At the University of Michigan, 17% of the student body is an active member in Greek life, meaning that there are 4,200 students that are in either a fraternity or a sorority. Greek life as a whole is a contorted view of reality in that active members are required to adhere to numerous rules in order to prevent expulsion from said individual’s sorority or fraternity.
Being that I am in a sorority, I have to follow my chapter’s guidelines of how to act as a “leading woman” in my school – basically, my whole life is created for me. More specifically, my social life, who I hang out with, how I present myself to the world, where I live, etc. is all decided within the first few weeks of my freshman year when I pick which sorority I want to be in which is a very weird concept to grasp.
Every Monday, our social chairs send out an email containing that week’s social schedule. If I do not attend every single one of these events on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I risk getting yelled at by these social chairs. If we, as a sorority, do not collectively show up to one our planned parties with another fraternity, the boys of that fraternity get very frustrated because it is rude to them and then our sorority suffers the consequences.
In addition, many sororities and fraternities are put on social probation whereby Panhellenic and IFC (the governing bodies) decide to punish certain fraternities and sororities for various reasons. One of my best friend’s sororities is on social probation for going to an off campus fraternity and they are not allowed to have any social events for the rest of the semester. This seems like a ludicrous punishment. Why can a group of elected officials decide what I do in my free time? Why is it considered acceptable to attend certain fraternities and not others?
I think that Greek life is run similarly to the states of nature of both Locke and Rousseau. Although they are not completely the same, there are many connections between both concepts. Locke’s state of nature centers primarily around war. In Greek life, the state of nature is a war of competing for being a top tier fraternity or sorority. Each fraternity and sorority wants to be part of the top tier, which is comprised of the ‘coolest’ students. To become a top tier fraternity, you have to prove that you are better than the rest and thus a social war is started in which each fraternity throws parties and competes in order to see which one is the most successful. For sororities to become top tier, they have to look at their return rate during sorority recruitment and see how many of the potential new members wanted said sorority. This idea also comprises some of Rousseau’s opinions on the state of nature in war in which we care so incredibly much about what others think about us which drives us to battle.
In addition, Locke’s state of nature revolves around the concept of religion and God. Because my sorority is nationally a Catholic sorority, there are certain rituals that I have to perform that coincide with Christianity – regardless of my own personal religion. It is sometimes hard for members of my sorority to practice these rituals because it goes against their own personal religion. My sorority has hymns and prayers all over the walls of the kitchen. Locke’s state of nature believes in the “duty of self preservation” whereby each individual has to align his beliefs with that of God because God knows what’s best for him.
It is very interesting to compare that of Greek life to the states of nature of Locke and Rousseau. Both attempt to classify and control individual’s sense of human nature. Do you think Greek life is an adequate example of these states of nature?