Ladies and gentlemen, it has arrived. Junior year is here, and with it comes bittersweet notions.

In every stage of life people often say how rapidly time passes, and looking back, my hindsight is 20/20. When starting a new chapter of life, I feel like I have boundless time ahead of me, but with age comes wisdom and that is something I am acquiring.

Time moves so hastily, so we really need to embrace where we are.

One of the things I have found that has instilled growth and knowledge was pledging. I know it can sound cliché —believe me I was unsure if it was for me at first—but the
longer I have been part of the Greek community, the more I realize how much of a constructive thing it has been in my life.

I find that being in a sorority or a fraternity on any campus can have a negative connotation attached to it, but I would hope to change that stereotype. The level of scrutiny
placed on the Greek community as a whole is out of proportion compared to what actually goes on in the lives of these members.

Although people in the Greek community enjoy socializing and partying (on various levels), I find that there are just as many non-Greeks that I associate with who also go out.

In that same argument, there are many Greek students that do not participate in drinking or partying at all.

The basis of Greek life dates back to 1825, when it was created for the commitment of character and personal development, not solely to party. I find the character is what is
stressed in the chapters.

Personally, my chapter drives me to be the best version of myself possible. I have been encouraged to join every group, club, association and ministry on campus and have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of those areas of campus. From SGA to the Greek ministry, The Cross, I have fully immersed myself at UT and made connections that would have not been possible without being a part of the Greek community.

Although I have witnessed the stereotypical sorority or fraternity member, does that justify labeling each one of the students in Greek life who may have a vast ambition that
Greek life is helping them fulfill?

I do not think that being a part of Greek life is for everyone, but I also do not think it should allow people the right to create social scrutiny towards those who take part in these
organizations.

Greek life is an area at our university where people are able to express themselves and figure out who they really are in the four most trying years of an average student's life.

The way in which people choose to invest in their university should be a personal decision with no judgment from those around them, and that goes for those in and out of the
Greek community.

Finding oneself in college is a challenge, but nothing can make situations more difficult than peers speaking negatively of where they choose to spend their time. My only
suggestion is to not judge those in any organization, not just Greek life, until you have experienced it for yourself and met every last person in order to make an accurate depiction of those involved.

From organizing homecoming, to enjoying student publications board — all leading me to writing for The Daily Beacon — I can honestly say I would not be here without
being Greek.

In trying to figure out what I want for my future, the best part of being Greek has been the strong encouragement to volunteer in the community in which I have witnessed many
non-profits helping children and families who are struggling in the current economy. I have realized that I want to work for non-profits in my future. I have always known I wanted to help others, but going Greek has helped me narrow down my goals by encouraging and providing me opportunities to get involved in something bigger than myself.

So, I urge everyone to be accepting of whatever people use as their venue to express themselves and come along each other for the betterment of our school and our community. I will leave you with one phrase that can unite us all.

Greek or not, Go Vols.


Annie Blackwood is a rising junior in communications. She can be reached at ablackwo6@utk.edu.