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Student view

Standing up for sororities

By Kim Wilton

I am a sorority girl. Most people laugh or roll their eyes when I tell them and I’ll admit I used to have the same reaction. However, after joining one, I realized that the way the media and Hollywood portray sororities and fraternities is very far from the truth.

Sororities and fraternities have a bad rap.

Contrary to popular opinion, they are not booze-filled party houses with frightening initiation rituals. Nor are their members all blonde bimbos or drunken frat boys. In reality, sororities and fraternities are groups that are devoted to philanthropy and scholarship, and enriching the university experiences of their members. Despite these obvious benefits, many universities across North America have banned sororities and fraternities from their campuses, which has contributed to the misconceptions surrounding them.

The initiation and hazing rituals of some fraternities and sororities have attracted a lot of attention in the press for being intimidating and humiliating. However, these behaviours are rare and occurred more frequently in the past. While I clearly cannot vouch for all sororities and fraternities, I can definably say that none of these behaviours occurred in any of the sororities or fraternities that I knew. Yes, I went through initiation but it was tame and silly more than anything else.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of sororities and fraternities is the emphasis they place on philanthropy. Many sororities and fraternities adopt a particular charitable cause and devote their time fundraising for it. In my sorority we tirelessly fundraised for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and volunteered at a local eating disorder recovery centre.

Most sororities and fraternities emphasize academic achievement and scholarship. In my particular sorority, members were expected to attain and keep a GPA of at least 3.0. Numerous scholarships were available to members both at undergraduate and graduate levels.

The stereotypical image of a sorority girl or fraternity boy is also incorrect. Anyone can join one regardless of his or her religion, ethnicity or financial background. Yes, many of the sorority girls I encountered were blonde but there were also a few who wore a hijab.

Additionally, sororities and fraternities are very affordable. They provide their members with cheaper accommodations than university residences and apartment rentals. My sorority offered bursaries and emergency funds to members who faced a crisis, both when they were active and when they were no longer students.

Without a doubt, the most awarding aspect of any sorority or fraternity experience is the social aspect. When you join a sorority or fraternity you instantly gain 20 or more good friends, friends you will most likely keep for a lifetime. After graduation, members still get together monthly and even weekly. Having an instant group of friends can help ease the isolation and loneliness that many students feel when they first enter university.

I’m not going to deny that there are negative aspects of sororities and fraternities, particularly in the past. The initiation and hazing rituals of some have been unjustifiably aggressive, and even violent. Yes, they can sometimes appear to be inclusive cliques and yes, many have “wild” frat parties. But these sorts of behaviours can apply to any group, whether it is a sports team, a debating team or just a group of friends. It’s not fair to single out fraternities and sororities and ban them for behaviours that may have occurred in the past or that can occur in any social group.