Column: Sorority girls: Your new friends without benefits

By Brenda Kay Zylstra

The boxes are unpacked and the homework has begun. For returning students, we slide right back into our old lifestyle, but for freshmen and transfers the thought of going out amidst 40,000 people and finding the right niche can be thoroughly paralyzing.

Enter legions of tanned, shapely girls with blonde highlights in their hair. They’re wearing black t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Be strong, be unique, be united, be Greek.” They promise fake IDs and amazing parties and frat guys galore, but best of all they promise instant friendship. What an alluring proposition for the lonely freshman femme; hard-up for friends and fitting in, that naive neophyte happily pays the $40 rush fee.

Girls, even though I don’t have a catchy slogan or a pair of pink fuzzy Uggs in my closet, I ask you to consider that there might be another way.

(Disclaimer: Throughout this article, I will stereotype sororities as I see fit. I will make generalizations about the community as a whole when I am well aware that these generalities do not apply to each and every sorority member. This is okay, because as everyone knows but few admit, stereotypes exist for a reason. Most spring out of truth and remain in our vernacular because people live them out day after day. Yes, I know there are some that are outdated and some were never even true to begin with. Please do not waste my time by pointing these out to me; like stereotypes themselves, my theory holds true only most of the time.)

But back to my point: You don’t have to join a sorority to make friends or get into cool parties. And despite what the shirts may tell you, a sorority might just be one of the worst places you could look if you’re striving to be unique. I’m not sure which audience of girls the Panhellenic Council is reaching for with that slogan (maybe the literary crowd because the irony is so delightful?), but that notion will be dispelled pretty quickly when the thousands of girls who rush are paraded around campus in (surprise!) matching t-shirts and tote bags.

I have nothing against sororities or the girls who partake therein. In fact, I absolutely believe that a sorority is a place where you can eat, sleep, study and party with girls who will be your best friends for the rest of your life. But I also believe that you don’t need to go Greek to find a sisterhood of friends; there are other cheaper and less time-consuming avenues you can take.

Sororities are expensive. Dues alone are hundreds of dollars a semester. For the price a girl pays to be a [insert meaningless combination of two or three Greek letters here] for four years, she could get a new nose, maybe some liposuction. And if we’re honest, isn’t conforming to the media’s standards of beauty the best way to make new friends?

Sisterhood also takes up a great deal of time. There are meetings, formals, exchanges, philanthropy events, etc. Much of this is not optional, and in fact some houses will fine or otherwise punish girls for being absent. It’s a big time commitment, and it leaves little time for getting to know people outside the Greek system (more than 75 percent of campus) or engaging in outside activities.

Finally, let’s put to rest the “only Greeks know how to party” myth. U of I consistently ranks in the top ten of party schools. Greeks make up less than one fourth of campus. Surely they cannot take complete credit for the lines around the block on Green Street every weekend, the immense success of Unofficial and the literally epidemic incidence rate of syphilis on campus.

No, those accolades/embarrassments belong to the entire U of I community, Greeks and non-Greeks alike. So go your own way, not Greek, and seriously, use that extra cash for Botox or something.