Letter to the editor: Far more heroes than villains in Northwestern’s Greek life

I would like to preface this letter by warning that it talks about sexual assault and sexual violence, and by saying to any survivors of sexual assault and/or sexual violence that your stories matter. The actions of perpetrators are vile and unjustifiable, and if the actions occurred in a Greek setting, the system has failed you immensely.

There have been circumstances within Greek life that have proved to be controversial but more importantly, they have proved to be dangerous. While there are perhaps more opportunities for a dangerous setting to occur in Greek life than in other Northwestern activities, it has become a focal point that neglects how Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council members actually spend most of their time.

The immediate association of Greek life as a whole with the immoral decisions of individuals is one I find unjust. Both PHA and IFC are working to minimize the occurrence of these instances through educational workshops and altered protocol for social events. Most of the media attention placed on Greek life is negative, and while the negative attention is regarding serious topics that should be addressed, many are deterred from the community before even considering it. These negative instances have painted Greek life as sinister when in reality, the vast majority of interactions that occur in Greek settings are not of malice or danger. This is not intended to belittle the negative experiences people have had in a PHA or IFC setting; however, I think the positive experiences people have had in Greek life, which are high in number, are seldom discussed. As a Panhellenic woman, I would like to shed light on how being in the community has shaped my Northwestern experience for the better. I would also like to note that this article is more focused on the PHA and IFC environment, as that is the setting I am most familiar with in my time at Northwestern. Voices in the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council are rarely heard because PHA and IFC are the dominant narrative. Nonetheless, I can only speak for my experiences in PHA.

It is no wonder that some people are deterred from Greek life with all the traumatic events that have taken place, especially in recent years, but the great interactions that occur in Greek settings will never make news headlines. If you are not in Greek life, you would never know the instances in which a fraternity member cares for a Panhellenic woman who is in danger or the countless times older sorority members look out for younger members. Personally, Greek life has presented opportunities for female empowerment far more than toxic masculinity.

The Panhellenic community is one of the only places on campus in which women can be surrounded by other women. You will never compete with a male for a role of leadership, and you can inspire one another to be better. The absence of males from our meetings and houses omits the opportunity for any condescension to occur. Belittling comments are representative of the toxic masculinity that is fostered elsewhere on campus, not in the Panhellenic community. Greek life is an encouraging environment, not a degrading one. As a wide-eyed freshman girl going through recruitment, I felt empowered knowing there were women who were excited to meet me and, once I joined the community, led by example.

Having personal connections with successful women is empowering to me. I always saw women with so much ambition in my chapter and in other chapters, and they were always willing to help out people who were just beginning to find their footing. When I went through job recruitment, a former member of the Panhellenic community graciously offered to help me through the intimidating process despite her busy schedule at a top consulting firm. I have witnessed women in the Panhellenic community proofreading other members’ essays and studying for exams together in late hours of the night. The idea that Panhellenic women just pay money to “buy” friends does not explain the efforts Panhellenic women make to support one another. From reading a sister’s poetry to attending philanthropies of other chapters to being in the audience at a dance show, these women, in addition to being sincere friends, want to help one another succeed.

There is a misconception of how time is spent in the Greek community. The perception is that all we do is party, and our relationships with one another are all contrived. In my experience, this could not be further from the truth.

There are no articles published about the time my roommate held me on the floor of our room in our sorority house as I cried during the most difficult quarter of my life.

There are no articles published about each time I pass a Panhellenic woman, and we exchange how we’re feeling about our lives and express excitement for happy news and compassion for more solemn news.

There are no articles published about each time a member of IFC has encouraged me in social settings, career settings and academic settings.

There are no articles published about Panhellenic women going to the gym together, studying together, laughing together until your abs hurt, or even sitting in a room having deep talks.

And why would there be articles published about such occurrences? These events happen every single day for hundreds of PHA and IFC members. You would have to start a new publication to hear them all. They happen so often that most members of the Greek community never voice the encouragement they receive from all directions. I am writing this to say that the encouragement does occur, it is honest, and it persistently remains despite the challenges within our community that might cause it to waver.

To any woman hesitant to go through formal recruitment: I cannot guarantee you will have the same experience that I did in the Greek community, but I can guarantee that I am not the only Panhellenic woman who has felt supported throughout my membership. I encourage you to widen your perspective since you will likely hear about the flaws of Greek life far more than the joys. You will often hear of the few villains in the community, but never the heroes.

This is not a plea for you to go through recruitment nor is it a reprimand to those who have bravely shared their stories and experiences. This is merely the account of a Panhellenic woman who is immensely happy with her decision to join the Greek community. It has fostered my growth in many regards, allowed me to befriend people with different experiences than my own and provided me with the opportunity to be a leader and instill change where I want to see it. The system does have flaws, but we are working as a community to instill change from within and that effort, entirely by itself, is empowering.

Marianna Kammo
Weinberg junior