In the past week, Greek Life has been going through one of its most important traditions. The Greek Orientation (GO) process lasts about three weeks and includes 55 hours of mandated work given out by the specific fraternity or sorority, although each organization has different tasks. The GO process is drawn out in weeks prior and ran through the head of Greek Life, Ellen Awad, who ensures that it follows specific guidelines that do not interfere with Title IX clauses or are associated with hazing. Some of the specific examples listed by the Greek Life team illustrate that the process can in no way shape or form inflict physical harm on a person, create excessive fatigue, pour substances on a person or involve riding in a car blindfolded, among several others. These rules are meant to remain in effect throughout the entirety of the GO process, and organizations are subject to penalization if they are not followed. In addition, new members going through GO are required to watch a video given by the Office of Equity and Compliance about being aware of issues that cross Title IX regulations, and how to recognize sexual misconduct. In Hope College’s history, hazing was reportedly enough of an issue to warrant an entire change in the process name – from “pledging” to “Greek Orientation” – in order to distance the process from the negativity of hazing.
Hope has drawn up documents that address possible hazing incidents within an organization and detail the possible charges that can be brought up against a group or even a specific member. There is an entire process through which an organization or member goes through if hazing is reported including a referral to the Greek Judicial Board and follow-through with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council. But no official accounts of hazing have been reported to the board or either of the councils thus far this year, although rumors circulate as always during this time.
The GO process was once again in-person this year after having been virtual the year before, and the campus was alive with chatter and buzz about seeing new members. Specific applications have been used to spread information about possibilities of what happens during an organization’s process, but none can be confirmed nor denied because of strict confidentiality from the organizations. There have been stipulations about organizations and their traditions, processes and requirements that have floated around the campus for the better part of each organization’s entire life. New members are required not to tell anyone about what happens in the spaces where they partake in the GO process, neither are the already active members. Part of the allure of being in a Greek organization is the secrets to which a person becomes privy, as well as the promise of friendship and fellowship.
But those benefits do not come to a new member quite so easily, which happens to be one of the primary functions of the GO process. Aidan Halfmann (’24) got to see some of his friends join organizations last year and has now become a new member of the fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa. He mentions that there was a bit of intimidation on not knowing what to expect and the time commitment was surprising, but that there were more post-process benefits than losses. He says, “I’ve seen would be an increase and betterment of my social lives, along with those around me… I’m glad to have a group of friends who I can call brothers, and I am excited for the chance to meet even more people”. The ways in which people bond varies drastically but a common theme is spending elongated periods of time together and sharing common experiences; Halfmann and the rest of the new members were no exception. Their organization finished its process last Saturday, and Halfmann and his ten brothers have been active members for a little over a week.
Another person who experienced the GO process for the first time was Emily McCloskey (’25), with no prior experience with Greek Life or any of the organizations aside from rumors heard and the impressions given from the rush process. McCloskey has just joined the sorority Alpha Gamma Phi, and like Halfmann, notes the overwhelming time commitment that GO was for new members. But she also reflects more personally on how the process affected herself as well as those around her. She comments on how the process made her question her choices but that in the end, it was worth every second. She says, “As soon as the last event of GO was done, I felt a wave of relief. It’s still taking me time to fully be myself around everyone but the atmosphere is more relaxed and I know that the more time I spend with everyone the more comfortable I’ll be.” Going from Rush, which is still a bit of a formal environment that requires everyone to put on their best face, to a more informal and ritualistic atmosphere, brings about different challenges for everyone, but those who have stuck through to the end – like McCloskey– have experienced a transformation.
With Greek Orientation officially ended, all new and still active members have been partaking in a celebratory time period aptly named activation week, meant to give all the new members a slice of what it means to be officially active within their organization. Like GO, activation week remains a bit mysterious to the general public, although hyped up by speculation and stories passed from friend to friend. Each year, the GO process has gotten more and more fine-tuned in order to avoid legal charges but also for the well-being of students looking to join an organization and not come out traumatized. While it might not be everybody’s cup of tea to be a part of Greek Life, those who do choose to partake have the right to experience the GO process and still feel respected by their organization and the rest of the community. From renaming pledging to Greek Orientation, the process of admitting new members to an organization remains heavily present within Hope’s community and it turns regular students into full-time members of one of the largest sub-cultures on campus.