I have debated back and forth over whether I really want to write this blog post or not. When it comes to my sisters, I tend to get pretty defensive. What can I say? I’m a momma badger at heart. I defend those who mean the most to me, and I stick by my sisters through thick and thin (even when “thick” means being 4,000 miles away). And at this vantage point, my blog is the only medium I have to really express myself. I can’t run down the hall and knock on a sisters’ door. I can’t commiserate with the SHC Greek community. Here, I am only me.
But recently I was disappointed to read an article published by Cosmo in which my own sister, a Delta Gamma, is quoted as having sent a very angry and offensive email to her fellow sisters. The article has gone viral and is on multiple sites, and if you haven’t read it then I’m sorry, I’m not going to post a link. The goal of this post isn’t to blacken her name. If you really want to read it, it isn’t hard to find.
Basically, to sum it up, an officer of a Delta Gamma chapter sent an email to her chapter berating them for not doing enough during Greek Week. While the sentiment is probably understood by anyone who’s ever been an officer (myself included), it’s the way in which she went about it that really has some people upset. She resorted to some really awful language, and in the email she degraded her entire chapter. There are speculations that she didn’t write it, that it is a fake or it was written by someone else, but I don’t know what option is worse. I’ve never met the girl or anyone from her chapter so I can’t offer any insight. In any case, the article brings up a lot of issues among Greeks and non-Greeks alike, the main one being that “this is what’s wrong with the Greek system.”
Frankly, I have to agree. You see, as much as I talk about how wonderful being Greek is, I am not completely delusional. I know we’re not perfect. I also know that being Greek isn’t easy. I know we all make mistakes. I know that “what’s wrong with the Greek system” is the fact that we so often forget that we are part of such a large community. We do stupid stuff because it makes sense at the time. Everyone does it. The difference is that once we’re Greek, what we do will affect not just our self or our chapter, but our entire organization. What’s unfortunate is the fact that one bad mistake is enough to sour the attitudes of an entire group of people towards Greeks, which absolutely isn’t fair. While I hate to quote an even worse article, TFM is exactly right, “You know who the real villain is? Whoever leaked this sh*t.” I know for a fact that Delta Gamma has a method of dealing with such situations that help both the individual and the chapter to retain some sort of dignity and decorum. It’s called Honor Board. This issue should never have left the chapter. Instead, the author of the letter is now known all over the world as a crazy, off-her-rocker sorority girl, her chapter has been slandered, her organization is in question, and people once again question whether it’s worth it to have Greek organizations on college campuses. Sound a bit dramatic? Maybe it is. But the truth is, if this had stayed within the chapter it really wouldn’t be as big of a deal. It would have been a (hopefully) isolated incident that probably would have resulted in her losing her position. Yet now because it is out in the world on a public forum, it needs to be dealt with in a completely different way. I can’t tell you how this was leaked to the public, but most likely it came from one of the recipients of the email, namely one of her own sisters. That disappoints me more than anything. We are supposed to be one anothers’ defense, especially in times of trouble, and a friend always. It doesn’t matter if your sister is livid and cursing at you and telling you that you are mentally incapable of living, your responsibility is still to respect her and be her champion. No exceptions.
Regrettably, the world is now looking at one person as a representation of Greek life as a whole, which is entirely unfair. If you stop to take a look at the bigger picture (and notice just how many Greeks there are who don’t pull this sort of nonsense) you might just see something really beautiful. I don’t think I can say it enough, but being in a different country for a semester really has made me realize how wonderful our sisterhood is. This crazy trip of mine wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my worldwide sisterhood! In the planning stages of the trip, my twin decided to use her social media networking skills to contact Delta Gammas all over Europe, asking for any and all advice. She got back so many responses I don’t even think we can count them! Literally, Delta Gamma’s started popping up out of nowhere. Alums in one city or another all chipped in with travel info, places to stay, where to eat, and most of all they gave us phone numbers and contact info in case we ran into any trouble abroad. They promised us they would be there if we needed them. So many sisters reached out in whatever way they could. Some offered to bring us out to lunch, others gave us websites with valuable information. One of them suggested we look at booking rooms through a website called Housetrip. I think my new life goal is to track this sister down and hug her. That was probably the single best piece of advice we could have received from anyone.
Two wonderful sisters even offered for us to stay in their flat for a night. Unlike the previous women, these girls were collegians just like us, studying abroad for the semester. They were from a different chapter from a different part of the USA, but that didn’t stop us. That is what brought us to Birmingham. They are the girls with whom we shared our first adventure. They literally gave up one of their bedrooms so that we had a place to stay, and then they woke up at like 6 am to make us breakfast before our train! If that’s not sisterhood, then I don’t know what is.
At this point, I’ve met girls from many different chapters. Each time I’m faced with the same fear, “What if their chapter isn’t like my chapter? What if we’re really different?” But you know what? Not once have I met a Delta Gamma that I am not proud to have as my sister. Not once. I’m even willing to bet that the author of that email is a good sister, at least on her better days. She obviously cares a lot about her chapter. She’s just got a strange way of expressing it, and she got a little caught up in “sweating the small stuff.” It happens to all of us.
So what, you ask? Where does this leave us? Honestly, I don’t think it changes anything. When it comes down to it, there will always be a group who believes that Greek life is horrific, and they will find every example to prove it. There will also be people who make mistakes. We’re not perfect. This fact can’t be helped until we as individuals recognize that our mistakes—no matter how small—have an impact on our community, and that we need to work to correct them as best as we can. It’s hard to see this when you’re at school surrounded by your brothers and sisters, but for many people you might be the only Greek that they ever meet. In England I’ve met so many students who didn’t even have a clue what Greek life was before they met me, but I hope that when I leave they will think well of it because of me. For this reason, we need to strive to live our ritual in everything that we do. We need to continue to hold our brothers and sisters to that higher standard our founders set. Why should we bother doing so? Because at its core, Greek life is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It has the power to bring people together, rather than tear them apart. Just because something is flawed doesn’t mean you should throw it away. If it’s worth fixing, then fix it.
I think that’s all I want to do. I want to fix things. It’s like the story of the starfish which my grandbig is so fond of. A boy was walking along the seashore where hundreds of starfish had washed up. He slowly picked up one starfish at a time and tossed it back into the sea. A man watching him laughed and said, “There are hundreds of starfish! You can’t possibly think that you’ll make a difference.” But the boy simply picked up another starfish, tossed it into the sea, and replied, “It made a difference to that one.”
If you’re Greek, do something to make a difference that will affect your chapter, even if it’s as simple as changing yourself. If you’re not Greek, then I still offer you the same challenge. Do something to make the world just a tiny bit better, and remember: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Leave the world just a little bit better than you found it. Together we can do great things.