Corporate Peon: Pledged

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


During my second semester freshman year at college, I was 'courted' by what was then the top sorority on my small campus. The girls I knew in the chapter were fun, popular, 'had-it-together' girls. The girls I knew of in the chapter were popular and beautiful, if not a little standoffish.

I joined for basically the same reason I do anything: why not? Pledging wasn't a big deal to me; there were some early mornings and some late nights, and there was fun and camaradarie and friendship. There was hazing, though not of the extreme kind that makes the news. And at the time, I never thought of it as hazing. To me, the hazing was never about being mean or wielding control. Well, okay, part of it was about control, but a larger part of it was about tradition.

During my junior year, when I was president of our chapter, I maintained those traditions. There was pride in seeing numerous girls experience just what I had a few years earlier, and knowing that the entire chapter - one small slice of the sorority's foundation - had ties that bound us to each other. That though we followed the tenets of the sorority, we also had our own experiences to impart upon those who joined us.

My term as president wasn't a good one. My successor, a girl I'll call J, trained me by removing all the old information from the presidential binder. Yeah, not a big help.

J was one year older than I, so was still part of the chapter during my reign. She was snooty and rude and critiqued me every chance she could. Not to mention, she was also still on the executive board, so she wasn't a silent member. I was too intimidated by her to speak up and tell her to back off, so I did what I usually do - avoided the situation. I would 'prepare' for our weekly meetings during the 30 minutes prior. I made the decision that we would not enter a float into the Homecoming parade, which we always entered, because of the timing of rush and the start of the school year. The exec board backed me on this, but publicly, J spoke out against it. We weren't exactly united.

It was a tough year for me, yet despite my shortcomings, the sorority flourished. We maintained our status as 'the' sorority on campus; we initiated new groups of fun, interesting girls. Things were going well, and I was happy to turn over the top spot to a very over-achieving girl when the time game.

R was a great president. She went above and beyond in every capacity; to the point, frankly, where her intense dedication was a bit...overwhelming, but she was the right person for that job.
Sororities aren't all about hazing and drinking and dances. Yeah, we had our share of that, but we had hard times, too.

Like the time during my senior year when I was working at my desk in my room. My non-sorority roomate, E, was in the room, as was her boyfriend. I heard a commotion in the hall - some of my louder sisters were carrying on about something. I poked my head out of my room, prepared to give them shit for their noise, when I found tears.

Turns out Serena, a beautiful, God-loving freshman, full of potential and light, had been killed by a drunk driver the night before. I wasn't close to her, but it was still a mind-numbing experience. That she had been at a party, drinking, and called a sober friend to pick her up...that a drunk driver with a prior record had hit Serena's car...that her family had lost a sibling the year do you console those who have lost again and again? When an 18yr old girl does the right thing and is punished regardless...

It's incredibly selfish of me, but I've always been glad that happened during R's term, not mine, as I would surely not have handled it correctly, just as I'm sure the other sororities were glad it hadn't happened to them. Through it all, my sorority - and the other Greek organizations on campus - pulled together and strengthened our bonds.
Then, there was also the hazing trouble the entire campus got in. All sororities on campus handled their Hell Weeks differently. Each sorority had different traditions and each week may have happened at different times. One commonality, however, was that all sorority pledges were not allowed to talk to anyone outside of their sorority during that week.

There was a reason for this. I-week, Hell Week, whatever you want to call it, was the final step before becoming an initiated member. It was a week of hardcore sorority time. This is where most of the early mornings and late nights took place; it was an incredibly taxing time, both for the actives and the pledges. More bonding took place with your sisters at that time than throughout the entire pledge period. To allow a pledge to spend some of their energy, some of their time with non-Greek friends who may vocally oppose the pledge's decision, would detract from the focus of the week.

Of course pledges were allowed to talk in class; we tried to get them to take time off from work that week, but if not possible, of course they were allowed to talk there. They weren't told or otherwise encouraged to do anything that would harm their grades, their jobs, their future, etc, just to cut off their social time with others.

Again, it was part of tradition.

Until one girl - I don't even remember if she was in my sorority or not - refused to answer a question in class, or something similar, claiming her sorority told her she couldn't.

Yep, the shit hit the fan, and all hazing stopped.

I can only speak for my own sorority when I say that we didn't flog our pledges, make them undress, pour wax on them, make them get drunk or have sex or anything that you typically hear about when you hear about hazing. What we did was make them learn the history of our sorority and our chapter. Who were the girls they were joining? What was the sorority based on? How many girls nationwide had been a part? And yeah, we made the girls work together. They had assignments and projects. They had tests. Shrug. We weren't peeling their skin off here.
I think I'm rambling now, so I'm just going to wrap up. I'm not condoning hazing. I'm not dismissing the horrific physical feats that pledges nationwide are made to endure in order to join.

But sororities and the girls who belong aren't all evil. Of all the girls from college I keep in touch with, only one was not Greek. I've traveled with and to sorority sisters; I've danced with them and been at their weddings. My closest friends were in the sorority with me, and I do feel that part of that continued bond owes itself to the traditions and trials and experiences we endured with Greek letters plastered across our chests.

I received a lot of flak from school administrators, non-Greek friends, and even family members when I went Greek. But isn't that kind of judgement just as bad as when Greek members look down upon those who aren't?

Powered by Blogger