A year in review: my experience within Fraternity and Sorority Life

Haleigh McGill

Around the end of August last year, I wrote a column about my changing opinions of Fraternity and Sorority Life, prompted by an uplifting and eye-opening week as a Ram Welcome Leader. I came to the conclusion that, regarding my previously negative views of the Greek scene, “I was wrong, and like many other students, I had let ill-informed judgments and unconfirmed rumors overrule the possibility of having anything in common with members of Fraternity and Sorority Life.”

Shortly after that fall semester was in full swing, some fellow Ram Welcome Leaders and I received an email about the opportunity to become a charter member of Kappa Alpha Theta for its reestablishment on campus.

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It seemed like a shot in the dark — my cynical sense of humor, an inclination to move against the crowd, sarcastic tone and bold tattoos, among other things, certainly weren’t the makings of a sorority girl. Did I even want to be a sorority girl? That answer was extremely unclear to me at the time, though upon looking back I can say that it was always a “yes.” From the very uncertain beginning up until now, as I approach a bittersweet end, I always wanted to be the kind of sorority girl who didn’t quite fit inside the lines of expectation. I wanted to at least make a dent in the deconstruction of the stereotype.

Despite my doubts of selection that grew stronger as I completed each part of the unofficial recruitment process, which included an intimidating interview with Theta alumnae, I was chosen to be part of the Beta Gamma charter member class of fall 2014. It was an opportunity outside of my comfort zone, but as most of us know, that’s where the magic happens. I was honored and excited to help build a chapter from the ground up.

As spring graduation looms just ahead, I have been reflecting on the many things I’ve invested my time in on this amazing campus, including the decision I made to join Theta about a year ago that has challenged me, inspired me and pushed me to grow.

Overall, the process of forming the chapter’s structure and setting precedents and expectations for the member classes after us, becoming an officer as well as a member of the bylaws committee and creating a template for the role of Historian has been very rewarding. I have learned how to better communicate and form strong relationships with other women (after all, our gender is complicated and sometimes crazy) and I had the opportunities to develop creative and professional strengths and to begin writing the new Beta Gamma history at CSU.

There are incredible benefits that come with being a member of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and there are also occasional downfalls ad setbacks. Every chapter faces the latter at some point, but they are catalysts for growth in the end. One of the most important things I have learned is that it’s not the fall that defines a chapter or an individual, it’s the way they rise and handle themselves in the process. It’s hard being a part of a group’s reputation, it’s hard to be in that environment in general sometimes. But the relationships, perspectives and knowledge I’ve gained are invaluable.

I’ve seen people within Fraternity and Sorority Life act completely selfish and immature, yet I have seen most others act admirably, valiantly, and with a willingness to go into the depths of their sister’s or brother’s personal hell to help them through a hardship. I have felt fulfilled and  I have been disappointed by this community. But I am consistently grateful that I allowed myself to take this risk and allowed the experience as a whole to shape me for the better.

I have changed and grown in terms of how I present myself professionally, how I communicate with and manage a group and how I think about the bigger picture and what’s best for an organization and myself. But in terms of who I am at my core, I’m still the first one to speak up when something isn’t right, still unafraid to make a scene, still determined to avoid conformity and still a charming little thundercloud with an attitude that only those closest to me know how to love and understand — and I love that I was able to let this experience influence me without completely changing who I am.

At the beginning, I didn’t think I would fit and I didn’t feel like I belonged. A sorority is typically one of the last things that people can picture me in. But I know now that if you are dedicated to your purpose and have a willingness to cut your own path, you can fit just about anywhere.

My biggest hope for CSU’s Greek community is that every chapter works to get a little closer to their roots and the heart of their establishments. I understand that the social climate and the status quo changes from year to year, but the focus of values and principles should remain timeless. One thing that all chapters within Fraternity and Sorority Life have in common is the expectation of personal excellence, and I’m worried that trait is soon to be lost to a shift in Greek culture centered on the social aspect.

I’m not going to say that I have enjoyed every single interaction I’ve ever had with members of Theta and other Greek organizations, I’m not going to say that every single experience was a pleasant one and I’m definitely not going to say “let’s hold up our Starbucks cups and take a selfie hashtag sorority life.” But the lessons I’ve learned, the memories I’ve made and the stories I’ll have to look back on when I get a moment to pause in the crazy world that is life after college, count for something. They count for a lot. There is certainly a soft spot among my thick, somewhat prickly outer shell, for my sisters, the goal and spirit of our organization and the Greek community as a whole.

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Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.