Sororities attempt to break stereotypes

In the wake of Formal Recruitment, sororities on campus are working to bring in new members under the message of “breaking stereotypes.” Given current political climates, however, both on-campus and nationally, efforts to make a meaningful change in the Greek community may pose distinct challenges for its members.

The chapter Alpha Chi Omega (AXO) showcased a recruitment video online featuring members fighting stereotypes of what “sorority girls are not,” but what they are commonly perceived as. They described themselves as “talented,” “athletic,” “passionate,” “strong,” “artistic,” “courageous,” “intelligent” and “leaders.”

Other recruitment videos from the nine sororities on campus stressed the four Case Western Reserve University Greek Life pillars: citizenship, leadership, ritual and scholarship.

“Our campus breaks stereotypes [through] rituals and encouraging members to be the best versions of themselves,” former Panhellenic Vice President of Service and Philanthropy Kelsey Bean said. “[Campus chapters emphasize] the diverse group of individuals they encompass and [highlight] that any person can be a ‘sorority girl.’”

Sorority Formal Recruitment, which took place the first two weeks of the spring semester, is regulated by the CWRU Panhellenic Council. The CWRU Office of Greek Life reports that 35 percent of all undergraduate students are involved with Greek Life.

“At this time, the CWRU Panhellenic Bylaws allow anyone who does not identify as a man to go through recruitment,” said Panhellenic Executive Board President Sara Ahmad. “We, as a campus, have made a commitment to be as inclusive as allowed by our chapters’ national headquarters. Many chapters accept members who ‘identify as female,’ and Sigma Psi accepts any member who ‘does not identify as male.’”

With the exception of Sigma Psi, all CWRU sororities pay monetary dues to their national chapters. Neither Sigma Psi’s policy nor Ahmad specify whether the policy excludes those who identify of male sex or of male gender.

Alcohol is also gendered in the Greek system. The Panhellenic Council Bylaws states, and the National Panhellenic Council enforces, that alcohol is not permitted in sorority houses. Across the country, many find that this rule gives power to fraternities, who lack such bans and can therefore host co-ed parties in their houses.

Ahmad believes that “If there comes a time when it seems a change [to the alcohol policy] is necessary, then the conversation will continue.”

The recent initiatives being taken by campus sororities to work against these perceived negative stereotypes are part of continuing efforts. In addition to those already mentioned, such efforts include the Our Story, Our Voice program; the philanthropic efforts of each chapter; Safe Zone training of recruitment counsellors along with recruitment name-tags with recruits’ prefered pronouns; and discussions by some chapters with the LGBT and Women’s Centers regarding inclusivity.

Update Feb. 23, 2018, 5:16 p.m.: Further discussion of Sigma Psi’s policy was added.