Daniella Fishman, Staff Writer |
Disclaimer: Before I begin, I would like to clarify that in no way, shape or form am I trying to insult the sorority I was affiliated with, I am simply hoping to share my opinion and perspective on something people are often too scared to truthfully and openly discuss.
When I first came to SUNY Oneonta, I was toying with the idea of joining a sorority. Coming into college bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was ready to start a new chapter in my life and part of that plan was to make new friends. I come from a family of immigrants, so my parents wanted me to live out the typical ideals of the “American Dream,” and that involved joining a sorority. Throughout my entire freshman year, I always felt “weird” about Greek organizations; I would see the girls that were affiliated with them and usually had no desire to befriend them or to even be like them. However, as more of my friends rushed various organizations, I felt pressured into trying to get into something as exclusive as Greek life. So, in the fall of 2018, I decided to rush one too.
At first, it was okay––I went to rush parties fully knowing that every sister there was trying to sway me into joining. Fake smiles and cheesy pictures in front of painted tapestries only gave greater appeal to the organization. I saw the interactions all the sisters had with one another and I wanted that; I wanted friends like that. Eventually, I got offered a bid and immediately accepted.
That’s when the hazing began.
Out of respect for the organization, I will not be detailing their rush process, despite knowing full well it’s the most sought after topic of Greek life discussions. However, what I will say is that compared to my other sisters, my process was “much easier,” according to them. Although I’ll admit, it sure didn’t feel like it. I know that it is the accepted norm to experience mental and physical abuse when joining a sorority or fraternity. But after my experience, I couldn’t understand why pledges needed to go through hazing to be accepted by an organization who wanted them there. If these people wanted us there so badly, why abuse their pledges? One could argue that they, the organizations, simply want to assess whether or not we, the pledges, were truly serious about becoming “one of them,” but that’s not necessarily the case for me, I guess. Personally, I always feel the need to finish what I started, so after three weeks of borderline torture and slipping grades, I began to think that maybe Greek life wasn’t for me. Still, I thought I should finish my pledge process to see if I felt differently about it at the end.
During my process, I was unofficially “dropped” from pledging due to a rumor concerning myself. I was heartbroken and felt unwanted and uncool. When I spoke to the then-President and Vice President, they apologized for the actions of the sisters that dropped me and offered me a spot back in the pledge class. I sat there and wondered, “If we’re supposed to be sisters, and they dropped me without initially hearing my side of the story… Do I still want to do this? Do I want “friends” like this?” Ultimately, I agreed to continue the process, I thought I would feel better once I finished.
After 31 days, my pledge class and I “crossed over” (which is a fancy way of saying we were no longer pledging and were officially sisters). What started out as a 15-girl pledge class was only four, including me, after we were done. The final night was almost like a switch flipping. The same girls that were in our faces screaming at us, telling us we were pathetic, were coming up to us, hugging us and calling us their “best friends.” It was a total mind-freak––I couldn’t understand it. They mentally tortured us, knew nothing about us, and yet suddenly we were “in” and we were their best friends? The next day we were told that from there on out, we had to go to every single party, whether we liked it or not, or whether we had homework or not. For an organization that in the beginning enforced good grades and health as the number one priority, it sure didn’t seem like they cared about that now.
I stayed in the organization for a month and a half after my initial crossing over. What I saw then only cemented the thought that Greek life was, in fact, not for me. I heard girls speak badly about their sisters behind closed doors before hugging and kissing them in the public sphere. I witnessed fights starting in group chats (that were constantly going off––very distracting and annoying), as well as girls coming into frat parties, yelling and causing a scene then dramatically stomping out of the house.
For someone who didn’t even want to be there in the first place, I was tired of the drama. The last straw for me was when my only true friend in the organization informed me that girls were talking badly about me in a group chat, making fun of me, making fun of an incident that had taken place, essentially discrediting me and calling me names for no apparent reason. I was heartbroken. I sent a message to the group calling them out and saying that I was done with the pettiness. That night I cried like I have never cried before; I felt alone. The “sisterhood” that I wanted from them was a façade; they didn’t care about me; they only cared about the drama.
The following day I appeared in front of the Electoral Board to discuss what had happened. I thought they were going to apologize to me, tell me that they reprimanded the girls that insulted and slandered me, but that wasn’t the case. When I sat down, they were smiling at me and said to me that “We understand why YOU did what you did and we won’t drop you for it. Would you care to stay?” At that point, I was fed up. “No,” I said. It was then that the switch flipped again. I sat there, listening to them berate me for being rude and for not wanting to stay with them. They cursed at me, made me cry all while I was trying my best to calmly explain to them that I realized that Greek life just wasn’t for me and that this was okay. But it wasn’t okay for them to yell at me for it. After almost an hour of yelling and tears, I got up and left without another word. As I walked out of the front door with tears in my eyes, I smiled. I finally felt free from a group that didn’t genuinely care about me. I had let go of something extremely toxic in my life, and I’ve never felt better.
In my time spent rushing, I lost touch with many real friends. I was unable to fully see the importance of actual friendship compared to group acceptance. Rushing hurt my mental state, my GPA, my relationships and my experience at college. While I don’t necessarily despise all Greek organizations, I now know that joining one is not something that makes me happy. I value my personal freedom over group-control. If you are someone thinking about rushing Greek life, I implore you to take the time to consider my story, to think about if this is something you truly want. I’ve been out of the sorority for almost a year now. My grades are still suffering but I am actively trying to make them better. However, this past year has been a great reminder that I don’t need the acceptance of a sorority to be “cool” or have friends, and I promise you won’t either. If you’re going through this process and want someone to talk to, I know what it’s like and I’m here for you. Please feel free to reach out to me. You have a safe space, an ear to listen and a friend in me.