Entering college this fall, I knew that my value system and perspectives would change during my time at Stanford. Everyone grows and changes during their four years of exposure to new ideas and people from across the world. Still, there were attitudes so deeply ingrained in me, so central to my identity that I could not imagine having a change of heart, regardless of the circumstances. One of those attitudes was being anti-sorority. I was never going to join one.
This attitude, of course, was largely based on sorority stereotypes that had originated in big state schools. I associated sorority life with superficial Instagram smiles, dancing on tables in short skirts and drinking — lots of drinking. As someone who doesn’t drink, doesn’t use Instagram and doesn’t like to dance in public, sorority life offered me nothing but a reason to feel a pathetic mixture of contempt and insecurity in my own social community.
A few weeks before Rush, I told my mom off-handedly that my roommate was rushing. My mom had not joined a sorority during college — she too felt like she wouldn’t belong — and told me it was one of the biggest mistakes of her college experience. (She went to school in rural New England, where the only thing to do from November to April was participate in fraternity life.) She implored me to rush, just in case I wanted the option to join — better to have the choice than no choice.
So I rushed. I went in with a humored distance, expecting to leave Rush with a few funny anecdotes and an insider view on Greek life that I could share with my non-rushing friends after the whole event was over.
I ended up dropping out of Rush on the second day, but I received a bid anyway. When they called me on the phone to ask if I’d accept the bid, I hardly had time to think it through, so I said yes. Did I want to join? Not exactly. But I reasoned that I only had to stick with it for the spring, and if I hated it, I could always drop out two months later.
It has been less than a month since I joined so I write this cautiously, but I am coming to believe that sorority life at Stanford really can accommodate a wide range of people — even those stubborn anti-sorority types like myself. Many of the girls drink, but there is no pressure to. In fact, there’s very little pressure to attend drinking events at all — there are enough sober daytime activities and study nights to fill your social calendar without having to endure long nights of beer pong and tipsy conversation with strangers. I’ve also been surprised by the lack of pressure to fulfill the image of a sorority member. There is no dress code, explicit or implicit, and people dress according to their preferences. I do not feel left out because I’m not active on Instagram or following everyone’s Snapchat stories.
Of course, there are still little things that I object to. The national chapter enforces new member traditions that sometimes feel like they were pulled from the first 20 minutes of a Hollywood documentary about cult ceremonies (taking oaths, for instance). I’m supposed to refer to fellow members as ‘sisters,’ which I rebel against with every cell in my body — my only sisters are eleven year-old twins who live back home in San Diego.
Perhaps my stubbornness will erode with time, or perhaps not. Either way, though, my experience within a sorority has been positive beyond expectation. A sorority really is a conduit for social life, in any way you conceive of it. The sheer volume of Greek events means you can select your own social scene from the list, and curate your sorority experience according to your preferences. And no matter what you choose, people will like you and want to get to know you simply because you’re part of the same community. For a more introverted person like myself, this is a huge relief and an unparalleled opportunity to expand my social circle beyond my freshman dorm.
So, to all the prospective sorority members and sorority haters alike — as my mom did to me, I implore you to rush. Give yourself the opportunity and keep an open mind. I’m the last person I’d expect to join, and here I am, glad to be on my way to chapter meeting tonight.
Contact Avery Rogers at averyr ‘at’ stanford.edu.