Monthly Archives: September 2012

Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities

Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins advertises that it exposes what exactly happens inside America’s sorority houses. I’ve always been interested in reading about things I’m involved in, as if it was some National Geographic show narrated by a host with an accent…”An’ hee-uh, in their nat’ral habit, the wiiiiillddd sorority gulls…” But really, it’s interesting to see an outsider’s perspective, which is why I picked up this book.

There have been many emotional reactions to this book by sorority women across the country. An updated introduction by Robbins says that some readers have written to her than their sororities have “forbidden” them to read the book. I clearly didn’t throw this book into a fire, but I wouldn’t put it in my top ten anytime soon.

One thing I appreciated was that Robbins acknowledged that many American college students partake in activities like drinking, drugs, and promiscuous sex. There are too many instances of people assuming these behaviors only happen in fraternity and sorority houses. The truth is, at some schools, certain fraternity and sorority chapters have the reputation of being the “party house”. People who are already looking for those things will want to join those chapters.

I also appreciated that while Robbins didn’t focus her book on NPHC sororities, she does take time to mention some of their differences and benefits. From what I have seen, these organizations are incredibly close knit and these bonds last well after a sister graduates from college.

Of course there’s the flip side of things I was not too happy about. While Robbins took the time to point out that plenty of other students drink and hook up, she did not mention other campus organizations that haze. Hazing is NOT just something that happens among GLOs. Sports teams haze. Marching bands haze. Up until the middle of the last century, freshmen were hazed and some of that hazing was tolerated by school administrators. When I was a freshman in high school, I refused to go to my cheerleading team’s sleepover because I thought I’d be hazed for being new. I didn’t tell my mom why I didn’t want to go, but I made her come up with a reason for me not to go. I really thought that I was going to be forced to drink alcohol and do stupid things.

Many people are upset that Robbins wrote information about sorority rituals and secrets in the book. I saw certain things that were supposedly about my sorority, but she had gotten them wrong. That made me feel a bit better. Overall, I don’t think it was necessary. I’m glad Robbins proved that sorority women aren’t running around in hooded cloaks sacrificing baby animals, but I didn’t need to read an entire paragraph about secret words and phrases. Also, side-note, my friend made a good point about sorority rituals/passwords/handshakes. How many of you made up “secret clubs” when you were a kid that included one or more of these aspects?

Robbins never reveals the university she was at or the chapters she followed. Many readers have tried to pick through the book and put clues together to figure it out. On greekchat.com, there are women claiming it had to be their school for one reason or another. There are many clues that limit the school it could be at – the weather in November at this school was in the 70’s, the chapter houses could sleep 50+ women, etc – however, Robbins stated that she changed “some” details. She clearly made up the names, colors, and mascots of the sororities. How are we to know that she didn’t change some of the details about the school itself? While it would be interesting to find out, I don’t think it’s something that can be figured out just by sleuthing alone.

How do I feel about this personally? It was hard to see something that meant so much to me get blasted for bad things. I think the reason it hit hard was because some of these things are true. SOME. One thing that I noticed from my time in undergrad was that I wasn’t too concerned about my body image until I joined my sorority. Do I think that’s 100% due to joining a sorority? No, it was a combination of things. Right before I joined, I was put on a new medication that made me gain some weight. Also, before joining a sorority, the majority of my friends were male. They didn’t sit around talking about dieting and exercise and how much they weighed. Being in a house with a ton of girls, that topic came up at least once a day. Robbins also mentions catty girls in the house. I experienced that in my house. There was never any day where every sister got along with every other sister. In any sorority house. Ever. BUT. I hate to say it, there are catty girls EVERYWHERE. On cheerleading teams, in clubs, in classes. It’s not just a sorority thing.

How do I feel about this professionally? I don’t want incoming students and their parents to arrive on campus with negative views of Greek Life. A lot of what the media puts out there is negative. The top story is more likely to be about a new member dying than an organization donating hundreds or thousands of dollars to a charity. That’s just the way our society is. I wish there was a “Happy News” station. My job would be a lot easier if more students came to college wanting to join a Greek organization for the right reasons. At the end of the book, Robbins puts some recommendations out there. One thing she mentions is changing how recruitment works. I don’t think she realizes that it’s not just something a chapter or campus can do on their own. How recruitment is run is set by NPC. The recommendations section (as well as some research placed in each chapter) is what makes this a book that I was able to read as a grad student and a professional for information rather than just a novel.

In the end, I do think professionals should read this book. It’s out there, people are reading it thinking that it’s some sort of tell-all. Parents or students might come to you with questions because of this book. If you’re a new professional with little Greek experience, don’t rely on this book! Greek life varies from campus to campus. It’s better to get out there and meet your students than assume what they are like based off a book. You’re not going to be able to attend rituals and meetings, but you can certainly get to know your Greek leaders and ask what recruitment is like, what education is like, and so on.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Upgrading Your Wardrobe: Fall Edition

Everywhere I turn, my friends are talking about “Sweater Weather” and how they are sooooo excited to wear leggings. Oh leggings, how I shed a tear for thee. I haven’t quite figured out how to wear leggings in a work-appropriate way. Please help me.

Back in the summer, I did a post about upgrading your wardrobe. It was not season-specific, but touched on some basic points. I think I did okay for summer. I wore cute dresses with cardigans over them. Summer’s easy. I miss summer. Okay, not really. I hate heat and humidity.

Tops

Sweater weather IS better weather. I have plenty of sweaters and I cannot wait to break them out. It’s still a bit too warm for that. One of my favorite sweaters ever is the Jackie cardigan from J Crew. It comes in tons of colors and is perfect for throwing over a plain tee or cami to dress it up a bit. I was so upset that my size was sold out in the color I wanted when I went to the store the other day. Long sleeve button downs are also great in the fall!

Bottoms

I have these dress pants that I bought when I was in undergrad because I needed nice pants in a hurry. They are cheap and they are too long and I hate them. I have now started to replace them with pants that FIT. Unfortunately this sometimes means buying pants that say “short” on the label…*grumble grumble*…but I’d much rather buy pants that say short than be forced to teeter around in heels all day! A recent favorite of mine are pencil skirts. I also managed to find a cute patterned skirt at LOFT the other day. And, as I mentioned earlier, I LOVE leggings. I just wish I knew how to wear them to work.

Shoes

Well it’s starting to get too cold to avoid my boss due to slightly inappropriate footwear. It’s also too warm to wear boots. (Side note: I also don’t know how to wear boots with a dress or skirt without looking like a street walker) Right now I’ve been rocking a lot of flats and my trusty go to boat shoes.

Accessories

Scarves, scarves, scarves, scarves, scarves!! I’m so excited that it’s finally cool enough to wear scarves. There’s one I’ve had my eye on this one forever but I need to wait until it goes on sale. Also, how cute is this?

What are some staple items in your fall wardrobe? And more importantly, how can I wear leggings to work??

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

I have a lot of friends in student affairs. This makes planning social gatherings extremely hard. Some were in my grad school program, others I met during conferences, and I even have a bunch of friends that I went to school with who wound up in student affairs by chance. I feel lucky that I have friends that understand what I do outside my workplace.

Sometimes I use my friends as resources. I’ll ask them a question that I feel stupid asking my boss or I’ll see if they’ve ever handled a situation that I’ve never seen before. Sometimes I vent to my friends. They understand that while I LOVE working with students…there are just some students that…ugh…you understand, right?

Recently, I had a friend who’s resident attempted suicide. Before I go any further, yes, she is okay now (physically at least, I don’t know her mental state). Nobody wants to get a phone call with bad news on the other end. My friend has had a relatively quiet few years in Residence Life, so this was a first for him. Unfortunately, this is something that has happened to me before. Both of our situations were creepily similar. Both events happened when we were on vacation so I felt bad that my RAs weren’t able to seek me out during the situation, he was upset that he wasn’t able answer his door when residents knocked. He felt responsible, as if the entire situation could have been avoided if he had just stayed home. I was able to tell him that it’s not the end of the world and his resident did not purposely do this because she knew he was on vacation.

I know that I can’t constantly run around sharing all the details of every situation with everybody I know, but I truly appreciate having friends in so many areas of student affairs and at different levels! I know that I am never alone when handling a situation so thanks for all that you do.

Tagged , , ,

Throwback Thursday – Why I Didn’t Transfer

With a title like “College Forever” it probably sounds like I never wanted to leave college, right? Well, that’s true to some extent. At graduation, I felt like a preschool that clings to her mother’s leg. “NO MOM, NOT THE REAL WORLD! DON’T MAKE ME!” Yeah it wasn’t pretty.

But I also did the same thing GOING to college. I HATE change. I was all gung-ho about college and making new friends and decorating my room until I actually got into college. But then I had a few more months to get excited again. And I did a decent job. Buying new things? Awesome. Packing? No problem. The trip there? Wonderful…until we were about an hour away from my school. That is when I started regretting every decision I had ever made in my life up until that moment.

It gets better, right? No. It didn’t get better. I called my mom every day during orientation saying I wanted to transfer to the school I had sworn up and down I would never attend because of it’s proximity to my parent’s home and the amount of my graduating class that was going there. Outside of classes, I wasn’t involved in anything. I spent so much time talking to my home friends on AIM that I didn’t make any new friends. What was worse, my classes were MUCH harder than I expected them to be. For the first time in my life, there were kids that were…shhhh…smarter…than me in my classes. After the initial hysteria and threatening to transfer home, I started to seriously consider changing majors and transferring to a school that had better offerings for me.

Finally, in the winter, there was one night that started me on the path to liking my college of choice. A friend invited me over for a karaoke night. I barely knew the other people he had invited, but I had so much fun just hanging out and taking turns singing and singing as a group. It was the first time I can remember being happy at my school – five whole months after I had arrived! Later, I told my friend that it reminded me of the cast parties we used to have after the shows in high school. He asked why I wasn’t involved in the theater or music programs that our college offered. I didn’t even know that those things existed!

I finally had figured out what had been missing. I had been in some sort of music program from kindergarten until I graduated high school. As a senior looking into colleges, I didn’t think it was something that I would miss. Once I joined different organizations, I finally had some time to enjoy myself. I also made friends with people that I am still friends with to this day!

Recently, I took the time to thank that friend that invited me over for karaoke. I don’t think he ever realized how much that one gesture changed my life. We didn’t hang out much after freshman year – lived in different buildings, did different things. I was glad I was able to reach out to him. My life could have turned out so different had I transferred. And then what would you be reading right now?

Tagged , , , , ,

Duty Bag

Recently, I was speaking with one of the deans about being on call. Back in her day, being on call meant having a pager (and for my boss, a giant walkie-talkie). The dean also talked about how she had a duty bag – a bag that she kept with her at all times when she was on call in case she got a call. She kept things like a notepad, a list of important phone numbers, a book, and some snacks in there in case she was at the call awhile.

Things have definitely changed since my supervisors served in an on-call rotation. I definitely don’t carry around a pager or walkie talkie. Instead, RAs can call my work cell phone. Also, different schools require different things from their professionals. At my previous institution, we were told NOT to go to the hospital with students. Here, I am excepted to drive to the hospital and – depending on the situation – wait there.

While I haven’t put together a duty bag yet (maybe if I’m on for Homecoming…) but these are some of the things I think I’d want in my duty bag…

Snacks

I like to eat. I’m a terrible person if I’m hungry so combine that with possibly waiting in an emergency room…ugh. I would put things that won’t go bad, like granola bars or something. Maybe throw a chocolate bar in for the REALLY bad nights.

Transport Cards

Somebody in the office made these handy cards that have a place for our name and number as well as directions on how to get back to campus and what to do when you get back for students that get taken the the hospital. I already took a bunch and filled in my name and number. Right now they’re in my wallet.

Phone Charger

The other day, something terrifying happened when I was on duty. My cell phone died. I sped back across town to my apartment to get a phone charger. I have since invested in a car charger. Additionally, I know I have an extra charger, I just need to find it. It shall live in my mythical duty bag.

Good Ol’ Fashioned Book

Maybe this will take the shape of a Sudoku book I bought when my flight got delayed. Maybe I’ll just grab something off the shelf. Maybe I’ll start utilizing…the library. Gasp.

Bottle of Water

Hear me out on this one. 99% of the time, I have my reusable water bottle on my person. But what if I don’t? Or, what if transported student’s roommate is waiting in the ER with me? Sometimes something as simple as a glass of water can make a person feel a lot better. I might even share my snacks. Maybe.

Do any of you have a “duty bag”? If so, what’s in it? If you don’t, what would you want in it?

Tagged , , , ,

I Am Charlotte Simmons

“I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe is the story of Charlotte Simmon’s freshman year at an elite college. Charlotte was the top of her class and chose to attend the fictional Dupont College because of its academic reputation and the scholarship she was awarded. Charlotte came from a very poor town and was not fully prepared for what college was going to be like. Charlotte’s time at school puts her in contact with many “types” of people – her spoiled princess roommate, a star athlete, a writer for the newspaper, and a fraternity man (although this might be a case where I accept the use of “frat boy”).  From the beginning of her time at Dupont, Charlotte’s values are constantly mismatched with those around her. Charlotte has a rocky start in college but eventually finds her footing.

I first read “I Am Charlotte Simmons” when I was a senior in high school. I was so excited for college and was reading everything I could get my hands on that related to “college life”. I remember thinking how unlucky Charlotte was and how unfortunate it was that she did not like college and had a terrible year. But I also remember thinking that the book was merely a work of fiction. I enjoyed reading it, and quickly set aside to devour another story about college and to dream of my future college life.

The second time I read “I am Charlotte Simmons” was the summer after my first year of grad school. I had completely forgotten about it, but when I saw it on a shelf at a secondhand bookstore, I remembered it from many years ago. As I read it again, I wanted to cry. This story was practically a combination of mine and my best friend’s freshman years. I hadn’t known it at the time, but high-school-me was very much like Charlotte. I avoided many social activities in high school because I didn’t want to be around people drinking. I was the first in my family to go to college and while I was not from a rural area like Charlotte, there were ways in which I was unprepared for “the college experience”. All my reading in high school did not make me ready to go off to school and be surrounded by people with much different values than me. My best friend’s experience was not much better. While I debated whether or not to try a sip of alcohol at a party that I had basically been dragged to, my friend was dealing with issues very similar to Charlotte’s romantic encounters, including dating a star athlete at her small elite college (but with an ending more similar to Charlotte’s trip to DC).

After getting over the fact that the book could have been very well named “I Am The Author” or “I Am The Author’s BFF”, I started thinking about the story in terms of the classes I had just taken and the training I had been through as a Hall Director. A lot of my classes forced me to reflect on my time as an undergrad. One of my professors even asked us to write about our first year at college and apply student development theories to ourselves. While I didn’t go as far as applying student development theories to the book, I thought about how important fit is when entering college. I had seen so many students at my graduate school that did not fit in with the school’s dominant culture and would have thrived at one of the other institutions I went to or was familiar with.

Now I am reading “I Am Charlotte Simmons” for a third time and thinking about the upcoming school year as a new professional. One of the things I was told very early on at my new job is that we have a lot of first generation students coming from impoverished homes that might not be prepared for college. Charlotte was definitely ready academically but not emotionally. In the novel, her best friend goes to an in-state school and “goes with the flow”. While I’m sure the culture was different at that school, I don’t think it was THAT drastic a change that Charlotte experienced.

The students that I am dealing with are from a very different background than Charlotte. I might almost be more prepared to deal with a Charlotte than some of the students I am told I will encounter – students who have lived in inner cities, seen their friends shot, and possibly have children of their own at home. Not too sure what to say to that…

Have any of you read this book either for fun or as part of your job? What did you think?

Tagged , , , ,

Well I Guess This Is Growing Up

One of the things I truly enjoy about being an entry level professional is that I am close in age to the students and can almost function as a bridge between the students and the upper level administration. There was one day last year in which I was speaking with a  student about a policy that had been implemented that students were not happy about. I understood but I told them where the administration was coming from. The student I was speaking with understood and eventually we reached the conclusion that the policy itself is fair but it could have been implemented differently.

During a recent training session, several campus officers were telling some of the more…interesting…things that they have responded to in the past few years. I sat there shaking my head at how STUPID some of the students from these stories were. A sudden realization hit me. Was I getting old? My suspicions were confirmed the next day. Some of the RAs were going over duty protocol and talking about responding to incidents. For a moment there, I thought that students listened to their RAs and followed the rules in the building. I completely forgot about the evenings I spent sneaking cheap beer into my dorm via backpacks and laundry baskets my freshman year. Oops.

I was joking with friends that being a grown up is knowing what the right decision is but making the wrong one anyway. And that’s how it is in my personal life. I have a terrible diet, I don’t exercise enough, I spend too much money, my apartment is a mess, my love life is worse…I could go on and on. But at work, I HAVE to make the right decision. I have to act like a professional around my students. I have to tell them to do the right thing.

One of the hardest things I had to do recently was hand out some hard sanctions to a fraternity that broke a lot of rules. I remember being a student and hating the administration anytime they punished one of my fellow Greeks. Heck, even as an alum I was livid when an organization was kicked off my undergrad’s campus. So I see that. I know how much it sucks. But at the same time, my job is to “enforce” the rules that the school puts out there. If I were to put grown up me and student me in a room together, grown up me would have to yell at student me for A LOT of stupid stuff.

What are some of the harder decisions you’ve had to make at work? Do you ever feel hypocritical?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What Good is Greek Life?

There are a lot of negative perceptions out there about Greek Life. Where do they come from? Well, there are TV shows that portray Greek students as the party animals. The ABC Family show “Greek” was entertaining, but those students did more partying in one ten episode season than most students do in four years. There are movies. I don’t really need to say much more here than “Animal House”. Sometimes the negative perceptions can come from a student’s family. Their parents might not have gone to college so they rely on these images in the media. Or worse, a parent might have had a terrible experience from their days in college when there were many more unregulated local Greek organizations.

What does this mean? Many students come to college with a pretty firm decision on if they are going to go Greek or not. As a Student Activities or Greek Coordinator (or whatever your institution may call your role that involves working with fraternities and sororities) it means we have to work harder if we want students to join for the right reasons.

Before I was a member of a Greek organization, I always spoke positively about what Greek students did on my campus during my time as a tour guide. Was I lying? No. I honestly didn’t hear many bad things about the Greek organizations. Sure, sometimes a person would make a joke about one, but it was clear that they were jokes. Even during my tours, we’d routinely see brothers or sisters running a philanthropy event in the middle of campus. Little did I know how much service work these organizations do.

Many organizations have one or two large philanthropic events per year and that is what the public sees. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there is a TON of time dedicated “behind the scenes” to planning that one event. I wound up being the person in charge of one of our major events (we did three) and I honestly spent a year planning it (and about a month recovering). In addition to the three major events we ran, we participated in other chapter’s service events and off campus events that weren’t associated with any Greek organization. Also, sometimes sisters would bring smaller service projects in. I remember helping clean a local playground one fall. A pledge sister asked us to participate in a walk that was a fundraiser for research for a disease a relative had. Nearly the entire chapter showed up – even though it was the morning after formal! The year after my grandmother was moved into a nursing home, I asked the sisters to make cards for the residents. Another sister and I delivered them over the winter break.

As a Greek Advisor (or insert title here), you should be proud of your students accomplishments. Post them on your webpage, Facebook, Twitter, blog, whatever you have. For larger events, submit releases to the local paper or TV station. Advertise events in the school paper or radio. When I was running our major event, a sister contacted the local news and they came! Last year my students raised DOUBLE the amount they normally did during one event. I posted it all over my Facebook and twitter and so did my students, but we could have and SHOULD HAVE done more. This year, I’m make a separate section of our Greek Life website be dedicated to “Good News”.

How do you boast about your students’ accomplishments? How do students, staff, and faculty on your campus perceive Greek Life?

Tagged , , , , ,

How to Not Be THAT Freshman

Everybody eventually looks back on their first year of college and says to themselves, “was I really that clueless/naive/dumb/etc ?!?!” I started asking myself that about halfway through freshman year. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes freshmen so…freshmen-y and have compiled a list of tips for you.

Look down.

Are you wearing a lanyard with your key/ID/meal card around it? Take it off. Right now. That’s how everybody knows you’re a freshman. At one institution where we used our IDs to enter our buildings, I carried mine in my back pocket. There were only a few instances of leaving it in yesterday’s pants. A lot of schools use some type of proximity sensor so you have to just wave something as you walk by. Figure out what works best for you, but seriously, take the lanyard off your neck. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wearing a lanyard.

Look to your left. Now to your right.

How many people are you walking around campus/your new city with? Is it more than four? Stop, stop right there. I know that they say “safety in numbers” but you’re going to the extreme. You know that awesome party you’re about to go to? Well, it just got busted because a neighbor saw twenty five freshmen walking up to the door. Walk in small groups so you stay safe but don’t anger the neighbors. Also, if you’re coming home from a party, it’s much easier to see if you’re missing a person out of a group of four than forty. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wandering campus in a herd.

Got Questions?

Contrary to what some professors and teachers say, there are dumb questions. There are certain people provided to you early in your freshman year to answer many of your dumb questions. These are your orientation leaders and RAs. But after a certain point, Google is your friend. Need to contact the Health Center? Search for “(your school’s name) Health Center”. Tada! In class, if you have a question that only relates to you (“Can I miss a quiz because my brother’s wedding is that weekend?”) ask the professor at the end of class or during office hours. You don’t want to be THAT freshman asking dumb questions in the last five minutes of class.

Know Your Limits

In college, you can have too much of a good thing. Just because your dining hall is all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean you need to eat it all. Put down the brownie. Grab a piece of fruit every so often. You don’t want to be THAT fat freshman. For alcohol, take it easy. Yes, you probably will have at least one night you regret, but you don’t want to be THAT freshman that throws up all over the communal bathroom during orientation. As for sex, wrap it before you tap it. No glove, no love. However you want to say it, USE PROTECTION. Susie Q might look at pure and innocent but you do not know what sort of Fifty Shades of Promiscuity she might be into. Likewise, Susie, make sure you’re on birth control. You don’t want to be THAT pregnant/STD-carrying freshman.

Don’t Panic

A lot of what I said probably just made college seem like the most terrifying (or most wonderful) place on earth. Everybody will be stressed out or nervous or scared at some point in their college career. You might go from being be THE valedictorian of your class into a freshman class where there are many other valedictorians. Congratulations, you are now average. You might get a bad grade. You might sleep through a class. You might be sitting here reading the above realizing you are THAT freshman. Stop. Take a deep breath. Don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the hallway. You will survive. You don’t want to be THAT crying freshman.

Congratulations, Class of 2016, for making it this far. Good luck with classes and don’t try too hard.

Tagged , , , , ,

Thank You, Levo League

This article is everything I needed since I graduated college.

I’m kind of in love with the idea of The Levo League. Still not 100% sure on how to use it, but it seems like there are a lot of people in a similar life situation to mine. They have meet ups in NYC and *I think* San Francisco. I unfortunately do not live in either of those cities.

Seriously. Female readers. Check out The Levo League. Especially if you live in/near one of the above named cities.

Tagged , ,