By PATRICE CALDWELL ’15
Greek life has been under attack in popular culture for decades. Movies like “Animal House” portray fraternities as animalistic and crass, while sorority house horror movies like “Black Christmas” characterize sorority sisters as dumb and easily preyed upon. These portrayals, in addition to the cases of hazing, substance abuse, racist-themed parties and rape allegations dealing with fraternity and sorority members, have caused some to go as far as saying that Greek life should be shut down. I’m not going to deny that these things happen, and there should be repercussions and preventative measures put in place to prevent such things from occurring. However, most of my friends are in fraternities and sororities and I’m a member of one of Wellesley College’s societies, Zeta Alpha (ZA). Though it is true that some Greek chapters abuse the system, we shouldn’t punish all for the bad behavior of a few. For some like myself and many of my friends, sororities, fraternities and societies are the very reason why we flourish at the schools we attend.
Though I would like to, I cannot speak to the worthiness of all Greek life. I can only speak about my own experiences. At Wellesley, for the most part, societies are the closest thing to sororities that this campus offers. Each society has a focus; ZA’s is literature. Though many of the members of ZA when I was a first year have graduated, the quirkiness of its members, the love for literature we all share and our support for one another continues the bond that was forged in 1876 when our society was founded.
I joined Society Zeta Alpha as a second-semester first year. Although I had a great first semester and met many people who I’m still friends with, I might not still be a student at Wellesley College were it not for ZA. When I came to Wellesley, I felt like I’d left everything behind in Texas, but ZA gave me a home away from home. I was lucky to meet a group of women who embody the best aspects of the Wellesley student paradigm: brilliant, poised, thoughtful, independent, incredibly passionate about the causes dear to them and not to mention a tiny bit weird.
Yes, we have mixers and parties, and we often go out together. However, socializing is only a fraction of what our society does. Most recently, we attended Relay For Life and met our goal of raising over $1,000. We volunteer at food banks and elementary schools, and many of our members dedicate time each week to volunteer with organizations such as the Mission Hill After School Program. Society members are also on sports teams and presidents of organizations; many are involved in residential life, cultural organizations, College Government, and Upstage theater. Some seniors juggle these activities while writing theses and applying for jobs.
Being a part of Society Zeta Alpha has taught me how to balance my academics with my social life. It has also showed me the importance of taking care of myself and following my passions. These members have been by my side when I needed them most or when I just wanted to watch the newest episode of
“Scandal.” As the president of Ethos and as a junior taking five classes, I am not able to spend as much time with ZA as I used to, but I look forward to every sisterhood meal, literary event and mixer because I know that once I see my fellow sisters, my day is 10 times better.
I don’t relay these accomplishments to brag, even though the number of activities society members are involved impresses me every day. It’s not only Wellesley’s society members who have such phenomenal work ethic and a genuine dedication to service. Fraternities and sororities across the United States boast similar achievements. While some may not have the academic focus Wellesley College’s societies do, they all have mission statements, most of which contain a commitment to service. In fact sorority and fraternity members volunteer for approximately 10 million hours of community service annually.
We should pay minimal attention to the media’s characterizations of Greek life. When have media portrayals of any group been 100 percent positive and true? The media’s job is to tell a story, not the truth. People see things through their unique lenses. Media-driven debates wouldn’t abound if articles were only written about the fundraisers and philanthropic events Greeks put on, how people in Greek life say they were more involved on their campuses and rate their overall university experience better, and how the all-Greek average GPA, which includes organizations in the Interfraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, the National Panhellenic Council and the Panhellenic Council, is higher than the overall collegiate GPA. Many chapters require a minimum GPA of members before they are allowed to join and they put members who fall below that minimum on probation. According to the University of Missouri, 71 percent of all fraternity and sorority members graduate while only 50 percent of non-members graduate.
Yes, much work needs to be done by sorority and fraternity members to clean up their images. Students who belong to sororities, fraternities and societies shouldn’t be allowed to get away with anything that other students do not get away with. However, shutting down all Greek life organizations and societies will not do any good for those students, like myself, who, by joining such organizations, have become more involved, connected and in love with their campuses than they could have ever imagined.