chapter 4: pledged
My semester as a sorority pledge* was an amazing and hectic experience! In this chapter I’ll share the major details of my 6-8 week new member process. The pledge process is meant as an educational period for you about the sorority, it’s history, traditions and more. It’s also a time for you to bond with your pledge class and the chapter as a whole.
*Note: The term pledge amongst those outside of the Greek community see it as a negative connotation and associated with the act of hazing. Despite the change of national rules and terminology allowed, many collegiates still use this term to refer to a New Member (Pledge), a New Member Group (Pledge Class) and the New Member Educational Process (pledging) due to tradition. This word throughout my story is in no way meant to be a demeaning or derogatory to the New Member(s).
One thing I love most about being in a sorority is the celebration of all the special moments and milestones. I remember soon after Bid Day, all the New Members took part in what is called Lamp Lighting. Lamp lighting is a ritual* so, of course, I can’t tell you the specifics about it, but it’s definitely a special celebration for accepting your invitation to the sorority of the Rose…Delta Zeta!
What I can say, is that each New Member received a special pin. If you didn’t know, each sorority and fraternity has their own official jeweler that creates pins, known as Badges, for their organization based on it’s history and it’s specific symbols special to them. As a New Member, you receive what I’d like to think of as a baby badge to wear throughout your pledge process.
It was neat to see each organizations new members sporting their badges after recruitment was over. You can definitely see who was proud of their new greek letters!
*Note: Ritual is any secret ceremonial event, information or symbol that is special and specific to your sorority and it’s history/traditions. Rituals are not to be shared with anyone outside of your sorority (not even other Greeks!). This includes (but not limited to): passwords, handshakes, songs, ceremonial procedures, sacred history/stories, language translations and symbol meanings.
The weekend after sorority recruitment ended, my pledge class and the rest of the chapter were whisked away for our first Sisterhood Retreat. A sisterhood retreat is a designated event just for the New Members to get to know one another, as well as the initiated girls that are apart of the chapter. The event is meant to be fun and mine surely was. I rode the hour long way with Shari, a sweet Senior in the chapter who majored in Speech Therapy. I felt comfortable with her and our personalities were a lot alike (quiet and shy!)
Our chapter’s tradition was to visit a local national park, go camping and participate in fun outdoor activities. I’m not usually a nature girl; being afraid of anything with more legs than I have, but I was excited to go on this trip and learn all I could about the women around me. I’m glad I was open to the experience and I had fun! Pledge classes can be pretty large and it’s easy for women to clique together with a smaller group. I made fast friends with Allison, a fellow pledge class member, and Sheri, as well as hanging out more with Victoria (the sister I met during recruitment!)
The camping part of the retreat wasn’t as bad as I thought. We went on a hike to check out the beach (which we didn’t make it there after running into a huge spider web! None of us clearly outdoors types..) All 100+ of our pledge class stayed in a lodge filled with bunk beds. I remember being startled in the middle of the night from weather sirens going off, warning us of a tornado. Thankfully, all went well and so did the rest of the weekend. Lots of group games, snacks and chat circles. I remember really hearing every girl’s story and their journey to greek life; it was nice bonding experience (and humbling).
If you didn’t know already, I’m from a pretty small town in Louisiana. A lot of the girls around me were as well; just very different areas. There were a couple who were transfers or out-of-state students. We all believed in God (whether Catholic, Baptist or other), we all loved and would do anything for our family or siblings, and a lot of us struggled through something before making our way to college. It just goes to show people have a lot more in common than you think if you can look past differences that aren’t meant to separate us.
My friends who weren’t in greek life would ask me questions about my chapter, like, “What is it like being a black girl in a white sorority?” or “How many POC [People of Color] are there in your chapter?” I found these to be honest questions and ones I’d ask myself if I were in their shoes. My honest answer is this:
Being a black woman in my sorority has been no different than being a black woman in any other organization. I’ve always been one of few minorities in any given circle of people. With that being said; I chose my sorority based on the members and how I would be perceived and welcomed into the group and it was just that; welcoming, loving and friendly! As it is with any group of women, we all have differences. Difference cultures, backgrounds, abilities, needs, opinions and thought processes. We all have different body types, hair textures, skin tones, fashion sense and taste in romantic partners. We all have different career paths, goals, and plans for our future. What makes us all the same is our want to create lasting friendships and the love for our sorority and its purpose.
History + Education
Another thing I was most excited for was learning about the sorority. A lot of information is available online, but I didn’t want any spoilers for myself, so I didn’t search too much. I learned all the basics about Delta Zeta (our founders and history, creed, colors, stone, symbols, etc.) as well as education on Alcohol/Substance Abuse, proper and acceptable conduct as a sorority woman and collegiate. Everything was easy to follow and always fun! I like that our sorority has special online portals for connecting to nationals as well as access to learning courses about the chapter. In my schedule of things, it was like adding an online class to my current school work. New members had a weekly educational meeting that introduced us to the sorority history and prepared us for an exam. (Once the exam was passed, we’d be ready for Initiation!)
Greek life is often seen in a negative light because only those stories make the news. In reality, though, Delta Zeta has a strict policy on hazing, drinking alcohol, drug use, and even socializing with the opposite sex (if you live in a sorority house…our chapter didn’t have one). These policies are set in place to harbor a safe and fun environment for a reason. Nevertheless, I know my experience may not be the same as others; especially being from a southern state. I am blessed to have had the college experience that I had.
Delta Zeta Creed
To the world, I promise temperance and insight and courage, to crusade for justice, to seek the truth and defend it always; to those whom my life may touch in slight measure, may I give graciously of what is mine; to my friends, understanding and appreciation; to those closer ones, love that is ever steadfast; to my mind, growth; to myself, faith that I may walk truly in the light of the Flame.
– Dorothy Mumford Williams, Alpha Zeta
Delta Zeta Facts
[Source: Delta Zeta National website]
Founded: October 24, 1902 Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Founders: Alfa Lloyd, Mary Collins, Anna Keen, Julia Bishop, Mabelle Minton, and Anne Simmons
Grand Patron: Dr. Guy Potter Benton, D.D., LL.D, (Phi Delta Theta)
Colors: Rose and green
Flower: Pink Killarney rose
Badge: Roman Lamp
Number of Collegiate Chapters: 167 in the United States and Canada
Number of Alumnae Chapters: Over 170 alumnae chapters offer continuing association in 49 states, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada.
Number of Initiated Members: Over 285,000
Number of collegiate members: At any given time, Delta Zeta has more than 15,000 undergraduate members.
Big/Little Week (New Member Edition)
One of my favorite parts of being in a sorority is truly finding your tribe of friends. It’s not uncommon for sorority chapters to have 100+ members at one time, whether they have a sorority house or not (we didn’t). It’s a very unrealistic expectation for you to be BFF’s with each and every person! With that being said, receiving your Big Sister is a great way in navigating the sorority as well as the college campus experience. By now, I had spent a lot of time with hanging out with Victoria, the girl who “rushed” me during sorority recruitment. She invited me to all kinds of hangouts with her friends, both on and off campus, we went shopping, as well as attended sorority events and socials* together. She helped me memorize our Creed and prep for my sorority exam. V was everything I’d imagined a great mentor and friend to be.
*Note: A social is usually a fun themed after-school event. Socials are held at venues that can easily be door monitored for entering guests. Socials are for members of that sorority only. You can expect dance music with a DJ and stage, finger goods, adult beverages and regular drinks to be served. Most members dress in costume to match the theme, but this is not required. A select few of sisters are designated drivers for members after the social, just incase they are needed.
During our sisterhood retreat, I took the hour long commute to the national park with Shari. By then, I had plenty of time with my pledge class and this was my first real one-on-one as a new member with an initiated sister, other than Victoria. I found a lot of qualities about Shari that were just like me. We were both quiet and shy. We both had a slow start to the world of dating since we focused more on our studies. We both were plus sized girls with a love for margaritas and Mexican food! We both had a close knit, small family. Shari had a niece and nephew, just as I was coming into my own role as an auntie with my two nieces. She was also a younger sister to two blood sisters (as I am a younger sister, to an older brother). At the time, Shari was a Senior majoring in Speech Therapy and starting her last year at school. She shared a lot of fun memories about her time in the sorority but one thing did bring her a bit of sadness…she had never been matched with a Little Sister! It never occurred to me that not being matched with a Little would be a “thing”. However, just as choosing your Sorority house is a mutual selection process, so is the Big/Little match. In one of our Weekly new member education meetings, each girl was required to write on a form their Top 10 initiated sisters that they felt close to or had grown a liking to and would want to be your Big Sister.
This is where things got off the beaten path, for me. One day, while V and I were hanging out she got really solemn and gloom. I asked her what was troubling her? She turns to me in honesty and says, “I know you want me to be your Big Sister, but I can’t. They told me not to tell you this, but I want to be real with you and I don’t want you to get your hopes up when Reveal Day comes”. At first I was shocked. Then I realized, she must be joking! It’s not uncommon for some girls to try and throw of their potential Little Sisters by pretending the match won’t happen. So I didn’t think much of it. Overtime though, I started to believe her. V told me about the struggles she’d had during her earlier years in the chapter, how she always thought about leaving and some of the academic and social troubles she’d had by hanging out with the wrong crowd. She was just trying to find her footing again and didn’t want the responsibility of a Little Sister (or rather, be a bad influence if she wasn’t a good example). Even with all of this a part of me stayed hopeful since we had made such a great connection and spent so much time together. Time would tell, though.
As time grew closer to my initiation, the traditions of being a sorority pledge class kicked up a notch. It was time for Big/Little Week*! This tradition is a five day secret-admirer treasure hunt. In the end, there is a big reveal of what new member is matched with their Big Sister. This had to be one of my favorite times as a pledge. It was like for five days, it was your birthday! For me, each day I would get a note or anonymous message directing me to find my “gift” of the day at a location on campus. Usually locations were safe, like a counselor or Chapter Advisor’s office. The gift would include a special note from your (secret) Big Sister with clues as to who she is, varying gifts like sorority paraphernalia, your favorite candy or stuffed animal. I also received one letter each day…in the end it spelled out DELTA ZETA.
*Note: Big/Little Week is held each year with each new incoming pledge class, right before Initiation. It is not uncommon for two pledges to be matched with a single Big Sister. In this event, the duo are called Twins. An Initiated sister is allowed to participate in the Big/Little matching season every year she is a part of the chapter. It is common for one initiate to have four or more Littles during her time in the chapter, given she joins as a Freshman and is in the chapter all 4 years of college. In time, these littles become “Big Sisters” themselves, forming the what is called The Family Tree. Some family trees have personal names/mascots that are special to them.
At the end of the week, a big reveal party was planned. Mine took place on campus in one of the conference rooms. A short game was played in which each girl was placed center stage as she waited for her Big Sister to pop out from behind a curtain. I was near to the end since my last name started with “N“. a short countdown happened. 3….2….1..
And my Big Sister popped out…
I never have felt so many emotions and that one second before, than I did in that moment. A part of me was deeply saddened. Yet, in that very instant I was ecstatic. Seeing the huge smile of joy on her face as she came out couldn’t keep me disappointed. I had to put myself in her shoes. This sorority woman, so kind, gentle and hard-working. She put so much thought and care into each of my gifts for a whole week; trying her best to make my time in this organization special and memorable. How could I let her down? I couldn’t show her I was disappointed. She deserved to have a Little Sister who cared about her as much as she did me. So I pushed away the thoughts of Victoria and carried forward under Sheri’s guidance.
The night ended with Sheri, her friends and roommates (also Delta Zeta sisters) taking me out to dinner for our favorite…margaritas and Mexican food! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better Big Sister.
November 1, 2013 was my special day. The ritual of initiation took place. Naturally, I can’t tell you any details, but I will say it was a lengthy process as each girl got their moment and there were a lot of us to go around. It was beautiful, serene, educational. We gained that last bit of [secret] history about our organizations which I find to be the most interesting.
I’ll never forget scanning the candle lit room and seeing the sea of white dresses and feeling…
I finally made it.