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Masia: Greek life is a cult on CSU’s campus

Masia%3A+Greek+life+is+a+cult+on+CSUs+campus
Collegian | Emily Januszewski

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The issue with labeling a group as a cult is that its followers rarely ever openly identify as cult members — they’re just members, believers or followers. For the purpose of this article, I’m defining a cult as devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or organization because there’s nothing wrong with devotion.

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Those in Greek life at Colorado State University are not miserably trapped and can leave whenever they please, but in my experience, sororities use tactics similar to cults to indoctrinate students and run their organizations. Sororities usually recruit their new members within their first year or two when they’re looking for friends, things to do and somewhere to live after the dorms. Targeting vulnerable individuals and promising to fulfill their needs is at the basis of every religious or social cult.

Members can be rewarded for doing things like demonstrating academic excellence, attending nonmandatory social events, getting in extra volunteer hours or being a supportive sister to another member of the sorority. These rewards don’t come easily, though, as these things are already required.

Students attend a weekendlong interview process of recruitment wherein potential new members fill out an interest indicator, and then they meet with a representative from each sorority on campus who aligns with their interests. Creating a sense of sameness and utilizing girls who love their sorority are crucial to making potential new members feel like they will fit in. The Peoples Temple got a majority of their members by connecting with activists. With the promise of sisterhood, frat parties and a chance to live in a staffed house, students who are selected to move on begin a multiple-week process of training and testing to prove their loyalty.

In these weeks before they sign away thousands of dollars and the right to post whatever they want on social media, current members begin treating the new members to study dates and sweet treat runs to feel out who will be a good mentor — or big — for each new member. These mentors are announced by a theme party where the littles are showered with gifts. This family tree subgroup ensures new members don’t drop the sorority in the beginning stages. The Moonies, members of a religious movement started by the Unification Church, exemplify how love-bombing college students can be a powerful tactic.

All of this is textbook cult activity. But what actually happens in a sorority that makes it a cult? Ritual. All Greeks center themselves on a ritual — a ceremony consisting of actions in a prescribed order — accompanied with a speech of their values. This ritual might include chants, eating, drinking, handshakes or symbols of the chapter, which are sacred objects that hold significance and represent something central to the chapter. These objects range from simple things like flower petals to a dagger.

This ritual swears each member to complete secrecy and devotion to their cause, so I’m unable to share specifics. But generally, the full ritual is held once a semester and referenced at weekly meetings by the ritualist and the president of the chapter, two of the positions on the board of leadership.

All sorority members are equal, but some are more equal than others. In the Manson Family, leadership was based on who Charles Manson liked the most; in sororities, leadership is based on who has the right connections to the members in charge of electing people to new positions. This is why it’s not uncommon to see a first-year marketing major elected as president of finance over a third-year in accounting.

During recruitment and ritual, new members get their first taste of sorority dress code. This is referred to as formal, badge or chapter attire and consists of business casual with a pin given only to initiated members. This act of control has been used by many cults to take away individuality and promote like-minded thinking. Members of Heaven’s Gate wore all black with black Nike Decade sneakers to symbolize group commitment. And what happens if one doesn’t adhere to the dress code? They’re punished either financially, socially or by an internalized system of points.

While there are repercussions for members’ actions, like the Mary Kay cult or any other good multilevel marketing scheme, there are also rewards. Members can be rewarded for doing things like demonstrating academic excellence, attending nonmandatory social events, getting in extra volunteer hours or being a supportive sister to another member of the sorority. These rewards don’t come easily, though, as these things are already required. Between weekly meetings, required social and philanthropy events, volunteer hours, study hours based on GPA — yes, they check GPA and grades — and ritual practice, good luck trying to go above and beyond to earn back any points you’ve lost.

I could go on to discuss Founders Day, which is an event dedicated to worshiping the founder of one’s sorority; social pressure; financial commitments; and more, but you get the point. Greek life is a benign cult on campus dedicated to turning out respectable members of society by graduation.

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Reach Sophia Masia at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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