“Fraternities and Sororities symbolize all that we wish to accomplish in our lives. They represent the struggles we all face as we grow. Why we cling to them no one can explain, but in the end, we are all stronger for it.”
I recently stumbled upon this quote and was instantly struck by it. Just last night, I was speaking to a friend considering Greek life. When he asked me how I felt about my Greek experience, it was difficult to reply because there were so many things I wanted to say! I decided on the response, “It changed my life.”
I had an interesting first semester in college. Even though I had 15 credit hours, my classes seemed to always get cancelled for one reason or another. I know what you’re thinking-“Hello! Dream come true!” and in many ways it was awesome…for the first couple of weeks. But, then I realized that I wasn’t meeting anyone. I started to feel very alone and unhappy with my university. I even told my parents I wanted to transfer and toured another nearby school. For one reason or another, I decided to finish out the year and use summer to decide my next step. Immediately following all of this, I received this message from my orientation leader, Natalie:
“Hey Megan! I don’t know if you have ever thought about joining a national sorority but a group of girls and I are trying to start one on campus. We are meeting tomorrow at 10 in Piper 215 and Thursday at 9 if you are interesting in hearing about it. Also tell anyone else you feel would be interested. Hope to hear from you!”
Looking back at this message and those that followed makes me nostalgic because I know this is where it all began. It seems crazy that one little Facebook message could have redirected my path in such a huge way. I attended the meeting, with a little hesitation due to my shy nature, and that was it- I was hooked. I instantly felt accepted by the women in the room and my shyness began to disappear.
Throughout the course of the next two years I began to realize how daunting establishing a new chapter can be. Change is not a very easy thing to deal with in many cases, and at our small private school, we were making huge waves. The other Greek organizations on our campus were local (except for one national fraternity) and were concerned about how a nationally affiliated organization would affect them. Administration was afraid of conflicts that could (and did) arise between locals and nationals, as well as how a national sorority would function on such a small campus. Even though things began to get hectic, our group- called the Extension Committee- kept working. We took the necessary steps to declare our interest in the extension process. We received feedback from one sorority following our first extension bulletin submission. The Extension Committee was elated! We felt like our work had finally paid off. However, our excitement was quickly crushed when our Inter-Greek Council, IGC, voted not to let us continue with the extension process for that semester. I remember sitting in the meeting following the decision. Our president- and dare I say fearless leader, Katie, told us we had exactly 60 seconds to cry, scream, or do whatever we had to do to relieve our frustration. Needless to say, it was an intense 60 seconds with a room full of distraught women! After 60 seconds, we turned our frustration into determination. From that moment on, we refused to let anything stand in our way. The next semester we applied again, and ended up colonizing with Sigma Sigma Sigma.
Over the next few months, we began to learn more about Sigma and what we needed to do to become a part of it. The checklists seemed infinite. We began delegating tasks and checking things off one at a time. Even though we were still facing obstacles outside of our organization, conflicts within our group started to arise under the pressure as well. At the time we probably had somewhere around 15 women in the group. Nationals informed us that one of our installation goals would be to have 35 women. Now, at a school with 1,500 undergrad students, a large athletic population, and low Greek life involvement, this seemed impossible. Recruitment became a main focus and also a main stress factor! Greek life on our campus didn’t have the best reputation and the waves we were making deterred a lot of people because they referred to it as “drama.”
During the first week of school, our university hosted an annual Involvement Fair. There was no doubt that we had to make this a big deal. I took over the planning and spent hours slaving over posters and slideshows. We also had women from headquarters and members from other chapters come to help us out. Our booth was rockin’ but we didn’t stop there! We “chalked the walk” (a favorite of ours) with Sigmas and sailboats. We wrote thank you notes to all of the faculty and staff that had helped us in the past and delivered them that day. We handed out buttons, highlighters, info packets, and more to anyone and everyone.
That night we tallied up the names on our interest form- 66 names! Reaching 35 started to feel more realistic. However, there was one major problem. At our school, first semester freshmen were not allowed to join Greek organizations, and the majority of our names were freshmen. Our consultants assured us that it was ok because we had until spring to get our numbers up. Of course, its never that simple though right? More conflicts began to arise between those who felt that we needed to keep these freshmen involved to maintain them, and those who felt we needed to concentrate on our goals for the current semester. I will admit that I was at the forefront of this debate and felt very strongly that the freshmen needed to be involved in as much as they could be. This caused friction between me and other women but I continued to stand my ground. Unfortunately, we ended up losing many of those interested freshmen by the next semester. Not only that, but we were beginning to lose some of our long-time members as well. Stress was high and so was the time commitment. Many women just couldn’t handle the difficult combination at that time. It was a long two semesters and we were recruiting until the week of installation. Now, this was especially stressful for me because I was in charge of planning installation weekend and if we didn’t meet our numbers, there would be no installation. I knew that I was graduating in a month and I desperately wanted to see this dream of ours come true before I was gone. The work continued and before we knew it, it was there- Installation Weekend. Installation was such an incredible experience for everyone involved. For the members of the Theta Gamma chapter, it was a dream come true, something we had fought for for years. For our consultants and other volunteers, it was an inspiration to see how much this meant to us after everything we had been through and refreshed their excitement for Sigma. The weekend was truly amazing and even worth the stress!
So, back to the point- “Fraternities and Sororities symbolize all that we wish to accomplish in our lives. They represent the struggles we all face as we grow. Why we cling to them no one can explain, but in the end, we are all stronger for it.” My experience truly did symbolize what I wished to accomplish in my life. We fought battles we never thought we could win, and came out victorious. We believed in something and refused to lose sight of our goal, even when others told us we couldn’t do it. When we got discouraged, we leaned on each other and our bond is stronger because of the hardships we faced together. By the time I graduated college, I had already learned so many life lessons and made one of my dreams come true. At the end of the day, our sorority made us all stronger women.
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