Guest Column: We need to rethink Northwestern’s social culture

Kara Rodby, Guest Columnist

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As recruitment season begins today, I’d like to remind freshmen and the whole Northwestern community that it is okay not to be in a sorority or fraternity.  If you do not want to join – whether you just do not see yourself as that type of person or do not have or want to spend the money or whatever other reason – you should not feel pressured to join.

It makes me sad every time I meet a Greek-affiliated student who, when I say I never felt like Greek life was for me, responds, “Me neither. I don’t even know why I’m really in it.” That’s not to say that almost all of these people don’t still enjoy their experience. Most usually follow with, “But it’s been fun, I like the girls in my sorority,” or something similar.  There is no doubt in my mind that if I joined a sorority that fit my personality that I’d like the women in it a lot. But I shouldn’t have to bend other things – like my apprehensions about the concept of Greek life, or the fact that I don’t want to spend that kind of money or time in any organization – to be happy and get to interact with those women. And it is a self-preserving cycle: People join because they feel pressured, more people will continue to feel pressured to join and it never ends.

This is not meant to be a criticism of the Greek system, but rather the concept of an institution which people feel they must join because everyone else does, or because it is the normal thing to do. While I choose not to participate in the Greek system, I have nothing against those who do join.

But I think the NU community should not be okay with the culture we’ve created in which many students truly feel they will not be happy or have an acceptable social life if they do not join an institution, especially one which is inherently exclusive — socially and financially.  This is a rather typical sentiment at many colleges with Greek life, so it’s not surprising that we have become desensitized to it, but I am truly saddened and alarmed that this culture exists at our school, which is home to so many socially conscious and active students.  I think a lot of Greek students do not realize the extent to which this affects non-members or those considering joining. As a non-member, I can say it has often been hard avoiding the pressure to join and feeling socially comfortable with my decision.

I think it’s time we actually did something about this issue, which has existed for a long time. The Greek system is fairly good at being inclusive of unaffiliated students at most parties, but I think they could be better — especially with unaffiliated males. The University should do more to offer social opportunities outside of Greek life. Finally, the administration should consider the risks and dangers versus the social benefits of being more lenient with monitoring the dorms. Schools like Amherst College — admittedly smaller than NU — have more lenient policies that allow for more social activity in dormitories. NU should not be a place where anyone should feel like they have to do anything to fit in.

Kara Rodby is a Weinberg sophomore and can be reached at kararodby2017@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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