I’ve always been wary of places that don’t make space for me. And as a Black woman at Penn — from a Title I public school in Arizona — I didn’t think Panhellenic sororities were for me. I came into college with the assumption that sororities were for a certain type of girl, but I decided I needed to experience the process before I could actually have an opinion on the matter. I can’t decide if it’s for better or for worse, but what I saw of sororities was exactly what I expected.
Before rushing this year, people in Greek life told me that sororities lacked diversity not because they didn’t want a diverse group of women, but because underrepresented women didn’t rush. After rushing, I can say that's simply not true. I saw many more women of color rushing the sororities than in the sororities themselves.
Ultimately, I dropped rush after a couple days with few invitations left and an expired social battery for places I didn’t see myself represented in and, truthfully, didn’t want to pay for — sororities cost upwards of $1,170 a semester in 2018, and the price has only increased in recent years.
I set out on this experience not in hopes of getting a bid, but in the hope of seeing what sororities at Penn were about, and opening myself up to an experience I never thought I would partake in. I’m not writing this to bash sororities or to sound bitter because I didn’t get invitations back to places that may or may not like me — if there's one thing I am, it’s extremely passionate about what I stand for. There’s no way to learn everything about a person in 15-minute conversations, and I don’t take being dropped personally in any way.
In fact, I understand why I wasn’t invited back to a majority of the houses. In one conversation, I was asked why I chose Penn. After quickly indexing my thoughts and deciding how I wanted to present myself, I was honest and mentioned Questbridge. Matching through Questbridge — a program for low-income, high-achieving students — is what brought me here and isn’t something I’m ashamed of. I was met with a blank stare, and after a couple milliseconds of silence, I asked her if she knew what it was. She uttered “Yea, ummm … I’ve never heard of that working out for anyone … wow.”
I don’t believe myself to be a socially awkward person, and while I wasn’t sure exactly what that response was supposed to mean, it wasn’t said in a positive tone. So much of sorority recruitment is about fit, and if you don’t fit in a place, you’re obviously not going to progress.
Another reason I decided to rush was because I truly appreciate philanthropy and wanted to see what sort of efforts sororities supported. Philanthropy is advertised as a central part of a sorority’s mission, and — as a Civic Scholar and non-profit employee — it posed as something I figured I would be able to relate to.
I found it very hard to take their philanthropy seriously when some sororities only hold one event a year. Whether it’s profits from a date night being given to charity or a hired chef cooking the food being sold in a drive, I don’t believe that's the true effort it takes to be considered a philanthropic organization.
That being said, any degree of service is helpful, and I don’t mean to denigrate any of that work. I’m just voicing my surprise at the methods in which it’s done — often solely in very hands-off and indirect ways.
I want all women — especially the young women of color who rush and don’t necessarily see themselves already represented in the people they’re talking to — to know that if they want to rush, they should. As silly as I think the whole ordeal was for me, I would do it again. I had so many conversations with women who were very lovely and kind, and I believe every experience makes you better.
That being said, you should know what you’re getting into. Sororities are built around a structure of exclusivity and uniformity, and unfortunately, those ideals both center around proximity to wealth and whiteness. When asked about diversity, many of the sororities to whom I talked jumped to how they have so many majors represented, or many women from different cities. While interesting, that is not exactly what I think truly encapsulates a diverse group of people, and for this to be the first thing mentioned with regards to diversity seems a little nonsensical.
I also want those women to know that not getting a bid from a sorority doesn’t define you and will not define your college experience, nor is it a reflection of your character or who you are. Over the past few days, I’ve seen so many frantic, cold, and shaking women on the sidewalk comparing choices with their friends and uttering the occasional “Why did all the top houses drop me?” or worrying that they only have one “reputable” house left.
Seeing moments like these saddens me, as it really should be about the people that you like and not necessarily prestige — we’re all talented, smart, beautiful women, and what sorority you’re in doesn’t determine your worth. Sorority rush pits women against each other when the central purpose of womanhood is to uplift women of all backgrounds, even those that differ vastly from your own.
The rush process is extremely superficial and inherently personal: You are putting your personality, history, and interests on the line to be judged, while only answering surface level questions.
As a sophomore not in Greek life, I can say I have found many lifelong girlfriends, still go out on the weekends, and my sense of self and values have only been solidified after rushing. If you don’t fit the mold many sororities require, it does not make you any less of a woman, nor does it speak to any sort of character flaws. There is so much to experience on this campus, and Greek life presents only a small sliver.
MIA VESELY is a College sophomore studying philosophy, politics, and economics from Phoenix, Ariz. Her email is email@example.com.