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Opinion: Confessions of a proud USU sorority girl

October 2nd, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By April Ashland

LOGAN—I am a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity Beta Xi Chapter at Utah State University. I was the 1,908th member to be initiated, and I am proud to be a sorority girl.

But that’s not all I am. I’m also a vegetarian, a Unitarian Universalist, an independent thinker, a pessimist, a poor college student, even a journalist.

About two weeks ago, Liz Emery wrote an opinion piece that appeared in The Utah Statesman. The thing made me very angry, it sent many of my fellow Greeks into a fit, and quickly bound our small community together.

The column was harsh, and appeared in the middle of our damn-successful recruitment week. But as I listened to the responses of those around me, and as I calmed down from the personal sting, I remembered that there are some very serious reasons to criticize the Greek system, even here at good ol’ Utah State. In the opinion piece, the writer made several assumptions about the Greek community, some of which I hope to refute here.

Emery starts her column at a party at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house—she looks at her bracelet, which said “Building Better Men,” and tried to think of how anyone could have become better because of a party they attended. The very beginning destroys her article—because Sig Ep believes in “Building Balanced Men,” and “Building Better Men” is Delta Sigma Phi’s saying. No one goes to a party to become a better person, of course, but the admission price to get into the party raised money for a scholarship. This school year, three college men received the Balanced Man scholarship.

Emery says the Greek system is no more than a “social caste system that sets apart the privileged and wealthy on campus from the less privileged,” and challenges the community to compare the income of parents of Greek student with the rest of the student body. She says even our cars are better than the rest of the community’s.

I don’t have to look at the statistics to know that Emery is wrong. I walk through my parking lot, the Kappa Delta parking lot, and the fraternity parking lots, and I can tell you that we are not wealthy. Some individual Greeks may have wealthy parents. But I don’t. My family lives in Virginia and told me at the onset of my sorority involvement that they would not pay for any costs associated with it. One of my sorority sisters works three jobs, and goes to school parttime to pay for school and Alpha Chi. Almost every girl in our chapter has a job. Others work in the summer to pay for their own things.

One of my sisters, Kassie, comes from a well-off family. But she refuses her “daddy’s money” and has her own job.

This is not only the case in my sorority. In Sigma Chi, the guys who live in the house get a scholarship when they get good grades that makes living there affordable.

Emery also says that living with those who are in the same situation encourages us to become hermits within our community. Again, this is false. Greeks are more active on average than most USU students. Delta Sig has current and former RAs working for housing in the LLC, the Towers, Richards and Bullen. The president of my sorority is the Traditions Director for ASUSU. Carlos Murillo, a Delta Sigma Phi, is on the Val R. Christensen Service Center staff. Last year, he was on the CHaSS council, and went to their meetings, helped plan events.

And if Greek housing is placing students “with only those with the same financial opportunities and ideals as themselves,” how is that different from every other college dorm?

As for the next argument—that Greek life has a negative effect on cognitive development—that’s probably true to some degree at other schools. Not so much at USU. You see, USU Greeks are rather different than the rest of the country. See the above arguments.

Finally, Emery describes how she saw a “dirty song” in a fraternity induction packet. “I’m pretty well known for having an expansive vernacular when it comes to curse words and potentially offensive concepts, but this was incredibly disgusting and offensive — even for me. This isn’t building better men; it’s building disrespect, sexism and lewdness toward those who are supposed to be their “sisters.’”

This is a completely rational response to a song that talks about a fraternity lining 100 sorority girls up against the wall and “doing” them. But it’s sung to the sororities as a joke and we laugh about it. Even more ironic is that in a previous column, Emery defends rap music, despite its reputation for glorifying violence and objectifying women. So what’s wrong with a song, sung as a joke, to a group of women? In context, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And if Ms. Emery takes offense, then I’d say it’s a good thing no man is singing to her.

A few years ago, when Michael Starks died after drinking too much during a fraternity initiation, regulations were slammed down onto USU Greek organizations. Members from every house banded together to re-create the alcohol policy for the system.

There are people in the Greek community who don’t drink, who don’t even “party” like the Greeks party. I have a sister, Riley, who has never had a drink. She goes to fraternity houses each weekend, hangs out with sisters and the guys. She watches over us. But she never drinks. It’s her personal choice, and she sticks by it. There are many just like her.

But overall, our parties aren’t “Animal House” or the TV show “Greek”; we’re not Sydney White. We, as Greeks, and less than 2 percent of the USU population last school year, did 30 percent of the community service by Aggie students. We gave scholarships to those in need; we had events to raise money for Child Abuse America, for victims of domestic violence, for kids with cancer. We walked all night at Relay for Life, danced at an all-night dance party, and did service in many other ways.

I was never told that when I joined my sorority I would have the best and worst times of my college career, and possibly even life. But that’s what I’ve had.

My sisters have made me cry, they’ve made me want to scream, and made me feel so high drugs could never compare.

I am proud to be a Greek at USU. I’m proud to be breaking stereotypes every day. And to Ms. Emery, I’d say, try not to write something just because you’re looking for attention. And to the world: Before you criticize the Greek system, try to understand what we do here at USU.


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