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In Alpha Epsilon Phi we spend a lot of time discussing who we are. There are a lot of feelings about identity. But I have given some thought to identity and the meaning of sorority life and have come to a fairly simple conclusion: sororities are defined by the people who make them up, not the letters they bear. I am so proud of the women in my chapter, and even more so to count them among my friends. I debated trying to fit something nice about every single one of them into this article, but decided not to because of space limitation. To that end, I will be talking about a few (with names changed) to represent the content of character of the many. Here are a few:

Emily is proud of being a woman; she is proud of being queer; she is proud of being a vegetarian. She faces prejudice with a cool head and heated dissent. Recently, a man who had vocally expressed anti-gay views asked if she would be his lab partner for a class they are in together this semester. She responded non-emotionally that she was not willing to work with a person whose views were full of hatred and intolerance. She also encourages pride in others. She has worked to make the chapter a more open place towards homosexuality, encouraging other girls in our chapter to come out and encouraging them to talk about issues surrounding sex and sexuality. To me, she embodies the best kind of pride and reminds me a little bit of the U2 song by the same title.

Daphne demonstrates great courage. Normally, the picture of courage is that of a knight in shining armor, but I find a far greater courage, and the one Daphne exemplifies, is the ability to admit when one is wrong and needs help, and further, to seek out help. Recently, she told me she had decided to go to MIT Medical for mental health reasons, and I was very proud of her. It takes a brave person to acknowledge they may need help and to seek it, especially here at MIT where there is so much pressure to be on top in every aspect. Furthermore, she realized she might have a problem and sought to fix it before letting it affect her work; anyone who knows Daphne recognizes that she is an excellent researcher and student.

When I think of Hannah, I think of forgiveness. I am exceptionally impressed by her, and hope to someday be like her. She was harassed by some of her friends whom she trusted. But she did not try to get back at them, yell at them, nor remove herself from their company. She understood the consequences of their actions and made sure they understood them, but she afterwards continued to treat all of those people who hurt her with love, trust, and respect. I cannot possibly claim that I would have had such poise in her shoes, and yet she makes it seem effortless.

Lacey has taught me about true strength. We have talked a good bit about her abusive childhood and the deep scars it left on her. After listening to her stories I am often stunned into silence. I grasp for words to say something, anything, to make it better or even just different, wanting to lie and tell her “it’s okay,” when I know full well that it isn’t. I cannot claim that coming from what she did I would continue to get up every day, nor would I fault her if she did not. I am impressed by the grace with which she continues to stand, when the earth continues to pull her down, and the scars from her past continue to sting. She too reminds me of a powerful song: “The Fighter” by the Gym Class Heroes.

When I look around at all my sorority sisters, I see amazing qualities. To me, this is what a sorority is about. To be sure, MIT AEPhi is a values-based organization about philanthropy and community service. But at its core, it is about people. People I respect and love. Amazing. Exceptional. People.