The following is an account submitted by sophomore student Avery Johnson, who is several weeks into his pledgeship for the local Swedish-Greek organization Gamma Alpha Kappa (GAK). Gamma Alpha boasts 2,400 collegiate members, with over 30,000 alumni throughout the nation.
I bid Gamma Alpha Kappa because I thought this was an organization of nothing but fun and friendship. Four weeks into my time here, it has become clear that this is a system of non stop challenges and hard work.
I was verbally harassed within seconds of arrival for my first day of Gamma Alpha Kappa pledge, with pledge leaders surrounding my car and screaming at me and my family as they drove up to drop me off. I was then forced to do hours of menial labor to get my assigned living area until it was up to the arbitrary standards of my residential pledge educator. He then told me he had the right to perform periodical searches of my space, reminding me it was the property of Gamma Alpha.
It was at this point I realized just how all-encompassing this system of subjugation and conformity was. Not only was I expected to spend every waking hour with my fellow pledges, but I had to sleep at night surrounded by them. I cried when my parents left, but I needed to report to meet my pledge class.
One of the most chilling nights of my pledgeship thus far was when they marched the new batch of pledges into a single room, sat us down with complete strangers, made us eat together, and then taught us a collection of horrifying chants and songs written by GA drones over its 152-year existence. We were expected to recite these chants in unison.
The command our pledge leaders held over our wardrobe was total. I remember one night in particular in which we were forced to change into “country attire” for a “square dance.” Coming from a farm family, I was highly offended at the way my people were oversimplistically portrayed as grass-chewing hillbillies. Most frustratingly, we were expected to change all over again into athletic jerseys for an all-pledge dance.
Of course, all of these events were marked as “optional.” But when you’ve spent the last year preparing to finally be a GA pledge, you aren’t left with much choice.
It was only after these first few days of forced chanting, mandatory attendance, and strict dress codes that the real hardship began. Being a GA pledge consists of waking up before 7:00 each morning to report to our first educational seminar. My first session is reserved for just the first-year pledges.
The leaders of these seminars are the most fearsome GA members of all, constantly testing our knowledge via quizzes and exams and demanding we spend hours of our free time learning completely useless knowledge.
I have been told by all my fellow pledges and Gamma Alpha leaders that this system is for the best; making us stronger and bringing us together. They say if you just “buy in” and believe in GA, it becomes the greatest four years of your life, preparing you for productive and meaningful lives outside the halls of Gamma Alpha. I see that in the faces of the GAK alumni, who still come back to campus to recount their years as GammAlphs and even donate money back to the organization. But standing here, now, all I see is hardship, challenge, and conformity.