Many college women dream of putting those Greek letters on their chest. Whether they’re pink, red, blue with white or a touch of gold, becoming a member of a sorority can be a life-long dream for some and a decision made in school for others. Still, the decision to join requires careful thought, preparation and determination. One has to consider their grade point average, list community service efforts, gather letters of recommendation and even invest nearly thousands of dollars in membership fees.
But, what happens when you’ve spent an entire semester learning the ins and outs of a sorority, only to be disappointed with your decision?
Dara*, 23, decided to join a Divine Nine sorority during her junior year of college. “Looking at the members on campus, they looked so close,” she recalled. “I really felt like they ran the yard because they were all notable women on campus and were all super involved.”
Still, after three years of being in the sorority, Dara says, “I will never give any more money to the organization in my life.” Her reason wasn’t because of sorority hazing, which usually gets blamed for disenchanted sorority members. Instead, she felt the sorority didn’t stand up to its sisterly illusions.
“There was always a disconnect,” said Dara. “When we first crossed, my prophytes didn’t invite us to too many places. At that time, they were burnt out. They had been members for a couple of years.”
Members of sororities can often be overwhelmed with balancing their old friends and obligations with their new Greek responsibilities. From brainstorming program ideas and community service efforts to improve the campus or the community, members are also expected to prepare for step shows, throw parties, attend parties, organize fundraising efforts as well as do homework if they’re still an undergraduate or fulfill needs at work if they’re alumni members.
Dara also said she didn’t expect women she called her sorors, or sisters, to be so catty. She recalled one incident when she realized one of the older members didn’t want her to be part of the chapter at all. “After a program, I overheard her say, ‘Why did you pick these girls? We don’t have fat girls in our chapter.’”
Dara says the incident still crushes her to this day. “It doesn’t help to have a sister put you down.”
Patrice*, 21, felt like her entire undergraduate experience was ruined after she joined a sorority, especially after she found herself in a physical altercation with a brother fraternity member.
After a party on campus, Patrice said one of her bruhs attacked her after the two exchanged playful insults…or so she thought. “He hit me in face,” she recalled angrily. “I was so hurt. I was very close to people in the fraternity…but they turned their back on me.”
Patrice became depressed that semester because of the incident, which went unreported due to pressure from her own chapter. “I went through so much drama and so much negativity that I felt like the benefits that I got from the organization, didn’t outweigh the bad,” she said. “So many hurtful things were happening with people I called ‘my sister.’”
Joining a sorority, especially in the National Pan Hellenic Council, is a life-changing experience. Not only is it a lifetime commitment, but for many women it’s an instant connection to other ambitious and smart black women who care about their communities.
Still, it does come with its challenges. As members of sororities, there should never be a time where irresponsibility or group-think trump our sisterhood. And although, in sororities, the emphasis is on the sisterhood, the chapter and the line, we still need to pay individual attention to each member. Let’s not let the love for our organizations make us afraid to think critically about them. If anyone is going to change them, it’s us.
Joining a sorority, for me, wasn’t everything I expected either. Still, I’ve learned to turn its challenges into teaching moments and its joys into memories.
*Names have been changed