You would have a hard time finding a sorority girl who doesn’t think recruitment is stressful. The process is long, physically taxing, and nerve wrecking. It’s full of ups, it’s full of downs, and most will second guess themselves and their place in the grand scheme of things. Despite all this, it’s extremely rewarding when all is said and done and the week is through. Just as you would have a hard time finding a sorority girl who doesn’t think recruitment is stressful, you would also have a hard time finding a sorority girl who didn’t absolutely agree that a week of chaos was ultimately worth all of the friendships and experiences that Greek life has to offer.
A Northwestern student recently spoke out against the process, going so far as to claim that sorority recruitment actually violates Northwestern’s hazing policy. The former PNM published a column in The Daily Northwestern, recapping her experience as a freshman going through a recruitment that “in no way promoted a functional, supportive atmosphere and instead was a generally divisive experience.”
Normally, I would make light of a situation involving a severely misguided freshman essentially waging a written war on a system about which she knows close to nothing. But hazing isn’t a joke. Similarly, accusing an entire Greek system of hazing is a very serious allegation, and it could be argued that a college freshman with little to no familiarity with the inner workings of sorority life has no right to claim that she was personally victimized by a selection process that literally every single member has to endure.
So let’s clear some things up.
I came away from the recruitment process with some new friends and significantly more knowledge about the Greek system, but one thing still troubles me. I had heard Northwestern has a strict anti-hazing policy and I wouldn’t have to worry about it in sororities, but what I endured with hundreds of other young women in early January cannot be seen as anything other than hazing.
Actually, it can. It can be seen as an active effort made by participating chapters to meet, talk to, and educate potential new members. It can be seen as a tedious but nonetheless necessary step towards recruiting new members who have values and standards similar to those of a particular house. It could be seen as the women of that house opening their doors and explaining their sisterhood to 18-year-olds who know basically nothing about what sorority life is all about. Saying that recruitment cannot be seen as anything other than hazing is like saying sororities cannot be seen as anything other than a cult: a dramatic over-exaggeration made by someone who has no knowledge of the other side.
Upon examination of the official policy in NU’s Student Handbook, my suspicions were confirmed: Under the hazing policy outlined in the Student Code of Conduct section, the sorority recruitment process is hazing.
During recruitment I saw girls at their absolute worst — sobbing in Norris University Center after not getting called back to their favorite houses, gossiping about the stereotypes of the chapters, turning on friends who they felt they must compete with, and judging and critiquing their fellow women.
Women–or people, rather– are competitive by nature. You can’t blame the selection process for pitting women against each other, especially when the urge to do your absolute best is engrained in our biological nature. Furthermore, it’s unrealistic to assume that girls were hazed because they cried. People cry over exams. People cry over dickhead professors. I once cried because I went to put on a riding boot and there was a sock balled up in the bottom. Life goes on.
The definition of hazing goes on to emphasize that the situation may be created “intentionally or unintentionally” to produce “mental, physical, or emotional discomfort … for the purpose of initiation into … [an] organization.” The fact that hazing can be unintentional is crucial because the Northwestern Panhellenic Association, the sororities’ governing body, claims it doesn’t allow hazing, in accordance with University policy. But this does not mean hazing doesn’t happen. It clearly does, as evidenced by the mental, physical and emotional discomfort I witnessed.
Yes, the definition of hazing is clearly as stated. However, that doesn’t mean that someone is experiencing hazing every time they experience mental, physical, or emotional discomfort. Are we going to pretend to be shocked when college freshmen initially feel out of place and uneasy when they leave home? I spent the majority of my freshman year in emotional discomfort. It’s unavoidable for some younger people experiencing life on their own for the first time; that doesn’t mean we have to coddle them and blame a system in which they willingly and knowingly entered. Life is tough. Get a helmet.
The policy then proceeds to delineate a number of actions that are specifically defined as hazing. One of the most poignant examples of hazing includes the “creation of excessive fatigue, sleep deprivation, or interference with scholastic activities.”
If you think recruitment is bad, just wait until finals week. Professors don’t give a shit if you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a week. Neither will your boss. Neither will your children. Life is hectic, and anyone who can’t handle of week of scheduled activities needs to reconsider higher education, because that’s exactly what college is for four straight years.
By heavily regulating the recruitment process to make it more equal and fair, the sororities at NU have been relentlessly hazing women. We stand in the snow, freezing, waiting for hours of psychological distress, wondering why the girls at one house didn’t like us enough to call us back and hoping that we are contorting ourselves enough to impress them. Hazing is the ugly reality.
Don’t you just hate it when sororities control the weather in order to haze the shit out of PNMs? So inconsiderate.
Look, I have nothing against this freshman. If anything, I commend her for speaking her mind. But I do have something against people who assume that Greek life is there to serve them, and lash out when the opposite is proven to be true. Joining a sorority is a privilege, not a right. You don’t just walk into a job interview and immediately shake the hand of your new boss, assuming the position should automatically be yours for the taking. In the same way, it’s unrealistic to be so entitled as to assume that a chapter should be lucky to have you without even proving your worth by showing them what you can bring to the table. Life isn’t full of freebies, and the Greek system is no different..