The scarf my mother hand knit seems to tighten every time I pass a classic Burberry on Locust Walk. I know it’s a psychosomatic response, and there’s nothing wrong or inferior about my inexpensive gear, whose ultimate purpose is to keep me warm, but sometimes it’s difficult to see the constant reminders of socioeconomic difference on this campus. I find these differences especially highlighted during the hurricane that is sorority rush. The Gucci slippers that definitely don’t keep toes warm in mid-January pat down sidewalks in hurried excitement, and my Nordstrom Rack knock-offs, though exceedingly more comfortable, still slide on unsure ice.
I never wanted to join a sorority. In fact, I didn't even realize how big a deal they were until I got to college. As a first-generation college student, I lay no claim by birthright to any Greek organization. Still, last year as a bleary-eyed freshman, blindly grappling with a fear of missing out and with an intense desire to fit in, joining a sorority would have been a welcome safe haven. That is, if I could afford it. Sororities must find a way to be more inclusive to all students on Penn’s campus — and that includes the women who go thrifting out of necessity, not for sport.
Though many sororities on Penn’s campus have scholarship opportunities, the University's financial aid neither covers the cost of rush nor the cost of membership. Though other Ivies like Yale University have recently increased their financial aid for sororities, University-sponsored financial aid “packages” for Greek life remain nonexistent. And the scholarships offered through Greek organizations are reportedly useful to some but never cover expenses in full.
I rely on my financial aid to pay my rent, and the money I make from my work-study position goes toward my coffee addiction and other necessary charges. The cost for a new member joining a sorority ranges from $575 to $1,170. That’s over a month’s rent for me, and hundreds of dollars I couldn't afford to sacrifice.
A couple months after rush last year, I’d often see affiliated women sporting their sorority’s letters on custom apparel. Frothing at the seams of their rooms were banners, streamers, and candy galore — a wallet-busting display of warm welcome.
It has been documented that some sisters spend upwards of $1,000 on this tradition alone. Even after initiation fees and living expenses, affiliated women are often expected to spend copious amounts of money showering their "littles" with gifts. I don’t think a KitKat and a Fresh Grocer balloon would cut it, even if that’s all someone could afford.
Though joining a sorority wasn’t my life’s mission, and I’m painfully unaware of why it’s so expensive, I can’t help but hurt for the other women in my position who did want to join a sorority, but were barred from trying due to the financial expense. Sororities might be missing out on some worthy sisters as a result of the exclusionary costs of being a member. This is part of a bigger issue concerning Penn's financial aid.
If Yale can allocate some financial aid funds towards sororities to help members cover the cost of membership dues, Penn should too.
The $45 fee that accompanies the recruitment registration may only be half as expensive as a bottle of Chanel No. 5, but to me, that’s five hours of work. I know life isn’t fair, but as organizations that use the words “promote inclusion” in their purpose statement, this inclusion should extend to individuals who don’t have the same financial stability as the significant percentage of Penn students who receive no financial aid.
An estimated 25 percent of Penn is involved in Greek life in some capacity, and every day I hear about how much someone loves their fraternity or sorority. The opportunity to find a Greek community should extend to all students, not just those who can afford it.
The solution derived at Yale, wherein each of their four sororities are given $200 to divvy out in the form of financial aid, is a step, but not an ultimate solution to all-encompassing inclusivity. This funding comes from the required recruitment fee for rush, which does seem like the kernel of a very helpful idea. Where is the money from Penn sorority recruitment fees funneled? Perhaps it could be used for something better.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is email@example.com.
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