Student’s Web project takes aim at sorority stereotypes
Anyone who visits the website TotalFratMove.com leaves with the impression that college fraternity and sorority members drink, skip class, post dumb things on social media, and not much else.
It’s a popular site, especially among college students, and one that irks Illinois State junior Jessica Garber. The proud member of Alpha Delta Pi (ADP) says Total Frat Move, or TFM, presents a distorted view of Greek life. But instead of quietly griping to her sorority sisters, she’s doing something about it.
Garber is the brains behind(ASM), an answer to TFM that’s picking up steam online. In the same vein as TFM, Garber collects one-liners and photos from Greeks across the U.S. and publishes them on her site and social media channels. Instead of TFM’s photos of someone doing a keg stand, Garber collects poignant messages about how going Greek can profoundly change your life.
“A lot of people think we’re here to party and we pay for our friends. It’s not about that at all,” said Garber, an English and political science major. “It’s changed who I am, as a friend, as a student, even as a daughter.”
The goal is to combat the negative stereotypes that “sorority girls” face, reinforced in the media and, admittedly, through self-defeating sites like TFM, Garber says. It’s a perception battle that’s important to Illinois State Greeks, who make up around 10 percent of the undergraduate student body.
Garber started her ASM site in November 2012, part of an assignment for a technical communication course. She’s since expanded to Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, posting up to five times a week. That additional exposure on social media has helped the site grow to almost 8,000 views already.
“That’s why it kinda blew up,” Garber said.
She’s reached out to Panhellenic organizations across the U.S., drawing submissions from sorority women in 18 states. Other Illinois State sororities have been supportive too, she said.
One of her recent tweets, for example: “Knowing that your every action reflects upon your founders, your alumnae, your peers, your organization, and sorority women everywhere. #ASM”
The Orland Hills native was recruited into ADP in fall 2011, drawn to the sorority’s three pillars: sisterhood, scholarship, and service. That’s translated into countless philanthropic efforts, most notably for the Ronald McDonald House charities, undertaken by her Alpha Delta Pi chapter.
Her favorite part about sorority life, however, is that it requires her to “make a commitment to the sorority to become a better person.” Indeed, her grade point average has gone up since joining, thanks in part to study programs run by Alpha Delta Pi. (Fun fact: 450 fraternity and sorority members had over a 3.5 GPA for the fall 2012 semester, with 121 members recording a 4.0, according to an end-of-semester report produced in December by ISU’s Dean of Students’ Fraternity and Sorority Life team.)
Garber picked up valuable leadership skills as chapter president in 2012, and now she serves as vice president of scholarship for Illinois State’s Panhellenic Association, serving all Greek women.
“I hope it inspires my peers to be in it for the right reasons, and to show recruits what it’s really about,” Garber said of ASM.
It’s extremely important that people know how being in a sorority can change lives and enhance skill sets, said Michael Zajac, coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life in the Dean of Students Office.
“The opportunities offered are endless, and ASM is designed to accentuate all that a sorority offers by providing real-life examples of success,” Zajac said. “ASM is a fantastic idea.”
After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Garber wants to be a leadership consultant for her national sorority, or possibly go to graduate school. She ultimately wants to work in collegiate student affairs. She’s getting a taste of that now as a student worker in the Dean of Students’ Leadership and Service office.
Zajac said Garber’s academic success and additions to the campus culture make her the “type of student we dream about having on campus.”
“She has a passion for people and wants to create a culture of greatness within our fraternity and sorority community,” Zajac said. “She puts 100 percent into all that she does. I thoroughly enjoy working with Jessie and appreciate all that she has done for her chapter and the Greek community.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.