Why I Chose to be Independent

February 1, 2018

I would like to preface this article by saying that is in no way an attack on any individuals both on this campus or on campuses across the U.S. who have chosen to participate in Greek organizations. Rather, I strive to outline the primary reasons I found myself drawn to remaining independent as well as the flaws inhered in the Greek system so prevalent in American education. I have numerous friends who have chosen to become members of fraternities and sororities and I have nothing but respect for them for making choices that best fulfill their needs and desires. However, I wish to outline the legitimate flaws in the Greek system as well as impress the validity of independence, especially when so many of these issues seem to be overlooked in such a homogenized environment.

 

1.         Lack of inclusion today

 

Greek life has become infamous for its exclusivity. Although plenty of fraternities and sororities across the nation claim to have become much more progressive, discrimination still inherently exists in this system—the Greek system has yet to find a way to accommodate non-binary individuals (here meaning someone who does not conform to the traditional male or female gender dichotomy). Whether their identity flows between masculine and feminine, neither, or some combination of the two, a system under which men and women are strictly segregated lacks the inclusivity needed to fully and comfortably accept non-binary persons.

 

On top of this, the division of genders only contributes to antagonistic and toxic interactions between the separated groups. Is there really any need to have social organizations strictly male or strictly female? It merely perpetuates archaic views of gender which contribute to sexist views of both men and women. The Greek system has clearly expressed misogynistic sentiments, especially through its rules and the system itself. Although they may seem minor, the clearly different systems set up for fraternity men and sorority women heavily favors men, as sororities must hold rush during winter break and have much stricter rules concerning the interactions between potential pledges and sorority members. Additionally, fraternities are the ones holding parties–never sororities–leaving many to question the validity of this bizarre rule and its place in rape culture and the patriarchy.

 

Students from low income families are all but excluded from Greek Life entirely. As I mentioned above, high membership fees encouraged me to not join, and the same is true for many others. People without significant disposable income simply cannot participate in a system that requires so much financial commitment from its members.

 

2.         A history of discrimination

 

On top of the current exclusionary practices and gender segregation, a history of even more blatant oppression haunts the Greek system. All white fraternities and sororities were the primary form of Greek life throughout much of history (and sadly, sometimes even today). Non-Protestant pledges, particularly those in the Jewish community, had found themselves unable to join the fraternities and sororities of their choice. The same can be said for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Although inclusion has improved, it was not until the latter half of the 20th century that many of these organizations even began to change the rules which prevented minority participation in the first place. However, there are yet to be rules which clearly permit the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ+ community, namely transgender individuals.

 

Additionally, instances of racism and discrimination continue to pop up in fraternities and sororities across the nation. Ivy League schools, such as Columbia and Dartmouth, as well as well-known state schools, such as the University of Alabama and the University of Michigan, have had to deal with the ramifications of the racist parties and practices of their Greek organizations (something even W&L has not been spared from). Remember the “Mexican” and the “white trash” parties just last semester? This is a system built on racism and prejudice, exemplified by moments in which so many chapters continue to blatantly ignore the progress its national leaders claim they are attempting to create.

 

3.         Social life

 

Each fraternity and sorority has a certain reputation, whether positive or negative; we have all heard them. Words ranging from “good girls” to “sluts” and “nerds” to “douchebags” have been tossed around by members of our community describing the particular members of each sorority and fraternity, as if the various combinations of Greek letters they place in their Instagram bio somehow dictates their personality. I for one, wish not to be judged solely based on the organization I participate in. Instead, I would hope that the people in my life get to know me before they make any decisions concerning the type of person I am (a luxury that I think many fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are unable to experience with the ever-present labels projected onto each group, much of which are created by the Greek organizations themselves). The social pressures of rushing are too much. A line has been crossed when I see students crying in the dorm commons over their rush situation. Not only must a student choose which organization they wish to join, the organization itself must also choose its members.

 

Under such a process, students try to conform to the version of themselves that they believe the organization would want them to be. College is supposed to be about finding yourself and living your life for you, not finding the best ways to be likeable by a group of people with social power. Why would I want to be lost in a sea of frat brothers when I could just be myself? Additionally, one cannot ignore the promotion of alcohol and drug usage apparent in Greek life across the country. This is a legitimately toxic part of many college campuses and their social scenes.

 

4.         The money

 

Every student, whether independent or not, can agree on one fact: college is expensive. With the Pew Research Center reporting a total of $1.3 trillion dollars in student debt in the U.S. alone, the high prices of a university education impacts students of all universities at one time or another. For this reason, among others, I am incredibly grateful to attend W&L and am personally indebted to its generous financial aid and scholarship opportunities. However, with this gratitude comes a imperative to spend this money wisely. It would be incredibly irresponsible to spend money received through scholarships or financial aid on the fees included in fraternity membership, especially when there are plenty of opportunities much more directly involved in my education that such funds are designed for.

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