Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Going Greek

Go Greek . .  . Then again, maybe don't.

I've practiced violin until my fingers are almost ready to fall off. Enough is enough. I've practiced piano even more.I need to practice a bit less in the next few days. One can over-practice and over-learn, which can result in a mechanical sound from the musician. Where violin is concerned, I'd love for that to be my biggest problem. Having violin music that is too well-prepared would be, for me anyway, a nice problem to have.

I  was thinking about fraternities and sororities today. Some people may have fond memories of them, but still I cannot help being struck by the somewhat insidious nature of the whole system.  The girls in many sororities elevate snobbishness to a whole new, previously unseen level..

 I had one class my first year -- introductory biochemistry -- that had quite a few frat rats and their female sorority counterparts. It was to be taught by a  new associate professor. This may have given the Greek system students the feeling of a bit more power than they otherwise might have had.  It's as though they took over the classroom. Even though it was my first official course, I'd been on campus in the previous semester for music lessons. There were girls in that class among the sorority girls who would be perfectly friendly to me in other settings, but once we walked through the door of that classroom, it was as though they'd never before seen me  in any of our entire lives. They had mapped out about two-thirds of the seats in the classroom for themselves and their own kind. If a non-Greek sat in one of those seats, he or she would be told to move. I unknowingly , on my very first day of classes as a university student, made the mistake of sitting in one of those chairs. "Get up, bitch," was the response I received from a sorority girl.  "It's not your seat."

Still being clueless, I responded to the girl, who was sitting two rows away, that it was the first session of class and we didn't know yet if we would have assigned seats. (I assumed we wouldn't because it seemed like sort of a high school thing. This was less than a year after my restroom attack, so I was a little scared, but doubted anyone would actually beat me up over this.) The girl told me that the seat was reserved for a fraternity or sorority member -- apparently they dislike even the non-Greeks even more than they dislike those from rival frats or sororities, sort of like Alexander Hamilton  hated Thomas Jefferson but hated Aaron Burr even more -- and that at the rate I was going, my chances of being rushed were diminishing by the second even had I had any desire to join up with the Greeks, which I most definitely did not.

I told her that I really didn't feel like moving.  She glared at me and whispered to each succeeding person who entered who appeared to have Greek affiliation.  No one stuck up for me, but no one said anything to me, either.

Then the professor entered. Before he said a word, a girl who was tall, thin, bespectacled -- the prototypical serious student. -- raised her hand. "Excuse me, Dr. Brum," she said. "There seems to be some confusion here.  The fraternity and sorority members have some reason to believe they can reserve a large block of seats for people who belong to fraternities and sororities.  Is that an established policy in your class?"

The professor looked at her quizzically. Some frat rats and sorority members looked uncomfortable, while other looked smug.

"No," the professor responded,  "It most definitely isn't." Some of the Greek sytem affiliates appeared  possibly to be trying to indimidate the professor with stares. He stared right back.

"I think with this class,"  the professor continued, "just for my convenience, we'll sit in alphabetical order. That will make it easier on days when I choose to take roll."

"You take attendance?" one sorority girl groaned, while another whined, "This is so 'high school.' "

"Yes, it certainly is,"  the professor responded. "If you choose to act like you're in high school, my only option is to treat this like a high school class."

"Im outa here, " one frat rat announced as he took his belongings and left. Two others followed.

"I'd love to to drop," I heard a sorority girl mutter, "but I need this class to graduate and can't put it off any longer."

The professor called out each name on his roll sheet, and pointed to the seat he designated for the student. The sorority girls and frat rats glared as they were called to move. The non- Greeks just moved to the designated seats with no obvious expression or emotion.

The profesor took a few notes on a piece of paper, apparently in relation to  the assigned seating arrangement. "There are are univeristies who segregate or discriminate, legally or otherwise, on all sorts of bases. This university isn't one of them. If you have a problem with that, come to see me during my office hours," he said, "which are listed on the course syllabus I'm handing out now. If you can't deal with non-discriminatory policies, I'll give you a list of universities and colleges that do practice official if illegal discimination."   He continued. "If you choose to remain in this class anyway, you'll sit where I tell you to sit, and you'll speak when I tell you to speak, and if I don't like what I hear coming from your mouth, I'll tell you to shut up, and you will."

Only about ten of the original seventeen or so Greek system students stayed in the class, which altered the dynamics significantly. Having the Greek system students become a minority in the classroom significantly changed the dynamics of the class. They weren't bold enough to act as though they owned the place when they comprised maybe one-third of the class, and it was soon impossible just by visual scan to tell the Greeks from the Romans or anyone else. Strangest of all, they began speaking to the rest of us as though there was no actual class distinction.

It was an enlightening experience to me. I came to the university  from another university town -- an area of modest wealth but of high educational level among the adults in the community. If a snob empire existed there, and it probably did to some degree, it would have been based on everyone's parents' levels of education and not on family finances.  This was my introduction to the idea that how much money one's parents had stowed away  had any correlation with how one might be seen and treated by his or her peers. I, for one, refuse to be pushed around by the frat and sorority members and will continue to refuse to be intimidated in any way by them. I'm seeing my peers grow increasingly less bothered by the snobbishness of the Greek system. Its members are, to me anyway, irrelevant on our campus, and it seems to me that others feel that way as well.


  1. The Greek system was huge at my college, but no one ever acted like that. Good for that professor for putting a stop to that crap quickly.

  2. Unless it's of any educational significance (such as Phi Beta Kapa) the Greek system is the exact opposite of what college is supposed to be about. I've heard terrible stories from my mom, who was in a sorority in college (Alpha Xi Delta, I believe) it sounds terrible.

  3. From what Knotty says, things may be a bit extreme here in terms of the fraternty/sorority scene. My university is the rare combination of both seim-prestigious intitution and a party school. For a party school to have both distinctions, it's probably the ideal petri dish in which to grow a thriving virus such as a strong Greek system. I'm still glad I chose this university, and the Greeks have far from taken over the place, even if they think they've done so.

    As I see it, the system exists in a modern university setting for one of two reasons: A) either to perpetuate the high school popularity pyramid, out of which we all should have grown a long time ago (they're big fish in extremely tiny ponds -- almost puddles -- and no one outside of their individual frats or sororities really cares about their supposed status; there's more rivalry than mutual respect between the various frats and sororities, and the situation in my class in which they were attempting to reserve seats for fellow Greek affiliates was an almost unprecedented show of solidarity; B) or to advertise to anyone who might conceivably care that their mommies and daddies can afford the fees associated with belonging to a fraternity or sorority; almost no frat/sorority members pay their own way with anything other than trust funds. Scholarship money, unless it's a specific frat or sorority scholarship, for the most part cannot be used for fraternity or sorority fees. Very few students who are legitimately paying their own way value their hard-earned money little enough to squander it on fees associated with joining Greek associations.

    I agree with Becca that Phi Beta kappais in its own league and doesn't deserve to be lumped with the others. Still, I'm not joining it if invited. Neither will I join either the biochemistry department's nor the music department's associations. I just don't have time. I have a triple major (some would say double major because two of my majors are in music, but the music department considers it two distinct degrees)and can't spend my time on their activities. My charity is playing piano or organ for the funerals and weddings of families or couples who would be hard-pressed to pay standard pianist or organist fees. I also play piano or organ if I show up at a mass and there isn't one present. (If my servoces are requested in advance, I'm paid, though I do tithe on my earnings.) I don't have time to show up on a Saturday afternoon and wash cars or clear away brush. If the either association is doing something related directly to helping in out the local public schools, I paricipate even though I'm not a member. It's nice that someone is doing the work they do, and I respect those who are doing those jobs as part of the fulfillment of their pre-professional association obligations, but I can't do most of it now. Graduating with a triple major in three years doesn't allow me a lot of wiggle room.

  4. Probably my most pressing issue, other than some generally obnoxious public behavior when the members of the respective greek societies are en masse, is with a few individuals who are my friends when they're alone or not with sorority sisters, but won't ve acknowledge me in passing with any sort of greeting whatsoever. I've started reciprocating. One of these girls asked me if I was mad at her. As nicely as I could, I explained that I'm not interested in any friendship in which the friend will not even say "Hi" if she's with sorority sister or sisters. I told her that we can be friends, or we can not be friends, but I expect to be at least greeted in passing regardless of who is with her if we're going to be friends. I told her to think about it and left it at that. I told her she could text me with her answer or give me her answer by her response th next time we encounter one another when she's with one or more of her "sisters." I asked her if the problem was that I was not a member of her specific sorority, or that I was totally non-Greek. she really didn't have an answer. It's been about a week since that conversation, and I've neither run into her or heard from her since. I suppose I'lll have my answer the next time we have a face-to-face encounter. It may be that she was just using me for academic assistance and free tutoring all along, or it may be that she's genuinely conemplating whether or not she dare buck the system. I've had a bad rep with the Greeks ever since that incident in my first class in which I caused us all to have to sit in alphabetical order.

  5. It seems like a lot of energy is put in to something that is unnecessary. Who has time to keep track of who is in what group/ not in a group at all, on top of getting decent grades? I have a friend who was in a sorority before she transferred colleges, and she seemed to have enjoyed it. She's not the type of girl to play in to petty drama, either. She's a Pre-Medical student, and honestly I would have never guessed that she was involved in one at all. To each their own, I suppose. Any kind of group can turn sour, not because of the group, but because of the people in the group.

    Still, my mom has really turned me off to the whole idea-- not intentionally, either.