Perhaps one of the most prominent symbols of fraternity and sorority life is the craftily constructed wooden paddles that adorn the rooms and hallways of many chapter houses all around the nation.
However, paddles come with the instinctive connotation of pledge hazing and cruel punishment, particularly because of their shape and unpleasant national history. A potential new member once plead to “Dear Ann”, featured in The Kansas City Star newspaper about a year ago, with worry that she would be hit with a paddle once she pledged a sorority. Because of concerns like this, paddles are banned in some houses, or forced to be called “wooden ornaments.”
The truth of the matter is, especially on this campus, that paddles are nothing but a time-honored Greek tradition of welcoming new members to their respective houses. New fraternity members often receive pledge names that are proudly adorned on the paddles. New sorority members are given crafted paddles from their big sisters that represent the family of their sorority.
And when I say crafted, I mean really crafted.
Search “sorority paddles” on Pinterest and see for yourself. Be impressed.
Paddles can be purchased at Michaels or Ben Franklin Craft and Frameshop for around $10. Sorority members often paint the paddle with either a color theme or a brand theme (Lily Pulitzer is a popular brand mimicked on paddles). Wooden accessories, particularly alphabet letters, are added for personal flair. Pearls, jewels, ribbon and fabric flowers are also popular accessories added as well.
These paddles aren’t meant to be used for hazing. They are meant as a genuine present for a new sister and are just another way of showing your pride for your sorority. The negative connotations that accompany paddles (excuse me, “wooden ornaments”) bring unnecessary fear for potential new members that hear horror stories, such as the woman mentioned in the Dear Ann letter.
The only negative thing about sorority paddle making on this campus is that it supports our “craft, eat, sleep” stereotype.
As an avid DIY crafter, I have no shame in supporting that stereotype.
But hazing? Not so much.