set these penalties in May 2016. Now, the goal is to “phase out” all social groups from the campus by 2022.
Supposedly, the administration is looking to stop discrimination in the selection process, which apparently justifies discriminating which of their students can hold other positions and fellowships through Harvard. The initial reason for the change was a 2016 report linking single-gender social clubs to women being sexually assaulted.
Again, sororities are being attacked because women are getting assaulted by men, particularly those involved in fraternities and final clubs.
This isn’t a one-off. In November, Florida State University instituted a temporary suspension of Greek life after a fraternity pledge died and two fraternity members were arrested on drug trafficking charges. Similar crimes at Louisiana State and Texas State University led to bans on all Greek life last semester, again on the part of fraternity men. Yet, sorority women are punished.
In response to Harvard’s prejudiced initiative, sorority women across America took to social media with the hashtag “Hear Her Harvard.” Each told the same general story: sororities support their members and should not be penalized for the criminal activities of fraternities and male final clubs.
In any organization, there are issues that aren’t in the news; sororities are no exception. But I know my personal experience and the experiences of thousands of other women don’t add up to nothing. Don’t generalize to make your job easy. Leave women their safe spaces with their sisters. Don’t remove them and claim it will stop sexual assaults. Punish the parties responsible, not the victims.