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TLC series causes uproar in sorority community

For The Miami Student

Published: Monday, February 6, 2012

Updated: Monday, February 6, 2012 22:02

Sorority members at Miami University are making Elle Woods proud by showing off their law-savvy sides.

When TLC premiered its new series Sorority Girls Jan. 31, it set off a wave of angst that caused Greek organizations to take action. A petition requesting TLC to cancel the series traveled across the nation and reached Miami students. Sorority Girls is about five American girls on a mission to establish Britain's first-ever sorority chapter. The girls will be monitored 24/7 as they go through eight weeks of rush on a quest to fill five final spots.

As Miami's Greek population makes up around 30 percent of students, the series quickly caught the interest of Miami's Panhellenic Association executives. Like many sororities across the nation, the officers were disheartened by the show. According to Alanah Raykovich, a junior and vice president of Public Relations, this issue was brought up during their past tri-council meeting and officers were encouraged get the word out about the petition.

"We're encouraging all the Miami chapters to sign the petition because the show is sending a really bad example and is truly a negative take on our own experiences," Raykovich said.

Amy Kiminas, president of Miami's Panhellenic Association, said "It is important for Miami Sorority members to recognize the inaccuracies of this show and demand for a truthful representation of our community."

Previews for the Sorority Girls feature drama-filled scenes, excerpts of drinking and possible hazing, but it's the overall message of the show that has gained most attention.

"The real impact of this show is promoting false stereotypes of the sorority community and potentially discouraging young women from the opportunity to join the sorority community," Kiminas said.

According to Kiminas and other officers, the show's content can be summarized in one word: inaccurate.

Molly Kenney, vice president of community service and engagement, said the show is not an accurate representation of the mission at Miami.

"We have high standards in academics and behavior, and this portrayal of five women does not provide the full perspective of what Greek life is about," she said.

Allyson Yoder, a first-year Kappa Kappa Gamma member, agrees.

"Miami's rush process is definitely not as shallow and mean as this one appears," Yoder said.

But is this inaccuracy enough cause for canceling the show?

"I don't think it's that big of a deal because we have other shows about pregnant teenagers and like Jersey Shore; it's just the way our media is," first-year Chelsea Visk said.

"I didn't think it was offensive; that's exactly how I picture sororities," sophomore Erica Howes said.

Although many non-Greeks share this sentiment, for sorority members, the series is yet another obstacle they're fighting to overcome.

"It plays to the stereotypes that we have worked so hard to erase and that's upsetting when what we actually value is so commonly overlooked," Lauren Fingers, vice president of standards, said.

By reinforcing several sorority stereotypes, the series also highlights the so-called divide between Greeks and non-Greeks.

"There is this sort of stigma, but I really don't think it has to be that way," Raykovich said. "My goal with my position is to dispel these misunderstandings and bridge the gap so we can all work together."

According to Kenney, "It's so different looking from the outside."

"We try to figure out how to most accurately portray ourselves to non-Greeks, but it's hard to communicate what it's really like."

However, with every effort to improve the perception of sorority life, the views of those who are on the "outside" are hard to change. For every philanthropic event, many non-Greeks still see toga parties, name-brand wardrobes, secret handshakes and memorized chants. And while Kiminas said "The all Sorority cumulative GPA is 3.28, which is .07 higher than the all women cumulative GPA," the stereotype that sorority girls are dumb remains.

"It's disappointing because people see the very few that fall prey to the stereotypes instead of what we're doing and what we're actually about," Raykovich said.

So perhaps more than a battle of Greek vs. non-Greek, this battle is about the few outlandish TV shows or the group of crazy-party girls wearing Greek lettered V-necks ruining it for the many.

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