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Letters from an alums about Greek life defended

October 20, 2004:

So, Dean Deignan and President Tilghman think that Greek-letter organizations “prematurely narrow” students’ “circles of acquaintances and experiences” (Notebook, Oct. 20). Did incoming students and their parents also receive admonitions about joining Princeton’s athletic teams, singing groups, and religious or political organizations?

Freshmen, what a relief it must be to know that the University has claimed the sole right to narrow those circles for you by assigning you to a residential college!

As an alumna of both Princeton and Kappa Alpha Theta women’s fraternity, I’d like to disabuse our current administration of such notions. Belonging to a Greek-letter organization does not remove you from the Princeton experience — it can involve you more fully in it. Far from narrowing their members’ social circles, fraternities and sororities offer the chance for friendship and support from members of all four undergraduate classes, all residential colleges, all departments of academic study, every imaginable creative and athletic discipline, as well as varied ethnicities, religions, and political beliefs. I would argue that there is no other organization on campus that brings its members as much opportunity to experience the diversity of Princeton as a fraternity or sorority.

It’s fine with Dean Deignan that Susie Freshman join a singing group that will consume her for four years in a tight-knit, exclusive, single-focus, and incredibly small group of women, but the dean will proactively encourage her not to even research a sorority because she’ll be “limiting” her Princeton experience? (Let’s ignore the fact that most fraternities and sororities have multi-faceted membership programs that encompass academic success, community service, personal development, and leadership training as well as scholarships and grants.)

Had I allowed Princeton to decide for me that Kappa Alpha Theta was “too narrow” a social circle, I would not have met one of my best friends. We’re not in the same graduating class. She’s Jewish, I’m Catholic. She was an engineer; I studied art history. She lived in Butler, and I in Mathey. Theta is the only thing that brought us together at Princeton, and my life then and now would be less without having her in it. Nor would I have met the amazing women, from undergrads to octogenarians, who have taught me, challenged me, supported me, and become cherished friends through my volunteer work in the leadership of Kappa Alpha Theta since graduation.

The Princeton I know and admire was not in the business of saving students from their own decisions. It makes me sad to think that is where it seems to be now. I encourage Dean Deignan and President Tilghman to educate themselves about the national and international Greek-letter organizations represented at Princeton and to involve Princeton sorority alumnae and fraternity alumni in their research and discussions. They will be surprised at our numbers and at the high regard we have for our organizations.

I, for one, will be supporting Theta with more dollars than I send to Princeton. I’d rather support an organization that strives to empower its members, not make decisions for them.

Jane Shepherd Dick ’91
Palo Alto, Calif.


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