Politics of sororities questioned amid former member’s viral Twitter thread

A former Phi Mu member went from a sister to an outcast. Here is her story.
Melina Psihountas standing in Francis Quadrangle Courtesy of Melina Psihountas

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

The story has been updated to clarifying sourcing and add further context to Phi Mu's response.

Read the full Twitter thread here.

A stroll down Rollins Street past the student center and Strickland Hall will place you in the heart of Greektown, marked by its letter bearing and music blaring culture.

The allure of social outings, life long friends and student-populated mansions attract 28% of MU undergraduates. These individuals proudly display their Greek involvement by promoting their philanthropic events and sporting their Greek letters. And like many incoming freshmen, now-junior Melina Psihountas was compelled to rush a sorority with the prospect of finding like-minded girls outweighing the $250 registration fee.

During her rush process, Psihountas and her roommate were consumed with excitement as they accessorized, straightened their hair and reminded themselves not to mention the five B’s — boys, ballot, bible, bids and booze. Aside from showcasing her financial status through her accessories, Psihountas was given an additional snippet of advice from another girl rushing: look as white as possible.

As one of the few women of color rushing, Psihountas feared she would be reduced to her race and serve solely as a token of diversity. However, despite these thoughts, Psihountas longed to attain the movie portrayal of the college experience with all her sisters living under the same roof.

Countless encounters followed the same script. Psihountas was asked “Where are you from? What's your major?” with enthusiasm, so she was surprised when houses dropped her.

“It gets down to how you look at yourself, and you’re like did I say something wrong? Did they not like the way my mascara looked that day?” Psihountas said. By the end of rush, Psihountas was dropped from each house except for Phi Mu. She had developed a connection with one of the girls, who later became her Big. Psihountas appreciated that while Phi Mu was considered lower on the social hierarchy of houses, it was the most diverse. But even then, Psihountas was still the only Black girl in her pledge class.

“It made me feel a little different,” Psihountas said. “I have a very strong personality, and I come across as confident. It’s not a bad thing, but people automatically try to assume things about me.”

This clash in personalities quickly became apparent after Psihountas pledged Phi Mu and was subjected to the chapter’s rules that she said were not equally enforced.

Psihountas shared that Phi Mu’s social media rules prohibit posts with alcohol, drugs, the word “sylly” (commonly used to reference syllabus week), the allusion to drinking and the location of a bar.

“It’s a big game of pretending we’re not normal college students which I can understand because they frame it like they’re concerned about us getting a job,” Psihountas said. “But the problem is that social media monitoring is at the discretion of one girl with the username of sirfidelphimu.”

Sirfidelphimu likes a member’s post to indicate that it violates a social media rule and needs to be removed. However, Psihountas explained that the sorority’s executive board acts like a dynasty in which the Littles of the executives become members of the executive board in the following years. And according to Psihountas, those girls typically weren’t held to the same strict social media standards as other Phi Mu members.

While Psihountas was a member of Phi Mu, she was routinely told to alter or entirely delete her social media posts. Some of these incidents included her tagging the Heidelberg when she had only purchased a pretzel and a soda, a photo of her jokingly arresting her friend for underage drinking on Halloween and a post of her next to a car with the Playboy Bunny logo.

Perhaps most frequently, Psihountas was told that her posts were too provocative. She attributes this criticism to executive members viewing her posts as more sexual due to her comparatively larger breasts.

“That’s how the rumors started with other girls thinking like ‘oh she’s a party girl’, without ever even taking the chance to get to know me,” Psihountas said.

In addition to these posts, executive board members held Psihountas responsible for comments on her social media that were “negatively directed towards Phi Mu” and was told to delete a viral Twitter thread of St. Louis high schools as Vines.

“I had the most followers of anyone in the chapter,” Psihountas said. “I guess they were worried that I was representing the whole sorority with my posts.”

Psihountas claimed she met all the terms of her disciplinary action, deleting inappropriate comments on her Instagram and writing an essay about how much she loved Phi Mu. However, because Phi Mu thought Psihountas’ actions affected the entire chapter’s image, members were asked to vote on her membership status through a “pro-con” following her one minute speech.

“Any girl in the chapter could raise their hand and say a pro or a con about me,” Psihountas said. “Everything that was said would stay in that room, so it’s like a free pass to talk s*** about me. I feel like that is a really dangerous behavior that is going unchecked.”

The pro-con was held in an auditorium where Psihountas stated why she was in trouble and shared why she should be able to stay in Phi Mu. Then Psihountas had to anxiously await her sisters’ decision outside.

Psihountas was ultimately not kicked out of Phi Mu. She later left voluntarily after her mental health began to suffer as girls would gossip about her outside her bedroom door while she ate meals alone in her room. And because Psihountas dropped Phi Mu on her terms, she was still required to pay the remaining $5,000 of her rent.

Jackie Isaacson, director of communications at Phi Mu, has responded to Psihountas’ story, maintaining that their staff has ensured that the chapter — officers and members — were, and still are, behaving appropriately. They attribute the events to have been a matter of a difference in personalities and are confident that there was not a discriminatory basis for any of the conflicts stated above.

“Members are not treated differently based on their race nor if they have different body types,” Isaacson said.

“We disagree with her accounts of how the events transpired,” Isaacson also stated. “We have wished her well in all other endeavors, we continue to wish that for her.”

It is also worth noting that the student executive staff that dealt with Psihountas’ situation has since been replaced with the new year.

Amid Psihountas’ viral Twitter thread, including screenshots of the events referenced in this article, other girls have reached out. They have added to the thread, sharing their similar experiences within their respective sororities, calling into question the politics of greek life.

Since leaving Phi Mu, Psihoutas has made the Dean’s List and has become an active member of numerous clubs on campus including Relevant Youth and Executive Women International Collegiate. In doing so, Psihountas has reminded herself that she is still the same girl who was once named a National Merit Semifinalist, earned a 33 on her ACT and spoke at her high school commencement ceremony, proving that she is not the irresponsible party girl her former sisters perceived her to be.

“I can enjoy wearing a bikini and enjoy wearing revealing clothes and still be smart, and still be a good person and still have hopes and dreams like any other girl,” Psihountas said.

We reached out to the MU chapter of Phi Mu for comment on this story. They redirected us to Phi Mu Fraternity’s National Headquarters.

Edited by Izzy Colon | icolon@themaneater.com

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