By Mary Rose Fissinger
When Niki Sri-Kumar ’07 entered Yale as a freshman, she had no intention of pledging to a sorority. In fact, during the first part of her college application process, she had focused mainly on schools without a significant Greek presence on campus. And yet now, as a senior, she’s a proud member of Pi Beta Phi, one of three nationally affiliated sororities at Yale.
“I had no interest at the beginning,” Sri-Kumar said. “My roommate at the time dragged me along to the first meeting, and I just happened to meet a lot of girls I really liked.”
She joined second semester of her freshman year, at the time of recruitment. Her time as a pledge was very enjoyable, she said, and not at all like the horror stories often told about pledging a fraternity.
“They bake you cookies, give you presents and plan parties for you. There’s definitely no hazing component,” she said.
At the end of the semester, all the pledges were welcomed in as sisters.
Sophie Mancall-Bitel ’07 also pledged a sorority midway through her freshman year, though her decision to do so was not quite as unexpected.
“Northwestern is a pretty Greek-centric school, so it wasn’t a very agonizing decision,” she said. “I knew kids from Harvard-Westlake at Northwestern who had rushed and who introduced me to their friends from their respective frats or sororities, so I was sort of thrown into the Greek scene relatively quickly.”
She pledged Delta Delta Delta (or Tri Delta), and her time as a pledge was also easy and fun, consisting of mixers with fraternities and activities to facilitate bonding between the members of the sorority.
Her three months as a pledge were preceded by a rushing period, which lasted for a week. During this very formalized process, during which the sororities hold parties for potential members, “you narrow down the number of houses you visit every day until, finally, you’re in one,” Mancall-Bitel said.
After the three months as a pledge, there was an initiation ceremony and celebratory brunch.
Chris Cheng ’09, who joined the fraternity Psi Upsilon as a freshman at the University of Chicago, had a somewhat different experience as a pledge.
“They made the pledges promote their biggest parties, and they always have this super hero party, so all the pledges had to dress up as super heroes for the whole week leading up to the party,” Cheng said. “I was Ash Catchem, so I had to go and buy the Pokemon hat and all that stuff.”
Cheng, like Sri-Kumar, had also not planned on going Greek, but decided to after spending a lot of time in the Psi Upsilon house and meeting all the brothers through Joe Farias-Eisner ’06, the older brother of his good friend Anthony Farias-Eisner ’09.
Both Cheng and Anthony Farias-Eisner were pledges during the winter quarter of their freshman year. Now, as sophomores, they both live in the fraternity house on campus, which houses about 20 of the brothers.
While Cheng enjoys the fact that this allows him access to the cars of the brothers, which he can use for his frequent Chipotle runs, both agree that the great advantage to being in a fraternity is the support system it provides.
“A lot of us take classes together, so we all study together and help with homework,” Cheng said.
The fraternity also provides help when one of the brothers is looking for a job.
“We’ll all go to meet-and-greets together,” Cheng said.
The support extends past just the brothers in the fraternity house, though.
“There’s a strong alumni network that you have access to when you’re looking for a job,” Anthony Farias-Eisner said.
Sri-Kumar has found similar support from her sisters.
“When I was applying for internships last winter, the older girls in my sorority were the first ones I went to for advice and help in practicing for interviews,” she said. “Beyond the social and philanthropic aspects of a sorority, as you get older it is a great networking tool as well.”