An Expensive Experience

Nicole - Miami
Entered on March 31, 2008

This I Believe

I had been flirting with the idea of submitting an essay to This I Believe for about five months before today. It took a few lines from Laurie Granieri’s essay, Leaving Work to Watch the Sunset, to do that. Its’ title and summary were the first to grab my attention, which any working adult can relate to. Something within her essay inspired me more, though. It was a paragraph in her essay:

“…After all, I am my father’s daughter. In college, I wasn’t going to keg parties in a frat basement; I was the girl who lingered on the library steps each morning, waiting for the doors to open. I even dreamed about schoolwork…”

I stopped reading and closed my eyes. This was it. This is where I suddenly felt a burning inspiration to write into NPR and talk about what is, what I believe, a fundamentally ignorant assumption, about something that had actually saved me from going down a destructive path in college.

I believe that all students in college should join the Greek System.

If you haven’t already rolled your eyes and clicked the back button on your browser or closed the window altogether in frustration, I applaud you for maintaining an open mind. The Greek System holds a very important role in the university system, and it needs to be recognized and defended over the over-glorified, under-performing, athletic departments for example.

Being Greek was a tremendously expensive experience: it cost me hundreds of dollars, some old friends, and a lot of old habits, some destructive and some positive. It brought me out of my dense, shy shell, forced me to learn time-management skills, and taught me the importance of performing well academically, and also helped me build social skills that would later help me land my dream job. But I could go on for pages as to why I enjoyed my experience but my stories are just that. They’re mine. And I would do Greek Life an injustice by just talking about them.

Where text messages, e-correspondence, auditorium-filled classrooms, online courses, and commuter schools are becoming the norm, Greek Life unquestionably bring students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and the general community together. We use philanthropy events, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised, to benefit charities that the average student wouldn’t think twice about. We use faculty and staff appreciation events to give thanks to the professors and university staff that, well, don’t receive half the credit they deserve. And we use our strength in numbers to support those organizations that the university deems more important than us, because it’s not about us; it’s about bringing the greatest of the university together.

But I could not write about something like this and ignore the dominant stigma attached to being Greek. For one, despite the severe assumption that men and women in the Greek System are irresponsible, mindless drunks, one would be hard-pressed to find that they party just about as much as, but make better grades, and are more involved that the average college student. We play hard and work hard; and that’s the bottom line.

If it’s really anything at all, being Greek is not entirely a flower, national conventions, Monday meetings, worn-out songs, bylaws, membership standards or a golden badge. And it is not entirely an institution, a creed, a legacy, an obligation, or a way of life. If you’re going to insist that it is something, being Greek is only moving into the house and slowly learning that all beautiful people have fat legs, wear the same makeup two days in a row, and wear last years coats. And in the very end, a sorority can only be the best way to humbly enter a front door, only to exit a prouder, nobler woman. It is not what Laurie Granieri implies in her essay.