To the Editor:
I was quite shocked by some of the declarations made by Laura Wright in “My Short, Unhappy Life as a Sorority Girl” (The Chronicle, October 22). Ms. Wright strongly criticizes the Greek system and calls it an “embarrassing anachronism” that colleges seem far from abandoning.
I sympathize with the author’s negative experiences with individuals belonging to the Greek system and understand how these can generate negative feelings and perspectives towards sorority and fraternity members. However, I believe that it is unjust to generalize these beliefs to include the entire Greek community.
I completely disagree with the hazing practices described in the article and strongly doubt that any responsible adult would condone this behavior. However, unlike Ms. Wright, I believe the responsibility lies not only on the operating principle of Greek organizations, but more so on the individuals that subject themselves to these activities. I think that the majority of those who have undergone dangerous and/or immoral hazing practices are not so much victims of the Greek organizations they seek to join, but rather they are victims of their own poor judgment. Considering that these individuals are students of higher-education institutions, it is assumed that they possess the intellectual capacity to differentiate right from wrong and to determine what is safe and what is not. Therefore, when an individual chooses to get an alcohol enema, rates potential pledges based on appearance, or makes a rape attempt, he/she is solely responsible for such actions, and not the Greek organization he/she is associated with.
Ms. Wright erroneously generalizes sororities and fraternities as misogynous, shallow, and materialistic. She states that women in sororities are believed to be prettier and more charming than other women and that fraternity men are considered the alpha males and the epitome of glorification—and that both are believed to be better “than all those schmucks who weren’t given a bid.” Although I do not discard the reality that many Greeks do carry a sense of superiority and make irresponsible decisions, so do numerous non-Greek college students. Thus, it is not whether or not a person belongs to a Greek organization that makes him or her arrogant, racist, sexist, and/or homophobic, but rather it is the individual himself who chooses to adopt such identity.
I encourage Ms. Wright to put aside the biases she constructed due to the negative experiences she faced with individuals who happened to be part of Greek organizations and to take a holistic look at these organizations and at what they truly represent. I urge her to see beyond the stigma and acknowledge the long-lasting friendships that are created within these organizations, which, to many students, signify their main support system and their home away from home. Although their Tequila Tuesdays and foam parties do not necessarily perpetuate the academic ideal, Greek organizations provide the sense of belonging that many students look for to maximize their college experience. Those who carry themselves ethically and responsibly and associate themselves with individuals of similar character will enjoy belonging to, and thrive in, a Greek organization.
The writer is a graduate student at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.