Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Reading For Pleasure Wednesday -- "Pledged"

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.


Dr. Crazy said...

I almost bought this book in an airport once... but I ended up getting a book called "Smashed" instead - a memoir written by a 23-year-old former sorority girl. Hmmm... perhaps I'll need to get "Pledged" out of the library....

Seeking Solace said...

I almost bought that book too. I pledged a sorority in college and I really wished that I had not done so.

Abbey said...

I pledged and hated the experience my entire 3 years of membership. Given that I've never been one to conform, I'm not completely sure what drew me from joining. My non-conformitism led me down a very lonely path in the sorority.

BUT. Today I am a member of the alumni chapter and some are my closest friends. I've been to three weddings of sisters so far - one as the maid-of-honor.

The key I think is how strong the girl is as to how the sorority impacts her life. Most of my college drinking wasn't done with the sorority and I walked out of college never having taken a single drug despite my chapter being notoriously 'the druggies.' As much as I regretted it initially, I'm grateful that I know what it was like, first hand, to live within the greek system and for the women that have become a huge support system in my adulthood.

(I'm sorry this got so long, but one last point)

You've mentioned in previous posts that debate conferences involve a lot of questionable activities. I think the same could be said about greek life. It's about the individual and the choices he or she chooses in a given environment. And, I think it's very often the individuals that make the environment.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...


I often leave long comments, so all is good :).

It is a sad fact that most gatherings of college aged students involve substance use and abuse. You are right that debate has its fair share of chemical use problems, perhaps more than other organizations due to the travel, relative wealth and higher intellingence of the students.

The difference in terms of debate is that when a team or individual wants to debate, they don't have to live with the people who are doing the substance abuse. There may be peer pressure, but there is are also generally a set of coaches and other more responsible people to set rules and enforce them.

silver said...

See www.youngblackman.wordpress.com

It discusses topics similar to your post, including:
(1) backs and hazing "pledging"
(2) texas law students were chastized
(3) act like the middle class negro you are
(4) domestic violence
(5) black women consent to being touched in the club