Tomorrow may be a bit crazy, so I'll write this on Tuesday instead...
"Pledged" by Alexandra Robbins is an undercover look at sororities. Robbins does a month by month review of a year in a sorority house by using some direct observation and via interviews of four members. She says she tried to get typical members and typical houses, and if she did, the system is terribly broken.
After an MTV program on sororities, the "National" offices of every sorority put every house on notice that they were not to talk to the press. Their excuse was that they wanted to shelter the girls, when the true worry was probably the PR nightmare they were trying to avoid.
Robbins paints a picture of a high degree of alcohol abuse, drug use and generally degrading behavior within the houses. Further, she described both Rush/pledging as more of a means to continue the "look" of each house, rather than to try to get to know new members. She described the parties and festivities as more fraternity centered than anything else and described how the typical sorority was much more interested in getting drunk than doing community service or getting good grades. If only 1/3 of what Robbins saw was typical, I'd highly discourage any bright young female student of mine from joining a typical Greek-system sorority and unless I can be convinced of change, I'll refuse to pay any sorority dues for the daughters I don't have yet.
What was refreshing to read about were the traditionally black sororities. They seemed to have a much stronger sense of sisterhood and focus on community service. Robbins also used the traditionally black sororites to contrast the false claims of post-college networking potential. While the white sorority sisters didn't seem to have much connection after graduation, the black sorority sisters maintained strong networks with one another and strong involvement in their houses.
This was a good book and generally well-written Robbins seems to go out of her way to try to be fair in reporting the lives of the four girls she tracked. I think that anybody who is teaching on a campus with a Greek system really should read this book. If the Greeks have any power or presence on your campus, you should know what the system is all about. Robbins shows how it can be harmful to both the social and academic lives of women in your classes and especially if you advise women in sororities, you should be aware of the issues Robbins discusses.