Lauren Bergman never really saw herself as a sorority girl. The Communication senior joined Zeta Tau Alpha when they were recruiting their first-ever Northwestern pledge class during her freshman year. She wanted to give it a try, she said, because Northwestern is “so Greek.” She deactivated a year and a half later.
While neither the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) nor any contacted chapter presidents would reveal any numbers about deactivations in recent years, it is not an uncommon phenomenon.
One of the major reasons is that Greek life is expensive. Bergman was paying around $500 a quarter for dues, food and social fees straight from her own paycheck.
Nick Weldon (Medill ‘10) was worried about finances from the moment he dropped his bid for Zeta Beta Tau. He was most concerned about paying for the fraternity’s meal plan, which he didn’t think he could afford on top of the dues. He talked to the then-president about his concerns and worked out a deal so he wouldn’t have to go on the meal plan. “They say, ‘We never want finances to be a reason for you leaving the fraternity,’” Weldon says.
Even so, cost combined with a lack of connection to the fraternity contributed to his decision to deactivate his sophomore year. In quintessential Northwestern style, Weldon’s level of campus involvement left him with little time to spend bonding with his brothers.
“Most people who dropped a bid in the fraternity already knew each other, and most of those people were able to devote a lot of time to being at the frat house,” Weldon says, adding that his absence from meals only advanced the issue.
This seems to be a pattern: behind the financial concerns lies a disconnect from the organization.
“I never really over the year and a half I was in it truly bonded with anybody,” Bergman says. She didn’t feel justified in spending that much money on something she wasn’t in love with.
McCormick junior Carolina Pardo originally joined Alpha Phi because she liked the girls and thought Greek life was a huge part of American culture. She deactivated this fall, expressing disillusionment with the sorority, though she “never questioned” the friendships.
“As time went by, friendships remained, but I wasn’t into the protocol,” Pardo says. “What the fuck is chapter? A bunch of girls dressed up in a room, going over rules and chanting some songs.”
According to the OFSL, the process for deactivating varies by chapter. All contacted presidents declined to comment on their deactivation procedures.
Despite this air of secrecy, Weldon says deactivation is not a difficult process. For him, it just involved having the president and the treasurer take him off “whatever lists they have for charging people.”
Pardo says she just had to go through paperwork and turn in her APhi pin.
Weldon, Pardo and Bergman all say they are happy with their decisions to deactivate. “I guess I knew myself better than I thought I did, because it wasn’t for me,” Bergman says.