“Don’t put your sorority on your resume,” said Sidney Harper, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Harper has heard this statement numerous times and although she is aware of the stigma that comes with sororities, she disagrees wholeheartedly. She feels she has learned qualities while being in a sorority that are going to be so important for her success in the future, like “leadership, time management, public speaking and teamwork,” said Harper. Because of these unique opportunities, Harper said,“I don’t know where else I would have gotten these types of experiences.”
The stigma surrounding Greek Life inspired Panhellenic President Hannah Summer to create an initiative centered around making meaningful connections with other chapters and the campus community and getting the participation of all of Greek Life in each other’s events.
#GreekConnected began as a simple idea in the mind of Summer, a senior Education major in Alpha Delta Pi at the College of Charleston. Her initiative has grown with support from all the sororities and fraternities on campus. “Panhellenic is the governing body of all the sororities on campus” said Summer, “so it’s my job to facilitate and be the liaison.”
Summer realized there was a lack of solidarity between the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), InterFraternity Council (IFC) and National Pan-hellenic Council (NPHC) community on the College of Charleston campus. So last January, while at the Greek Leadership Institute with all the executive boards of NPC, IFC and NPHC, Summer jumped at the chance to involve everyone in her new initiative.
When she was first elected as president, Summer was inspired “to try and start over and start fresh” after the bad press that Greek Life received last year. In August 2016, “The College, after consulting with student leaders within the Greek life community, suspended all alcohol-related social activities for its fraternities and sororities” as “a result of a serious response to a series of dangerous behaviors connected to some members of our fraternities and sororities, ranging from disruptive parties out in the community to recent medical transports related to extreme intoxication,” said President Glenn McConnell in his letter addressing the campus community. Unfortunately, because of a few bad seeds within the Greek Life community, the entire group was put on suspension and reinstated on an individual chapter basis after educational training for increased awareness of the dangerous activities that were becoming far too prevalent. In light of all this, #GreekConnected became a way to share how “the whole meaning of Greek life can get lost because people think it is all about partying, but it gives you so much growth. It gives you so many connections,” said Summer.
#GreekConnected has grown exponentially since its inception and the presidents of every Greek Life organization are working together to implement more communication and participation on all fronts. People in Greek Life are coming together in what is the most important: “doing good, being positive, and being #GreekConnected,” said Summer.
When asked how she would define #GreekConnected, Summer responded that “the most important thing is creating relationships with people, getting to know other people you may never had the chance to, creating connections for yourself and believing that your voice can make a difference.”
The most logistical aspect of #GreekConnected so far has been a Greek-wide calendar with every organization’s events listed so support for other sororities and fraternities’ events can grow. One of the most exciting ways this has worked was with the Homecoming Step Show put on by NPHC last year when a large portion of Panhellenic girls showed up to support the work being done by the fraternities and sororities in the NPHC. Additionally, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity put on their Strut like an Alpha Show and were supported by many Panhellenic girls who came and participated in the competition.
Kristen Larsen, a junior Panhellenic executive board member, has seen huge improvements in the connectivity between sororities as they strive to be involved in each other’s philanthropy events and offer financial support if they are unable to attend. “With over a 1000 girls who all have a common goal and common values, it is amazing,” said Larsen. “Not to mention including IFC and NPHC, who all have the same goals and values as we do…we are all ultimately trying to help the community.” Larsen has loved getting to know the NPHC community and getting involved with their events because she knew very little about it before #GreekConnected was introduced.
Mikel Hannah-Harding, the president of Alpha Phi Alpha within NPHC, sees the movement as an opportunity “to put our differences aside and focus on what we have in common, like community service and philanthropy aspects, and I think it’s an initiative to shine a good light on Greeks and come together and show Greek Life as what they are – more than just partiers.” #GreekConnected has been a great platform for the NPHC to get their face out into the open on campus and get more involved with the other groups in Greek Life. Hannah-Harding has made so many friendships through this initiative, and it has changed how he walks around campus and engages with students on a deeper level. He is excited to continue to grow this movement to encompass the whole Charleston community before he graduates.
Harper, the delegate for the Panhellenic executive board from Zeta Tau Alpha, has noticed how much more Greek Life can do, especially in their philanthropy events, when every organization comes together to support each other. Being the liaison between the executive board of NPC and her chapter has helped her make valuable connections in every sorority. She sees the focus of #GreekConnected as seizing every opportunity to get out of her own “sorority bubble,” said Harper.
*This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of The Yard.