Life after the letters

Bid Day seems to take all the hype when it comes to Greek membership — it can be a long and grueling process that takes weeks to plan. However, Bid Day is followed by an even more stressful ordeal: the new member period. This period not only includes learning the traditions, expectations and values of the member’s Greek chapter, but also socially adjusting to a group of girls or guys to grow with and learn from.

Initiation into a sorority or fraternity can be challenging. Many of the girls and guys that rush are freshman students who are trying to find their niche on campus. Adding a Greek organization into this adjustment can be difficult, especially if you do not know anyone in the chapter you accepted a bid from. Kappa Alpha Theta’s Maeve Plunkett, freshman in Business, found it challenging to stay motivated after learning her two friends did not receive the same bids as her. Plunkett is now excited about the journey because no matter what, she will “have guaranteed friends” in the sense that every girl in Kappa Alpha Theta shares many of the values and experiences as her. University Chancellor Phyllis Wise stresses that getting to know people at a more personal level is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t be underappreciated.

One of those experiences is the new member process. Being able to wear your letters is one of the biggest achievements for sororities and fraternities, and it’s one of the major milestones in becoming official members. Kappa Alpha Theta’s Shannon Roche, a junior in LAS, said she believes “it’s an honor to be a Theta” because members must earn their letters.

Many other chapters on campus value this tradition as well because part of the new member process is to learn what each individual letter means. To enhance the new member transition, sororities and fraternities provide the new members with a “big,” or an upperclassmen mentor within the chapter. Roche’s big, Katie Battle, junior in ACES, has helped her adjust socially and academically by instilling the motto “work hard, play hard.”

It may be early in the semester, but Roche has no problem managing her time with the help of her big. Additionally, she said many of her fellow potential new members are responsible about informing their bigs or other sisters if they ever need help with anything. Many of the Kappa Alpha Thetas bond by staying in to watch “American Horror Story” instead of going out. Aside from the social aspect, Roche and the other potential new members stay after chapter meetings to learn the history and traditions of the national organization. Like most sororities and fraternities, Roche stated they “have a little booklet” to help them throughout the process.

Pledging can be a grueling and time-consuming process — and those who do not believe they can handle it can end up dropping — but becoming an official chapter member can enhance the college experience. To those considering joining the Greek community but are hesitant because they don’t always want to party, Roche explained that is not what they are about. Sororities and fraternities have many leadership roles on campus that can boost students’ resumes and professional skills — the social factor can be just a bonus. However, Phi Kappa Psi president Tyler Olson stressed: “There are so many more campuses where the Greek community is exactly that, but here it’s just a bunch of Greek chapters.”

Olson, junior in Engineering, hopes a more uniform Greek community will come with a more structured Interfraternity Council. While Greek chapters can do different activities to help their new members adjust properly, each house should remember the bigger picture of being a more unified community.

Whether it be social- or academic-related, the University has a large Greek system that enhances the experience of many of its members. Pi Beta Phi’s Kirsten Lindell, senior in Applied Health Sciences, said that Bid Day is “very stressful, very nerve-wracking.” Many of the potential new members go into recruitment feeling nervous. In reality, active members can be more nervous because they “are leaving a legacy to put it in the best hands possible,” Lindell said.

While Chancellor Wise hopes Greek life doesn’t become exclusionary, she knows many alumni that have said their most memorable experiences are being in a sorority or fraternity because it helps individuals have a global experience.

David is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]