OPINION: Pros and cons of group living

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Whether it’s a scholarship house, sorority or fraternity, group living comes with its highs and lows. For some, it’s a pivotal part of their college career, and for others, it’s just not their cup of tea. Two Collegian editors share their experience and thoughts about group living.

Dene Dryden, chief copy editor

A disclaimer: I have never belonged to a Greek organization, so my group living experience is different from others who have lived in a fraternity or sorority house.

For me, choosing a group living situation was one of the best decisions I made when I came to Kansas State. I’m now a second-year resident of the Smurthwaite Leadership/Scholarship House, which houses up to 46 female K-State students.

One reason why I believe group living is beneficial is that you learn how to live with others. This seems easy in theory, especially if you’ve shared space with siblings in the past, but conflicting class schedules and nighttime preferences can be challenging. My freshman year, one of my roommates was very sensitive to light and sound when she was sleeping. Since I always woke up for class before her, I learned ways to limit light and noise in the room while I was getting ready, being as courteous as possible. She did the same for me when I went to bed before her.

Another great aspect I love about group living is the chance to learn about others. I currently live with women of different majors, races, religions, moral beliefs and other life experiences that make every one of us unique. To me, no one sticks out because they’re different from the rest. Our different expressions and ways of life may not all be the same, but our commitment to learning and fostering a good community is a common attribute. We respect each others’ differences, and we can often learn something new by listening to our housemates’ stories.

Group living can also provide a support system that celebrates your achievements and helps you when you fail. For the women of Smurthwaite, we take time during our week to recognize the successes of our housemates and give thanks to those who did good deeds for others. And when life hits you too hard or you’re going through a tough time, someone is always willing to listen and give support.

In short, if you find a community that fits you well, group living can be a great experience. You’ll be able to meet and make friends with people that you might never have met otherwise. At the very least, group living teaches you how to live with others who you may not align perfectly with — practicing patience can be hard, but it helps you grow. And if everything goes well, you can foster friendships and professional relationships that can last long after you leave K-State.

Kyle Hampel, opinion editor

Do you like the idea of being psychologically manipulated and depersonalized by your peers to pressure you into conforming to a groupthink ideology that leaves little to no room for diversity of thought or creed? Then group living might be the right choice for you!

Whether it’s a fraternity, a sorority, a scholarship house or something in between, group living situations are built on conformity. Everyone agrees to live by the same rules in the same building for the sake of establishing a community network (or for saving money on rent). Unfortunately, these ideals of sameness often go too far.

In a group living situation, you are your differences. If you are Asian, bisexual or Muslim, that’s all you’ll ever be to your housemates. Every conversation ever held and every joke ever made in your presence will be about the parts of your identity that make you different.

Some might see this emphasis on your differences as a way to “get outside of your comfort zone,” but in my experience it only makes you feel isolated while the majority of your housemates continue to be ignorant. You deviate from the majority of the group, so all you are is different.

I’ve heard all too often that every sorority or fraternity or scholarship house is unique, and I shouldn’t judge them all by my own bad experiences. Unfortunately, this is something I can hardly believe.

According to sociologist John Foubert, multiple studies have shown that fraternity brothers are three times more likely to commit a sexual assault than men in other living situations. Additionally, hazing rituals and abuse stories are ubiquitous throughout group living scenarios on every college campus.

Personally, I think group living breeds an anti-diversity attitude in its members. Fraternity brothers are encouraged to haze and bully their fellow members (often as a reward for enduring their own hazing), and sorority sisters are encouraged to meet high standards of fashion and purity with little room for personal expression. Those who don’t conform are mistrusted and ostracized, though not always to their faces.

That’s not even mentioning all the extra points on your to-do list that become infinitely worse when you don’t fit in. The dances become uncomfortable, the holiday traditions feel like a waste of money that ends in personal embarrassment and the community volunteering only makes you realize how two-faced your housemates really are. The masters of your group living situation will declare that you are not a person until you pass their arbitrary “tests.”

If you’re in a group living situation and you disagree with my experiences, ask yourself: Do you fit in with the majority of your housemates? If yes, I’m glad you do — but I wish you didn’t have to.

Dene Dryden is the chief copy editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in English. Kyle Hampel is the reviews and opinion editor for the Collegian and a junior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Dene Dryden
I'm Dene Dryden, a senior in English creative writing and CMG Board of Directors member. Formerly editor-in-chief, managing editor, copy chief. You can hear my voice on Wildcat 91.9 FM and find my bylines in FFA New Horizons, Seek Research Magazine for K-State, URGE ChoiceWords and the Get Inclusive blog. In addition to my journalistic work, my poems are published or forthcoming in the Flint Hills Review, Rogue Agent and Lammergeier. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.