There’s been a lot of news in the press lately about the University of Alabama and its (unofficially) segregated Greek system finally integrating. While I know absolutely none of the details enough to start a conversation on that topic, I will tell you that the backlash that I’ve seen and heard is all about how antiquated and foolish going Greek is in this day and age. Why would any intelligent collegiate woman in this day and age feel the need to “buy friends” by joining a sorority? Or, along the same lines of thought, why would any intelligent collegiate woman in this day and age feel the need to become a vapid, bubblehead who dresses like everyone else, talks like everyone else, and can only tell you about social events?
I’m so very glad that you asked.
Once upon a time, I thought the very same things. I was NOT going to join a sorority because I was fairly certain that all they did were throw parties and get drunk, neither of which I had any interest in. I avoided even figuring out which national sororities we had on campus until the spring semester of my sophomore year when my roommate was approached during the “open bid” period. She had a couple of sororities she was going out with, and in her confusion over which house to pledge so as to not pick the wrong group and potentially ruin the rest of her life (really?), she somehow wrangled me into going out one evening with a group of Phi Mu sisters. I remember thinking, at the conclusion of the evening, “Well, those girls weren’t stupid.” No surprise then when less than a week later, I had accepted their bid and was one of their new “Phis,” aka pledges.
Yes, I joined a sorority.
And would you believe that in time I discovered that there were some really good reasons to go Greek after all? And that a lot of those good reasons became apparent to me only when I got out into the real world?
Here are some of those reasons, in no particular order…
– I can talk to anyone about anything. The biggest part of the formal rush process was sitting down with any number of strange and/or bizarre girls and trying to turn whatever strange/bizarre conversation they started back to why their lives would potentially be ruined if they didn’t become a Phi Mu. (Really?) I remember one summer as we were preparing for this, our chapter’s president got me up in front of the rest of the sisters to do a “mock rush” conversation, and no matter what she threw my way (talk of pet dogs, favorite television shows, her psychotic ex-boyfriend), I could always turn the conversation back to why her life would potentially be ruined if she didn’t become a Phi Mu. (Yes, really.) I had no idea then that I would one day be a pastor’s wife who has these kinds of conversations on a weekly (nay, hourly) basis, but I am and I do. And I can thank Phi Mu for my ability to stand there, nod, smile, and redirect, redirect, redirect conversations back to logical places.
– The world actually does operate by Robert’s Rules of Order. Oh, how I loathed business meetings. But the processes and procedures we all learned together back in the UC on Monday nights were great preparation for untold numbers of church business meetings, convention meetings, and denominational meetings. I can only assume that if we’re operating this way in our SBC world, the rest of the world does something similar. And if you’re a sorority girl, you know all about how that works.
– I learned about volunteering. Before I joined my sorority, I would have told you that volunteering and doing some good in the impoverished community around UH was important to me… but I didn’t do squat in that community until I pledged and it was (gasp!) a requirement that I get off my duff and do something. I spent a semester volunteering at an elementary school on behalf of Phi Mu, and it was one of the richest experiences of my entire undergraduate career. And I wouldn’t have done it had it not been for Phi Mu.
– I learned about generosity. It costs a lot to pledge a national sorority. (And I’m saying this fifteen years removed from it. It’s probably even more expensive now!) Maybe laying all of this money down for pledging disconnects your brain from fully comprehending the real value of money (a coping mechanism, you know), because I’ve seen that when someone goes Greek, they become crazy generous, especially when it comes to our national philanthropy. I saw it in college, when we’d all pull out our cute little quatrefoil covered checkbooks and give money for Children’s Miracle Network, but I didn’t know the half of it until I became an alumna and saw what the sisters from decades past do when it comes to philanthropy. Put a child struggling with a terminal illness in front of these “vapid, bubblehead” sorority women, and they’ll give you the very clothes on their backs to help out. Unparalleled generosity, y’all.
– You’ve always got a sister somewhere. When I graduated from college, I thought I was done with being a Phi Mu. I went to my training for the mission field… and ran into a Phi Mu from a university in Georgia. Instant friends. Then, on the field, I went to a meeting in Zimbabwe with other missionaries… and ran into a Sig Ep from a university in Louisiana who loved him some Phi Mu ladies back home. Instant friends. In seminary, in Japan, even in our church — a Phi Mu sister or someone connected to Phi Mu every time you turn around. It makes for a smaller world and affords many opportunities to get to know people you would otherwise never even speak to.