By SJ Renfroe
Let me tell you a story you have heard a thousand times: I did not come to college expecting to participate in Greek life. It went against everything I believed in—I saw it as a rabbit hole with shallow friendships and the tears of nonconformists (ragged remnants of nonconformity) at its bottom. Instead of fulfilling my expectation of standing above Greek life, I discovered that, to be true to my goals of open-mindedness, I needed to let go of my predetermined aversion to sorority life. Thus, I went through rush and was positively surprised enough to accept a bid.
Now let me diverge from the typical tale: from what I have learned through my participation, I believe that Rollins Greek life can show insight into what factors lead to social peace.
What I have learned from my experience in a sorority is this: just like everything else in life, Rollins Greek life is exactly what you make it. It is a long-term experience involving people—meeting them, calling them your own, learning how to be with those you love and those you do not love quite as much. It is a social group, a miniature world in which people converge because of some similarity—on this point, Rollins is exceptional from other schools because of its small size, causing people from all walks of life to appear in each organization. You can choose to be more or less involved, to identify more or less with the group, to speak your mind and create change or conform—but the point is, it is, as I said, exactly whatever you make it.
In my personal experience, I have been able to witness this group demonstrate acceptance and openness to a degree I have rarely seen outside of nuclear families. I have seen a version of peace between near strangers that could and should be applied outside of the micro-society of sorority life. Although the bureaucracy of the sorority is obvious, with certain heteronormative and outdated traditions, the relationships I have watched develop between the women has been an incredible demonstration of small-scale social peace.
Although the bureaucracy of the sorority is obvious, with certain heteronormative and outdated traditions, the relationships I have watched develop between the women has been an incredible demonstration of small-scale social peace.
To attempt to understand the idea I am outlining, I will explain the small details I have witnessed in the process of joining the sorority. As soon as I received my bid, I was thoroughly welcomed by the women. Walking around campus, I could not go a full 20 feet without hearing a hello or good morning from these women. It was a hugely unique experience for me to be so easily welcomed into the group when I was used to having but a few close friends. Furthermore, these women went out of their way to make me feel comfortable in the group and to create conversation with me, even when I did not put in much effort on the other side. As I said, I never saw myself in a sorority, and I am not a totally devoted member, but I am always thrown into awe by the amount of individual appreciation and wholesomeness I have received from the women.
How, now, to apply this community to a larger level? I see a huge amount of worth in being a part of this group in trying to understand what makes it function in the compassionate and openhearted way I have witnessed. I know that experiences in Greek life are fundamentally individual, but so is life. Life is a macro-level of what this group is, and I see a tremendous amount of merit in studying this group in order to apply the potential lessons on a larger scale. There are pitfalls and dangers in being a part of an exclusive group – conformity to the group, for example – but there are also many lessons to learn. It takes a critical yet open eye to learn and to change the way things are, and a humble sense of openness to accept that these lessons may exist in unanticipated places.