As a junior at Columbia University, I occasionally reflect upon my decision to apply here. Many factors were compelling: its diversity, world-renowned professors, and “closed campus in the middle of New York City.” Other factors included its relatively small size, proximity to my hometown of Washington, DC, and the fact that my brother was also attending. One of the less important but still noteworthy reasons I chose Columbia was the relatively small percentage of individuals involved in Greek life compared to larger state schools.
According to WikiCU.com, only 14.5% of students from Columbia College are involved in Greek life. As a 17-year-old applicant, this sounded like paradise. Then I don’t have to constantly be surrounded by superficial sorority girls and frat stars, I thought to myself while scrolling down the minuscule list of six sororities on campus.
Before coming to Columbia, I thought I knew exactly what Greek life was about. I was certain it entailed paying huge sums of money in exchange for fake friends with rich legacies who drink their brains out weekly for “philanthropy.” I expected ridiculous and humiliating hazing activities all conducted under the reasoning of earning acceptance or proving one’s loyalty to a snobby elitist club. I mean, I had to be right; I finished all four seasons of ABC Family’s Greek…
So I dutifully attended all orientation activities ready to make real friends, not “sisters.” As the week progressed I became quite close with one girl in my group. When she expressed interest in Greek life at Columbia, my orientation leader revealed that she was involved in a sorority on campus and loved every second of it. After spending seven days surrounded by talk of sisterhood, different philanthropic events, and special opportunities that only such a community could provide, I became very curious about Greek culture at Columbia. If people such as these two women in my orientation group were interested, shouldn’t I give it a chance?
So come springtime I did, and I ended up accepting a bid from Delta Gamma. Since then, my time at Columbia changed in so many ways. An inspiring group of women graciously accepted me as their sister with open arms. They are smart, funny, talented, and incredibly warm. Never have I felt more of a community at Columbia than I have in my sisterhood. My perception of the world that Columbia offered changed dramatically in those first four months. My new sisters possessed a tangible excitement and drive that inspired me to rediscover my community at school.
The DG chapter at Columbia and Barnard contains members who are dancers, actresses, Forbes interns, and future Harvard Law students. It bridges the potentially testy gap between Barnard and Columbia by providing women with a network that lets them put their differences aside and interact with one another outside of the restraints of our separate colleges. It gives women accessible role models who are constantly available (and more than willing) to go out of their way for their sisters, whether it be supplying Mac chargers at 3AM in Butler Library, passing along fantastic internships at Forbes, or even lending dresses for Spring Formal. For me, Greek life has facilitated my involvement with a variety of philanthropic organizations. It consistently challenges me to maintain high grades.
However, what gets to me is the negative side of this commitment: the stereotypes. I see New Member Anchors ripped off freshman residents’ doors. I hear people who know me very well accusing me of becoming a “sorority bitch.” I constantly try to tell people that my experience has been nothing but positive, but somehow I find myself exhausted from constantly speaking against the stereotype. I can’t pretend this doesn’t bother me.
I fail to understand why people see Greek life as something to be frowned upon and ridiculed. Just as participating in theater, club volleyball, or a political organization on campus, joining Greek life is a personal decision, one well worth respecting. At a university that pledges to stand for diversity and tolerance, aiming to create “citizens of the world,” shouldn’t tolerance and acceptance be valued above all else? We should learn to respect everyone for their unique way of feeling like they belong and not incessantly judge each other.
One of the most important things we can do is accept people and their life decisions. We need to constantly realize that even though we may not make the same decisions as our peers, as long as they’re not hurting anyone there is no need for disdain. We should hope that one day students will realize everyone has their special way of finding happiness and friendship. Whether they find it through a team, club, relationship, or special community, we need to accept each other and move forward. College only lasts four years, and at the end of your time you want to be proud of the person you’ve become, not the judgment you’ve dished out to others.