I assume that after reading that title, a couple hundred girls on campus are now out for my head. Let me start with a disclaimer: It is my honest opinion that sororities are of great importance to this University, and that they have a positive impact on the community. UR sororities frequently hold events to raise money for charity or reach out to the community, and it is impossible to fault them for that. But it’s not what sororities do that’s the problem; it’s how they go about it.
Over in the news section of the Campus Times, one of our greatest priorities is impartiality. We don’t aim to make anyone look good or bad, just to report the facts. And yet, time and time again, one group has been more difficult to get information from than any other.
This brings me to perhaps the greatest concern I have with the sororities — fear. From the perspective of a freedom-of-the-press advocate, the sorority system seems more afraid for their image, by far, than any other group on campus.
Through interviewing Fraternity and Sorority Affairs leadership, I personally have found careful filters in place to ensure that not a single negative piece of data regarding sororities that falls through to the media. Last year, Campus Times tried to investigate rumors that sorority recruitment was on the decline. The story proved nearly impossible because the recruitment numbers were never “finalized.” They couldn’t even give us a rough head count.
Conveniently enough, a couple weeks later, when the story was about the prospective addition of a new sorority, facts and figures abounded.
This same fear manifests itself when we actually try to discuss a sorority’s matters with its members. Many times last year I was warned by sorority sisters about how I shouldn’t print a certain story that would appear negative toward a sorority.
It’s funny how trying to impose their fear on me magnifies just how terrified they are of their own organization. My latest run-in with sororities, however, has been perhaps the most unsettling. I recently had a writer try to contact sorority members to get some opinions on the new sorority, Chi Omega. She was able to get a hold of one, but this individual was not willing to give a straight comment to the writer. Rather, she felt the need to send the quote to her sorority’s president first for approval. What came back was a clearly revised statement that was in line with the sororities’ M.O.
Every sorority claims to foster an environment for independent, strong women, but how does a member being afraid to submit their own opinion reflect that? This is not independence; this is fear, plain and simple.I am fully aware of the fact that not everything about sorority life can be completely transparent, nor should it be. Secrecy is part of being a member of a fraternity or sorority, in that it helps to build the brotherhood or sisterhood that the organization tries to cultivate.
There is a problem when the line between what should remain behind closed doors and what members should have freedom to discuss becomes blurred.So a final piece of advice to UR sororities: Stop being so over-the-top protective about your image. Effective leadership is not concerned with always appearing squeaky clean. Members of an effective organization should not be afraid to speak their minds and address at least some of their problems in the public eye.
After all, when it comes down to it, what really looks bad on a sorority member isn’t that martini soaked dress from the mixer last night; it’s that they don’t have the freedom to openly discuss their opinions of their own organization.