What Should You Learn About Greek Life?
Greek life is an important part of the campus culture at many schools. I have visited schools, Miami University of Ohio and Union College (NY), among others, that host “mother chapters” of national fraternities. Ideally, students should be free to choose their friends and social setting, as long as they do not impinge on another student’s right to do the same.
Two questions you may hear asked most often on college campus tours are: “Are there Greeks on campus?” and “Are fraternities and sororities a big deal here?” The most common answers are: “Yes” or “No,” depending on the school, and “You don’t need to participate in Greek life to have a good time.” However, when you walk by displays, as you see in the picture above, the Greek community may also have a lot to offer.
I know a few things about fraternities from having friends in college who pledged. But I know next to nothing about sororities. So I asked someone who knows a lot more to talk with me about Greek life.
I hope that you will listen to my conversation with Alexis Bonamassa, Director of Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Organizational Involvement at Campbell University (NC). A graduate of Rider University (NJ) and the University of Rhode Island, Alexis has been an officer in a sorority as a college, a house mother as a graduate student, and now she manages a Greek system as a college administrator. This is a longer conversation than others I’ve had about college topics. But as Alexis points out, parents and prospective students ask many questions about Greek life.
Back in June, I was asked to make my own lists as to what I thought was good and bad about Greek life, as someone who did not participate. I have reposted them here, but Alexis can tell you much more.
What are some of the good things about Greek life?
- These social groups can help make a large school seem smaller. College is a more pleasant experience when you have a home among a circle of good friends.
- Greek life is a social center of many schools. Fraternities and sororities play active roles in leading campus-wide events. They lead the cheers in the stands at the big games at big schools.
- Greek organizations have their own competitions, which can be fun.
- They offer leadership opportunities as well as the experience at governing through a multi-chapter council.
- They help students make contacts on campus as well as with alumni.
- Many provide a place to live. This is something parents and students should not take lightly. Many schools will not assure on-campus housing after the freshman year. The better-endowed fraternities and sororities have nice houses. The cost to live in one might be lower than the costs of sharing an apartment off-campus.
- When they have a house, they can provide a place to park a car on or near campus. This is also something not to be taken lightly at the large state schools as parking on campus is scarce.
- The strong organizations have some sense of honor among members. It is far more difficult to lie or steal among brothers or sisters than among people you do not know.
What are the downsides?
- Taking rejection. Greek organizations choose the members they want. Discrimination is very difficult to prove. However, students should question whether they would want to join a group that does not want to welcome them.
- The pledge process takes more time than it does to join other organizations, with the possible exception of athletic teams or the musical groups. However, unlike those organizations, students can delay joining a Greek organization until a later semester.
- Campus media and news media try to push perception as reality. Greek organizations are perceived as elitist, abusive and disorderly, although the vast majority of the time they are not.
- Students pay membership dues, an extra charge on top of their expenses for college. They pay dues to a national organization as well as their chapter. While the national dues might be fixed, chapter dues are necessary to cover the expenses of running the house.
- Students continue to pay the dues if they decide not to live in the house.
- All members are responsible for the misdeeds of one member. Fraternities and sororities must obey campus and local laws. If one member, for example, serves beer or other alcoholic beverages to minors, all of the members can be punished for the crime.
- It’s no fun to clean up after the big parties.
Here’s some more to know about Greek life.
Keep in mind that many colleges and universities do not allow first-year students to pledge fraternities or sororities during their first semester. Some schools may not allow them to rush during the spring either. This depends on the school’s ability to house students on campus after the freshman year as well as its relationship with the Greek system.
If Greek life is a serious interest, find out which organizations have been placed on some form of probation or might be in danger of losing their charter. It is also possible for Greek organizations to operate near a campus and not be officially recognized by a school. though those organizations will not be allowed to use the school’s facilities for meeting or events. At the same time, their actions are subject to local jurisdiction.
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Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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