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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Sororities @ MIT- Become a part of it! by Melis A. '08

Come to the first day of recruitment on September 1st to learn more about what it means to be in a sorority at MIT.

Times are a changin’ around the Institvte. This year, sorority recruitment has been moved from the last weekend of IAP to the beginning of the school year. This is a major change because most of the MIT sorority women that I have spoken to did not expect to join one when they first entered college, myself included. But after spending an entire semester at the school and meeting dozens of Panhellenic women, it became blatantly obvious that none of the five sororities on campus even vaguely resembled the national stereotype, so we decided to give recruitment a try. Since the incoming freshman will not have this semester to see what being in an MIT sorority is really like, I felt that I should explain why sororities are both socially and academically beneficial at MIT.

Necessary background information…. (from the MIT Panhel website)

Over 400 women are in sororities at MIT, making Panhel the largest women’s organization on campus. Sororities do all the following things:
1 – Academic: Each sorority has various academic resources for its members. Additionally, sororities provide underclassmen with programming about choosing majors, classes, and professors. Another great academic resource is the faculty dinners/teas that the sororities host. Faculty guests are invited to have dinner (or tea) with sisters in an informal setting. This is useful for underclassmen who are to make decisions about their classes and major.
2 – Community Service: In addition to providing opportunities for sisters to go out into the community and volunteer, each of the sororities also hosts a large philanthropy event every year. Some of these events raise thousands of dollars and go to benefit various charities. For more information, check out the community service section of each sorority’s website
3 – Health and Wellness: It’s hard to stay healthy at MIT! Because of this, each of the sororities provide some basic programming for women. Additionally, Panhel as a whole sponsors healthy eating study breaks and various other sessions about staying healthy.
4 – Social: Each sorority has a semiformal in the fall, and a formal in the spring. Also, sororities have mixers with fraternities throughout the year. Finally, sororities also sponsor social events that are open to the entire campus community. Be sure to look for advertising during the fall term for these events!

There are 5 sororities on campus: Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Sigma Kappa. Each sorority has a different group of women, living area, activities, etc., but they are all leaders in the MIT community and beyond. Four of the sororities have 80-100 members, the fifth, AEPhi, being the smallest. Three of the sororities have beautiful houses in Boston where some of the sisters live (for example, I still live in the dorm), and one occupies an area in a graduate dorm. All the sororities are part of MIT Panhel, which is our panhellenic association, and you can click here for more information on general sorority life at MIT. They all obey national regulations, including the prohibition of hazing and alcohol in the sorority houses. Seriously, these rules are very strictly enforced.

My perspective: It probably comes as no surprise that MIT is an emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting place. At midnight, when you look up from your desk in the Reading Room to see a row of empty coffee cups and Red Bull cans, it’s your friends who get you through the night. There are countless ways of developing your family-away-from-home, including dorms, extracurricular activities, athletic teams, and Greek organizations. Sororities are just one example of an MIT support network, yet it’s one that lasts long after your four years are up.

Experience #1, an initially hesitant new member: “No one in my family had been greek, so pretty much everything I’d heard about greek life came from stereotypes. I went through recruitment half as a favor to the affiliated women I was friends with and half as a joke (because in my mind, there was clearly no way I was going to actually join). But, halfway through recruitment, when I saw how different these women were from the stereotype, and how much they genuinely cared about each other and had fun in an environment as crazy and potentially-awkward as recruitment, I realized that maybe this was something I wanted to be a part of. So I joined (hesitantly), still not sure what I was getting myself into, and it ended up being my best decision at MIT. I moved into the house, served on the executive council, and met some of my best friends. I had amazing leadership opportunities, and got introduced to the most awesome people and experiences through my sorority. My sorority family is my home away from home in Boston.”

Experience #2, a rising sophomore: “Being in a sorority made my second semester so much more enjoyable and successful than the first. Through my sorority, I have a network of friends to take my mind off studies when I need a break, as well as a group of girls willing to take time to explain concepts or lend me their notes from when they took the class. I love being in my sorority!”

Experience #3, a recent graduate: “Sororities are fun, too! I found that being part of the greek network gave me access and a reason to interact with people I normally wouldn’t have been able to meet or interact with. When you become an upperclassmen its easy to get locked into the same groups of people (those in your major, those on your sports team, those in your club). A sorority gets you out there to interact and just have fun with people you may normally not get to hang out with cause of your other obligations. By the time I went into recruitment I was thinking that I wanted to be in a sorority for all of the serious reasons, but it’s not all serious. People need a break from studying once in a while. People need friends that will support them through the non-academic times. I think sororities will give girls access to a more holistic experience while at MIT. More opportunities, and connections than one (who is not incredibly outgoing) would find by oneself.”

As the testimonial above indicates, there are many social benefits of Greek life. Each sorority hosts different events throughout the year; for example, my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, has an annual Fondue party (also, here) in the Spring, Apple Pie party in the Fall, and talent show/fund raiser for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center during Spring Weekend. All the other sororities have similar events, like AEPhi’s Spaghetti Dinner to raise funds for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Chaim Sheba Medical Center, and Kappa Alpha Theta’s KAT Walk, which benefited the Court-Appointment Special Advocates. Within the sorority, we have weekly meetings, philanthropic projects, social gatherings, and annual retreats.

The academic benefits of sororities are less publicized but equally important. “The sorority GPA average is higher than the general MIT average. In addition, each sorority provides many academic resources that you just can’t get anywhere else. Additionally, you need to maintain a certain GPA to be allowed to stay in the sorority, so academics are obviously very important.” (MIT Panhel) Many sororities also establish in-house mentoring programs, where upperclassmen provide tutoring to underclassmen, and scholastic achievements are celebrated and encouraged. You’ll often see groups of girls working on hard on a problem set while wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts embroidered with their sorority’s letters. (Click here to see “The Truth About Panhel”)

Sororities often promote leadership, with many leadership opportunities available within the organization (i.e. President, Vice President of Community Service, Treasurer, Steward) and MIT. My sorority sisters have introduced me to a whole range of activities, from aquajogging to the Hippocratic Society. Individually, they have developed devices to make prosthetic legs for amputees in India, won national athletic championships, written novels, and started philanthropic organizations. For more evidence of the academic emphasis of sororities, take a look at several of my previous entries that highlighted the achievements of outstanding students. I am proud to call Ana Posada, Christina Royce, Hanhan Wang, Laurie Burns, and Minh Huynh-Le more than just friends, but sisters. I am constantly inspired by the breadth of activities and talents of my sisters.

With this in mind, I would really encourage incoming female freshmen to at least go to the first day of recruitment, which is on September 1.

Confused about what recruitment entails? “Recruitment is a mutual selection process designed so that you get the chance to see all the sororities at least once. During the recruitment period, you will visit each of the sororities and get a chance to meet many upperclassmen women. Then, sororities will decide who they want to invite back, and you will decide who you want to go back to. This goes on until the final event (called Preference), where you will be allowed to visit two sororities at most. After Pref, you will be asked to rank your final two sororities according to who you feel you fit in with best. The next day, you will receive a bid from one of your final two sororities.” (MIT Panhel)

There are no strings attached, you can drop-out of the process at any time, but at least take the time to give it a try. You’ll meet a LOT of freshmen and upperclassmen (who are a great resource for any worries about adjusting to college life) by just going through recruitment, and who knows, maybe some of them will become your best friends. Recruitment Registration can be accessed through the Panhel homepage (http://web.mit.edu/panhel/www/) or directly at http://web.mit.edu/panhel/www/recruitment.html. If you have more questions, please e-mail [email protected] or call 617-869-7996.

(Side note, for the parents!: I have recently spoken to several incoming freshman about sorority life at MIT, and while most of them have expressed interest, they were concerned that their parents would not allow them to go through recruitment. Parents, feel free to post any lingering comments and questions. You can also contact the adult Panhel advisors: Lauren Wojtkun ([email protected]) or Kaya Miller ([email protected]), director of FSILGs. Also, Panhel and Interfraternity Council are holding a Parent’s Brunch, where parents can come to eat yummy snacks and meet Panhel women from 12pm – 2pm on August 26th on the second floor of the Student Center.)

9 responses to “Sororities @ MIT- Become a part of it!”

  1. Edgar says:

    Nice blog, Melisa. It sounds actually really convincing. Is that the same for Fraternities?

  2. Wings '11 says:

    Thanks, Melis! I didn’t know they moved rush to the beginning of the year until I looked at my orientation booklet, and I was very confused =P I’m definitely rushing.

    Question: Are sororities usually composed of east campus or west campus people?

  3. Leslie says:

    Does MIT have any of the traditionally African American Sororities or fraternities? (Also called the Divine Nine)

  4. Corina says:

    Interesting blog post! If you’re interested, you should check out http://www.sororitylive.com to see if other members of your chapter are already online, planning events, sharing summer photos and stories!

  5. Eoin says:

    This was a very informative post.

  6. Ann says:

    I’m sorry but the sororites already know who they are going to pick before recruitment even starts. seriously

  7. Melis says:

    Wings: Not really, but each sorority is different. During recruitment, you’ll have ample opportunities to see the difference for yourself. =)

    Ann: I’m really curious to know why you think that. The whole point of recruitment is to get to know all the potential new members to the best of our abilities; everyone begins the process with a clean slate. The fact that recruitment falls at the beginning of the year facilitates this mentality.

  8. Ann says:

    I knew someone who did it last spring and didn’t really know many upperclassmen girls and thus didn’t get a bid from anyone. She was really hurt and I was glad I didn’t do recruitment. Recruitment is just a big lie to make things “fair.” But I guess it will be less biased in the fall now

  9. ACP07 says:

    Leslie, there are Divine 9- Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, & Delta Sigma Theta- that have been known to recruit at MIT. It’s not as organized as Panhel and the IFC; you kinda just need to know the right people. There are also Latino/Latina Greek organizations that recruit in the area. I ended up choosing a Panhel sorority over a Latina sorority for various reasons, but it’s up to each person.