Letter to the Editor: The Final Word From Greek Life

To the Editor:

Everyone has a choice. It is not mandated that a first semester freshman begin new member education or attend RUSH in the fall. Actually, about one third of the young women registered for RUSH, this year, were sophomores and juniors. By entering RUSH, one does not have to sign a bid (an invitation to embark on new member education). RUSH is a process that allows young women of all ages in the undergraduate arena to view all ten Panhellenic sororities in a neutral and structured setting. However, if one of those young women decides she does want to join a sorority she is then at the end of the process invited to pursue a sorority for a bid.

Also, The Panhellenic Council is the only Greek Council that engages in Formal RUSH. On the other hand, if a freshman, in her first semester does decide to accept a bid from a sorority and enter into their new member education process it should not necessarily be considered a detriment. In many ways it is viewed as an advantage. From the start of new member education, one begins honing in on leadership qualities; academics are viewed as a top priority; and lifelong friendships are created. For instance, the Panhellenic sororities contain an overall GPA well over a 3.1. We contribute with over 4,000 hours of community service and thousands of dollars in donated funds. We foster bonds within each other.

Sorority women are involved in organizations throughout campus such as Student Government, Orientation, Student Ambassadors, LEAD, the Homecoming Committee, Resident Assistants, President’s Society and many other community service and cultural organizations. Many of these campus leaders, scholars, and volunteers joined Greek Life as first semester freshman and have embarked on truly rewarding and enriched college careers. Incoming freshman are not necessarily “glorified seniors,” as Ms. Tolfree previously stated.

Many of us, as Greek women, are here purely on scholarship; amongst us there are many presidential scholars. We are independent and strong minded young women. We decided what was best for us and kept our priorities straight. Freshmen entering this prestigious University are mature enough and intelligent enough to make their own decisions regarding RUSH.

To suggest that first semester freshmen should be restricted from experiencing the RUSH process, or any new member process, would be ungrounded as it may detract from many students’ college experiences.

We, as members of the Panhellenic Council, do appreciate and respect the opinion of the writers of the Torch. In return, we ask that you too appreciate and respect ours. The statements that Ms. Tolfree made were presented in a manner that allowed the reader to infer certain information about the Greek Community that is, in fact not true. Ms. Tolfree’s article presented a clear correlation between statistics and the opinion given. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, in a channel that encourages educated and academic discourse such as this one, shouldn’t all aspects be considered and statements made be founded on truth? Or, if the writers and staff are seeking truth, perhaps they should delve into the proper sources.

For the past eight years formal RUSH has aided in the recruitment process here at St. John’s University, and there has never been a problem. If the Panhellenic sororities want to alter the timing of Formal Recruitment then all one needs to do is submit a letter at a meeting and it will be discussed. As a council, our delegates and executive board foster an open relationship with each other and addressing issues are not a problem. However, thus far everyone has enjoyed formal recruitment in the fall. No one has asked to extend formal recruitment to the spring or totally eliminate it from the fall semester. We are open to further discussion on this if need be.

On another note, it is ill stated that we, as Greek organizations, contain a “herd mentality.” As a community, we were angered because of the poorly researched and thought out statements made regarding first semester freshman, entering a Greek organization. I can assure you that we are not angered because we are members of a herd and feel animosity toward statements and individuals that we feel threaten the herd.

Although we do foster a deep sense of unity and dedicate our lives to solidarity with our respective brothers and sisters, many of our new member education processes focus on the strengthening and empowering of the individual. By obtaining membership in a Greek organization, one’s strengths and weaknesses are recognized. Leadership skills are developed. Academic excellence is pursued and encouraged. Also, each individual member is noted as a key aspect to his or her organization.

Now, let us pose a question. Would you call Dr. Seuss a member of a herd? For he surely, is a dedicated brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon and through his organization was able to achieve the success he has had. Then again, would you call Judge Lynn Stuart, State Supreme Court Judge for the state of Alabama, and proud sister of Gamma Phi Beta a member of a herd? How about Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois or Martin Luther King Jr., members of Alpha Phi Alpha; are they herd members? Let us look to our own campus and alumni. Would you call Catherine Camera, former Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and proud sister of Gamma Chi sorority a member of a herd? What about Joe Sciame, Vice President of Community Relations and brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon; Jodi Cox, Associate Director of Campus Activities and a sister of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Dr. Andre McKenzie Vice President, Division of Academic Support Services and brother of Alpha Phi Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; would you say that these highly successful and productive members of the St. John’s Community are merely running with a herd? No, you probably would not. These are only a few examples of the leadership and individuality that Greek Life facilitates and encourages.

Therefore, how is it just that you suggest we, as members of Greek Life at St. John’s University, are members of a herd? As stated in the beginning: the students of St. John’s University are mature and intelligent persons who have the right to choose when it is best to undergo RUSH and potentially develop a lifetime of strong fraternal bonds and essential leadership skills. We are trusted to make significant life decisions everyday and the decision to RUSH as a first semester freshman in the fall is one that we believe should be available. We encourage all the students at this University to explore the possibilities of joining a fraternity or sorority and to make your own choice on when you would like to join.

Emily Giblin (Panhellenic President and Proud Sister of Gamma Chi Sorority)
Nicole Thomas (Assistant Recruitment Coordinator of the Panhellenic Council and Proud Recording of Secretary of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority)