Why We Need Time Before Joining Greek Life

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Adjusting to college life can be hard. I remember getting to Penn State nearly two years ago feeling like I had lost everything that I knew and traded it in for some far-away ideal of an independent life. While college mostly includes living on your own, you’ll feel your independence remains limited. I learned this firsthand when I joined a sorority.

Less than two weeks after moving into my old, stuffy dorm room, I found myself racing down to the sorority “floors,” as we call them here at Penn State, to rush 18 sororities. Ten days of “trusting the process” and “finding my people” led me to a sorority I am still involved with and have very much enjoyed the past two years. I’ll admit I’ve been lucky to have found great friends and experienced college alongside them. However, I do believe the way Penn State Greek life, specifically sororities, handle the recruitment process results in undue anxiety.

You have to decide where you belong in Greek life before you have any idea of your classroom locations. You have to decide the type of friends you want to make and what kind of social life you want to have before spending a night out. And you have to make this huge decision that will affect the rest of your years at Penn State without even knowing your options. These factors led to a stressful, competitive recruitment process that leaves many girls feeling lonely rather than comfortable.

You become limited by the letters you choose, or that were chosen for you. Greek life provides so many great opportunities to grow as a person, friend and leader. But that often becomes overshadowed by the shallow aspects of it all.

Following the recent death of a Penn State sophomore fraternity member after a party, the university rolled out many serious changes to the Greek life community regarding fraternity houses and alcohol at socials with sororities.

Many students in Greek Life came together in an uproar, claiming the school stereotyped them for the poor choices of a few. They then cited all of their philanthropic endeavors as reasons for the school to drop the punishment on the entire Greek community.

I, as an active member of the Greek Life community, could not disagree more. Yes, we do a lot for the community through our philanthropies. Yes, a lot of our time spent during college life includes partying. But the culture here at Penn State and many other schools feels unhealthy. The amount of federally-mandated “Timely Warnings” the university must notify students of increases every year. Sexual assault, hazing and hospitalizations due to alcohol or alcohol-related circumstances occur far too often.

Using “college” as the excuse to behave indecently will no longer work for the Penn State administration.

I doubt rules against drinking at fraternity parties will stick. Students will rebel against them and find loopholes. To students, the question of fairness lies at the heart of this issue. Should the university be able to shut down our social activities? Each can decide that on their own. However, I do understand that as an authoritative body, they needed to impose strict regulations to implement some sort of change.

The one change I do think was necessary and will be effective, however, lies in pushing back the recruitment process. Instead of holding fall recruitment, formal recruitment will be deferred to second semester. This change will give students an entire semester to find their way around campus. They can also make new friends and figure out how they want to get involved. That will seriously help the students deciding who they will spend time with for the next four years.

I would have felt so much more comfortable, if I’d rushed sororities a semester later. And I know many of my friends feel the same way. Coming into college, everything in your life changes and the overwhelming sense of confusion feels paralyzing. With a semester to settle in, familiarize yourself with your surroundings and meet new people, you’ll have a better perspective of the experience you’re looking to get out of Greek life.

Adjusting to college poses a challenge many of us don’t expect. Spending time getting to know yourself first will definitely make it easier.

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