Students discuss values, Greek life

by Alexandra Friedman | 10/20/00 5:00am

In a discussion titled "Can You Keep Your Beliefs and Still be Greek?" approximately 20 students gathered last night at Sigma Delta sorority to reflect on the acceptance and expression of personal beliefs on campus.

"Can you hold your beliefs and be Greek? Yes ... but I want to acknowledge that there's a real tension," Michael Fonner '74, now a Lutheran minister, said at the event, which was co-sponsored and co-led by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

"We wanted to discuss the religious, social and moral values in the [Greek] system we have, ... how being Greek has affected [these values]... and even outside of the system," Leah Threatte '01, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, said.

The students at the discussion were asked to share personal experiences concerning the two different facets of their lives. They spent a good deal of time discussing whether or not there is in fact a way to hold onto your beliefs and still be an active member of a fraternity or sorority.

During the discussion it was brought up that many prejudices accompany the joining of a Greek organization, for example, pressure to conform to what all of the other members of the community are doing. The students discussed how this pressure to conform could possibly thwart acceptance of people with different beliefs.

Fonner said that when he was a member of a fraternity at the College, he felt discomfort as an aspiring minister because of the "level of drinking ... casual sex ... [and] crass humor at frats." He addressed the dilemma of social awkwardness a religious student might face in openly expressing his or her beliefs. In his case he was always very open with his religious beliefs and said how "exposing [his] frat brothers to this part of [his] life, in a way, normalized it."

Dartmouth students had many responses to the "tension" that Fonner described.

Some participants expressed the feeling that once you get beyond the initial pressure of the first Greek activities of rushing and pledging, there is no pressure to blend in or hold back your own beliefs.

Julia Hoover '02, programming assistant for Sigma Delt, said, "It's not like we're trying to change anybody ... we're more like trying to get to know them."

Michi Gardner '99, a current graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, said that "a sorority should enhance you and never change you," and that if you feel your views are being compromised, you are in the wrong place.

While fraternity members seem to face a different level of pressure, the general consensus of the students was that sorority member uniformity is a lot less substantial than that of the fraternity members.

"You could make the choice to dry rush but if you choose not to drink, you choose not to be active in the house," said one student. "You're allowed to be a member, but you can't be yourself and be a member there ... you have to leave a lot of who you are at the door."

The Greek system members present agreed that when choosing a house to pledge, one must be very selective and make sure to choose a place in which compromise of beliefs will not occur.

In order to resolve the tension felt by various Greek community members, Threatte commented that "you need to think about how you can bring about a change within your own house."

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