actual sorority move

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Sorority membership placed a stamp on my collegiate experience that no other opportunity could have replaced. I grew as a woman and leader through my friendships and dedicated work for the continued success of the Gamma Eta chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity at Roanoke College. I’ll even be real with you and admit that not all of my experiences with Phi Mu were positive. As a “Phi” or pledge of Phi Mu, I experienced psychological hazing that caused me to relive the emotional distress I experienced as a freshman at an institution from which I had transferred the previous semester. I seriously questioned whether or not to continue joining the organization–maybe sorority life just wasn’t for me?? However, Phi Mu’s love had already been emblazoned on my heart and, for better or worse, I pushed on.

Little did I know, my experience with hazing would be a pivotal moment in my personal story; a “defining moment” in my life. As new chapter leadership worked to eliminate these negative “traditions” from our chapter, I became a strong voice against hazing in our chapter. I continued to reflect upon those experiences and became an advocate for hazing prevention initiatives with my platform in the Miss Virginia/Miss America Organizations. I attended the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention and became interested in Student Affairs professions, which lead me to my current role as a graduate student studying Higher Education Administration. I have been able to contribute my knowledge of hazing prevention as the Graduate Assistant in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. I am passionate about this issue and encouraged by my story, because it’s just one small example of how all our experiences, negative or positive, shape who we become and are opportunities for growth.

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Last spring, with graduation looming only a few short weeks away, I reflected upon my times as a Phi Mu collegian in the post phi mu is love. My friendships with Phi Mu sisters have continued to grow and flourish despite the distance. I am so thankful for my sisters who have been loyal and true through thick and thin over the months of post-college life! As a member of the professional staff for Fraternity and Sorority Life at UVA, I have gained a new perspective on Greek Life. This new retrospective lens on my fraternity experience has allowed me to continue to reflect upon what it means to be a member of Phi Mu Fraternity.

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A hot-button topic in Greek Life is values-based fraternity living. “What?” you ask, “Fraternities and values?” I know, I know. The media’s portrayal of fraternities and sororities does not tend to place our organizations in a positive light.

“We raise so much money for charity!

We do community service!

We’re leaders and scholars!”

…these are our retorts to criticisms we face as members of a Greek community nationwide. But are we really living up to the high standards we pledge to uphold when we ‘live it up’ in Frat house basements every weekend? Are we promoting scholarship when we have a party on a Wednesday night? Do we invite true sisterhood into our organization when we base membership choices over superficial elements like looks and fashion?

I don’t think so!!!

We are giving society the ammunition they need to battle against us! So, what can we do?

Revisiting the Phi Mu creed has been a valuable way for me to spend some time lately. Reflecting upon what it actually means to be a sister of Phi Mu has allowed my understanding of my Fraternity to grow. I look forward to lifelong membership in this organization. Love, honor, and truth really are wonderful values to live life by, and our founders set up a fantastic standard for living in our creed.

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Reflecting upon values and gaining a greater understanding of the relevance of fraternity in our lives today leads me to share a new force in the Greek community, Actual Sorority Move. While there are many organizations that exist to promote the positive side of Fraternity and Sorority, this new trend resonates with me particularly well. It aims to directly combat websites like Total Frat Move, or TFM, that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Greek Life. The following video features Actual Sorority Move (ASM) creator, Jessie Garber, as she explains why she created Actual Sorority Move and what the movement is all about:

Follow ASM on Twitter and Facebook.

I think Jessie’s creation is FANTASTIC. It’s about time sorority women start having thoughtful reflection and meaningful conversations about why we joined a Panhellenic organization. It’s time we start standing up to the stereotypes society has for us, stop perpetuating them, and start proving we are so much more than that! I will be the first to admit that I was not/am not a model sorority woman at all times. I can and do commit to bettering myself every day. Our chapter does a lot of great things, but I am confident that my sisters–collegians, alumnae, all of us–can be so much more!

I challenge us all, Greek or not, to think about what we say we value and evaluate how that aligns with our actual words and actions. Even small efforts towards living a life that is congruent with our beliefs are steps in the right direction.

I hope this gave you a little food for thought, and please leave comments–I’d love to read your reactions!

xo, CEF

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8

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the culture of hazing

Recently, the University of Alabama suspended “pledgeship” (NOT A REAL WORD) due to a report of hazing. This article from the campus newspaper, The Crimson White details an anonymous pledge’s experiences in the Greek system. The article shed light onto some of the activities that take place at campuses all across America–though in defense of Greek life I must note that these practices are NOT condoned by fraternities’ and sororities’ national leadership, universities, and national council representation. AND there ARE chapters out there that do make good decisions, don’t engage in hazing practices, and live out their fraternity’s values. YES, fraternities and sororities are VALUES-BASED organizations–for example, Phi Mu was founded on the values of love, honor, & truth.

Stepping back from my rant on the positives of Greek life, I will admit that the part of the article I found the most shocking/saddening (none of the hazing practices surprised me, I’ve heard them all!) was the comments. The fact that students are defending hazing, stating that the student should have expected the behavior/known what he was “getting himself into,” and acting like the behavior really isn’t that problematic is in itself a huge problem! No student (or person, for that matter) should have to be subjected to physical, sexual, or psychological ABUSE to gain acceptance into a group. Not only does it NOT contribute to student development, but it’s just WRONG, people!

I understand that there are people out there who feel that there are some benefits to hazing, or feel that because they were hazed they bonded with their pledge brothers/sisters. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!