To Join or Not to Join.

I’ve tossed and turned with the decision numerous times before coming to Union and during my (soon-to-be) one year here, and the question remains: should I rush sophomore year?

Initially in high school, I had no real interest in sororities. I was indifferent towards Greek life; I didn’t view it as bad or detrimental to my well-being, nor was I ecstatic on joining or felt any obligation towards it. But as soon as freshman year in college rolled out, the rush-week photos rolled with it. My friends who’d all gone to big universities in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas (for the most part), started uploading their cute little photos on Facebook and Instagram. I had to listen to my closest friends stress over Rush week, the outfits, the people, the activities, but as I listened I became more intrigued, happy and kind of left out—I didn’t have anything Greek related to share back with them. Shortly after, I thought to venture a bit further into understanding Greek life, and I went complete geek mode. I googled the various Panhellenic sororities on campus, looked at their background/history, symbols, charity work, and read a few online reviews on each one. On campus, I met a few girls at parties and other on-campus events who belonged to sororities, and I got to get a slight feel for what separated one group from the other. I tried to set a blind eye to the stereotypes and gossip, but you overhear a few things here and there, and you find yourself sitting at tables where the gossip doesn’t cease.

At this point, I felt pretty confident in what I knew about Greek life, but what really pushed me was the fact that my friends seemed to be having a much better time in college because of their involvement in Greek life. And I’m not going to lie, I was a bit envious of that. It wasn’t a matter of “buying” friends, or not wanting to feel socially rejected: I just wanted happier memories in college, I wanted stories to tell, and I wanted to do something worthwhile (either through charity, volunteer work, or social outings)…I wanted to have fun in college and I felt Greek life would be a good place to start.

But the thing is, I wasn’t on the same basis as them. For one, Union’s Greek life isn’t the same as the gung-ho, all-out southern/western style Greek life (take USC and Ole Miss for instance). And two, I’m a minority. I’m not going to dwell on race, but it is a factor that actually pushed me more to join a predominantly white, Panhellenic sorority in 2016 than away from joining one. There are sororities on campus that are not Panhellenic, and although I know some of my friends on campus will be joining those, I’ve made the decision not to. Why?

For one, Union has made me more socially aware of my race in a way that I never took to mind before coming here, and I want to refrain from that and revert to my “color blindness” (not the extent that ignores racial issues or racial identities, but the extent that refrains from racist judgments of others and fosters multiculturalism). I came from a pretty diverse, unified middle-class neighborhood in Dallas (Lake Highlands) that sits between the city and suburbs. My friends back home come from various racial backgrounds: “According to the 2014 Census estimate, 48.2% of the population was White, 30.8% was Black, 6.0% Asian, 15.0% from two or more races. 24.6% of the total population was of Hispanic or Latino origin” (D Magazine & Census Bureau). The high school was roughly split 30% between whites, blacks, and Hispanics with various socio-economic backgrounds. In all honesty, coming from such a neighborhood is what has made Union so hard for me to adjust to. Although I do have slightly more white friends than black, Hispanic or Asian friends, none of them have ever made me feel that my race was a factor for social integration/acceptance—and vice versa—in the way Union has.

Although racists attitudes aren’t entirely explicit on campus, implicit racial attitudes and judgments are a part of campus life for some people. So, in making my decision to rush, I placed the same “colorblind” attitude towards joining a sorority at Union. Do I feel that Panhellenic sororities should remain predominantly white when there aren’t any laws that discriminate against minorities joining them in 2016? No. I know Administration is trying to make the campus more racially diverse, but as I’ve said before, self-segregation is a thing, and Greek life is the perfect place to see that.

So if it means being one of the very few minorities in a Panhellenic sorority on campus for the sake of promoting racial diversity; and to make it easier for the next minority girl interested in Panhellenic Greek life to not think they don’t belong there, then yes, I’ll rush. I want to have fun, have stories to share with my friends back home, and promote diversity and racial acceptance.  However, this doesn’t mean that I am, nor ever will be, the spokesperson for my race. Other minority students have different reasons for joining and not joining Union’s Panhellenic sororities, and I commend and respect them for their attitudes and views. It all comes down to a matter of comfort and discomfort, motives and modes, and interest in racial representation on campus.

The only real determining factor now is how others see me outside of my race (as it should be for everyone). I’ve never quoted Martin Luther King, Jr for anything, but his words seem applicable here: his central hope was that people would someday be judged by “the content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin”.

 

(If you’re interested in reading more on self-segregation on college campuses, check out this article).