‘Independence’ is in the eye of the beholder


By Annie Nelson

I agree with Shannon Hughes: “What’s your name? … Which sorority are you in?” are often the first couple of questions asked when you meet someone new at Union. She’s right, it happens a lot.

Being an unaffiliated female at the college that founded Greek life is definitely a bold move, especially for a fun, social person like myself.

Whenever new people find out that I’m not in a sorority, they assume that there’s something wrong with me. Although I will outright agree with that one statement, Shannon Hughes’ article inspired me to reflect on my personal experiences with the Greek system, and I would simply like to share my opinion.

The first time that the terms “frat” and “sorority” entered the threshold of my awareness, beyond general media influences, was during my senior year of high school when my sister would tell me about the Greek parties at her small liberal arts school, Lafayette College.

I never thought about it really, not even when I started as a freshman at Union, with the campus buzzing Greek energy my entire first term.

Long story short, it was never really on my radar, even though I heard a good deal about the houses through upperclassmen on my lacrosse team. I just knew it wasn’t for me — not for any particular reason, but I was never attracted to the idea of being in a sorority; therefore, my lack of curiosity and ignorance to the social pressure caused me not to rush.

I didn’t even realize how big of a deal Greek life was here until I walked into a totally empty Upper Class Dining Hall at 6 p.m. on a weekday. Where is everyone? Oh yeah — rush.

Fall term of sophomore year was quite lonely. I saw my friends drift away into the eager hands of a new social circle they were a part of, and yes, I saw many personalities change throughout the process.

But instead of wallowing in my room in Fox all year, I chose to do exactly what the rest of my friends were doing — explore the realms of social life at Union. Instead of doing that with sorority sisters at a mixer, I hung out with whomever was around doing whatever the hell I felt like.

I do resent the fact that the majority of Union folk expect some sort of explanation as to why I chose not to affiliate, like I need an alibi in my back pocket to justify my decision. I have always felt quite indifferent to the Greek system, and to this day I have never felt the slightest tinge of regret at my decision not to join a sorority.

For me, being “independent” has given me the freedom to establish great relationships with members of every Greek organization, and I have Greek-affiliated friends who share that freedom with me, if they want to.

The “social circles” are arbitrary; it all comes down to how you choose to live your life socially, regardless of who or what groups you associate with.

Choosing to belong to a Greek organization does not limit you from anything unless you let it. Yes, I believe some people get way too wrapped up in the labels, and that immaturity is a flaw in the individual’s character, rather than a flaw in the organization. Many people choose not to let a title define them, and if someone defines someone else by a certain Greek title, that only reflects his or her immaturity and conformity to the virtual social loops at Union.

Speaking of getting wrapped up in labels, some unaffiliated people define themselves by what they’re not, and by doing so, let the Greek system intimidate them into bitterness. What the Greek system does to “the rest” of Union is it forces you to buy your own beer from 9:00-11:00 p.m. — sorry if this “ruins” your social life.

I honestly hate how the common name for “unaffiliated” is “independent,” because that implies that all Greek members’ social lives are dependent on their organizations, which is definitely not accurate.

I do find it ironic that Shannon Hughes, who seemingly described herself as a feminist, claimed to judge sororities as being “terribly cruel, petty and superficial.”

Everyone has bullshit to deal with, in whatever organization, club, sports team, theme house, Greek organization or friend group that they choose to be a part of. There are no grounds to peg only some as being more petty and superficial, and publicly doing so is embarrassing.

It’s disappointing to know that some people let Greek letters inhibit their ability to recognize the smart, athletic, witty and intellectual girls who go to our school.

My past three years have been nothing but great connections with homies in every organization, because that’s what I’ve chosen for myself.

It’s no news that Greek parties open up to everyone on campus, but Greek members cannot be blamed for an unaffiliated individual’s fear to walk into a Greek party alone.

As Shannon Hughes claimed, sharing your opinion on a controversial issue is “courageous,” but it takes real courage to define yourself by something other than what you’re not. Union is a great place full of awesome people, and it’s too small to let any title limit your social life.

We are all adults, and the challenge at a small school like Union is to define yourself by something bigger than how others define you — but rather, to define yourself by your character, maturity and passions.

I love the Greek system, and I am proud to say Greek life was founded at Union.



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