30 seconds isn't enough time to get out of bed in the morning. It's not enough time to brush my teeth, to walk upstairs, to get breakfast, or to get to class. In 30 seconds, though, I can unlock my iPhone, text a friend, send a Snapchat, or open an application. I can retweet an image within 30 seconds, like a Facebook post, or accept a follow request on Instagram. But, within 30 seconds I can't talk to my mom on the phone, eat a meal, or get any work done.
30 seconds, therefore, is essentially unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
On October 4, I took a deep breath and counted to 30 before I opened my sorority bid. I thought I knew what was inside the off-white envelope, but my racing heartbeat and shaky hands reminded me to take some time before I looked. "-28, -29, -30," I counted in my head and then carefully opened the envelope. Like I'd hoped, the thick piece of paper read "Kappa Alpha Theta." Filled with an overwhelming rush of excitement, I turned to find my friends who were all waving their own bids in the air. Tears rolled down my cheeks as my new sisters and I grouped together in the middle of the large, crowded room. Within 30 seconds, my life had changed, all for the better.
The excitement of being a Theta new member was never-ending, and the culmination of the initial festivities seemed to be the big/little sister reveal, where we'd be completely spoiled with gifts by an older girl who would become a best friend.
Like other sororities on campus, and across the country, the gifts were to be delivered by fraternity boys in a tradition known as "serenades." As I sat in a dorm room with six other girls, my serenade, although entertaining, was nothing out-of-the-ordinary. We soon found ourselves eager for the boys to leave, and once they did, we were left to dig into our baskets, lay out our new Theta-themed clothes, devour in our mounds of delicious food, and rejoice in our first, exciting moments of feeling a part of Kappa Alpha Theta. I went to sleep smiling at the yellow Theta kite on my wall, satisfied with a stomach full of Cheez-Its and Challah. I knew the future had a lot in store.
That was, until the fun stopped, the call was made, the meeting was set in place, and the investigations began. After a 30-second Snapchat story was posted from another serenade, we blinked and our freshman year experience in Kappa Alpha Theta was suddenly over. Five girls chose to escalate their serenade to a level of high intoxication, sexual activity, and publicity. Although their actions were isolated, Theta quickly came under investigation for potential hazing and subject to other multiple violations.
What 30 Bad Seconds Means:
These 30 seconds went viral---the inappropriate video was emailed, forwarded, texted, and reposted, all with the touch of a button. It traveled around the University of Michigan and to other Universities in the country. These 30 seconds impacted over 200 people, socially and emotionally, and resulted in several months of stress.
30 bad seconds meant The University of Michigan and Kappa Alpha Theta Nationals conducted a formal investigation. It meant social schedules, parents weekend, philanthropy, and sisterhood activities were stripped away, and strictly prohibited. Eventually, 30 bad seconds led to a University-run trial, a verdict, and several steps to get back "on good standing." For more than half of our freshman year, we sat under a microscope all because of 30 seconds.
30 really bad seconds, as ours turned out to be, became months of getting no answers. Months of paying National dues without knowing what the money was paying for, and months of walking on eggshells knowing each and every move would be judged. It took 30 seconds for our chapter president to read an email from Nationals that told us to keep our situation confidential, to hide it from our friends, and to refrain from telling our families.
30 bad seconds made freshman year go by too quickly. It filled October, November, December, January, and February with more stress than needed, and robbed both new and old members of Kappa Alpha Theta the traditional Greek life we had all hoped we'd be a part of when we came to Ann Arbor, when we chose to attend the University of Michigan.
How 30 Really Bad Seconds Ends:
On February 22, the sisters of Kappa Alpha Theta were told Nationals had reached a verdict, and a final email would be forthcoming. In our recent experiences with National's, we had essentially been told "we'll let you know in a week" or "we have no answers." We weren't hopeful for any definitive information.
As I walked through campus that afternoon, stressed with the upcoming week of midterm assignments, an email popped up on my phone. I opened it and stopped short in my tracks. The email did not say what I thought it would, what any of us thought it would. I immediately ran to the library to search for anyone Theta. Within what felt like 30 dreadful seconds, tears were willingly rolling down my cheeks as my sisters and I grouped together in the middle of the large, crowded room.
30 really bad seconds took almost an entire school year to resolve, left 61 girls without a place to live for the coming year, disbanded a 137-year-old sorority at the University of Michigan, and successfully disproved what 30 seconds used to mean.
30 seconds was nothing, and now it is everything.
After an informal rush process, the girls of Kappa Alpha Theta Pledge Class 2015, along with several other freshmen not originally part of a sorority, were welcomed with open arms, kindness and excitement by Alpha Epsilon Phi- a sorority on campus going through continuous recruitment.
The collective group of girls are finally receiving a traditional Greek Life experience, expanding their sisterhood, and counting their blessings for this amazing opportunity. They will be initiated members on April 16th.