by Kyla Dowling, Staff Writer
Greek life — composed of exclusive social organizations like fraternities and sororities — tends to get a bad rap. Often in entertainment media, sororities are portrayed as a hivemind of shallow, catty girls. Likewise, fraternities are chock-full of players (in every sense of the word) who are all named some variation of Chad. It’s easy to chalk these organizations up to the stereotypes — especially if, like most SFU students, your interaction with Greek life only extends to attending the rare frat party and getting spammed with invites to rush sororities. However, these perceptions are only a fraction of Greek life’s reality, especially considering Greek life organizations at SFU are not given club status by the SFSS. As rush (recruitment) season begins, let me assure you: they’re lying when they say “it’s not like the movies.”
The easiest place to start when condemning Greek life is its built-in prejudice. After the first fraternity was created in 1776 and Greek life began to blossom on college campuses, the organizations were primarily composed of the wealthy, white, Anglo-Saxon students. Even when significant numbers of Black students were admitted to post-secondary schools in the 1960s, some Greek life institutions doubled down by instating a racial ban.
Like many organizations built on prejudice, these traits remain active to this day. As of 2014, approximately 95% of members of historically white Greek life organizations identify as white. It was only in 2003 that a Black woman was allowed to join a sorority at the University of Alabama — and there’s speculation that she was only initiated to dispel claims of racism. Discriminatory scandals are rampant in the Greek life world, and Canadian organizations are no exception.
If you search for SFU’s Greek life organizations online, there isn’t much save for a few Facebook pages, reviews on Greek Rank, and even a few Peak articles. If you search for any racist or otherwise negative takes on Greek life at SFU, you won’t find much other than a Reddit thread from 2016 discussing intense hazing — which is the reason SFU does not affiliate with sororities and fraternities on campus. Not much negativity can be found because at least one sorority at SFU pays Greek Rank to remove negative reviews of their chapter.
I know this because I narrowly avoided the fate of being a sorority sister. In my first semester at SFU, I attended a meeting — held in the AQ without SFU’s knowledge — where each sorority gave a presentation to entice new members to rush for them. Save for one sorority, which was full of classically pretty, white, blonde girls, it really didn’t seem like the movies, so I decided to rush.
The girls were sweet, but the rules were inane. Among other odd requirements to join, I was reprimanded multiple times: for posting myself having a glass of wine with my mother, for owning a fake ID that I never had the guts to use, and for smoking weed. The latter offense wasn’t even on social media or publicized, but the day before initiation, after sinking hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours into this sorority, I was kicked out. My lifestyle choices weren’t compatible with the sorority’s image.
When they took away my chance at sisterhood, they snatched my rose-coloured glasses too. I began thinking back at all the behaviour I’d overlooked: members promoting unhealthy eating habits in front of rushees, saying the n-word despite not being Black, and treating queerness like a party trick. The latter point is interesting, given that one of the major reasons why the SFSS doesn’t recognise Greek life organizations as clubs is because they violate the SFSS’ pro-LGBTQ2+ ideals.
Incensed, a few other former members and I took to Greek Rank to share our honest opinions on the sorority. I gave a scathing indictment of the organization, urging potential members to not rush the sorority. Within a few days, the reviews were gone, replaced by positive ones: five stars in friendliness, popularity, classiness, social life, and sisterhood. According to the website, individual reviews can be taken down for $4.99 apiece. The money I had given them was being used to silence me and bolster their reputation.
My experience is not a singular one. Reddit is filled with fraternity and sorority horror stories, and last year there were national calls to abolish Greek life. This call isn’t just from people like me or members of the SFSS; the call is coming from inside these houses, with members of US sororities and fraternities mobilizing against the system. It’s clear this isn’t just an SFU issue.
The history of Greek life is rife with discrimination. The media’s portrayal of it veers between accuracy and a caricature of shallow women and childish men. The reality of it, at least at SFU, is that there isn’t any proof of the bigotry that is entrenched in the system — but lack of evidence doesn’t equal innocence. My experience, the experiences of others I know, and the removal of negative reviews on Greek Rank implies that there’s something dark under their posed philanthropy and glittery paddles. Being in one of these organizations will ruin your self-esteem, cheat you out of hundreds of dollars, and make you complicit in excluding those outside cis-heterosexual normativity — if you have the “honour” of making it to pledge season.