Unless you’ve been a part of Greek life, most of what you’ll hear and your conceptions about it will evolve around weird initiation rituals. What people fail to realize is the unique history behind Greek life, as well as the amazing things sororities and fraternities do for their communities. Greek life can be a good for everyone, and is a perfect example of when stereotypes can be misleading, as well as outright wrong.
Both fraternities and sororities have amazing historical significance that should not be forgotten. The first fraternity was Phi Beta Kappa. It was founded at a university as an academic club where students could share any opinion (even those of dissent), read novels and expand their minds. Since the first fraternity they have played an important role in America’s unity, and in times of conflict fraternities were a place where everyone could get along and come together. They also have been a positive force in many communities with their charitable deeds.
The first sorority was started as part of the feminist movement. The women, while not being overly political, were active in the suffrage movement and started it to be equal to men. All but two presidents have been part of fraternities, and women often felt left out of the “all boys club.” By starting sororities, it gave women political and social opportunity, making it an ideal feminist organization.
Unfortunately, people have the misconception that Greek life represents the opposite of these values. When many people think of young men who belong to fraternities they think of dumb “frat boys” who only take pleasure in partying and “hooking up” with girls. When they think of young women who belong to sororities they think of women who only care about appearance and superficial things. These stereotypes are not without merit, and no college organization is going to be perfect. When you put together a large group of people without parental guidance, of course there will be some drinking and partying.
However, most Greek organizations are not like this. A large reason these stereotypes exist is what we see in the news. When we read the newspaper, or watch something like CNN, they tend to only focus on problems with Greek life. The only time there is a report is when there is an extreme case of hazing, sexual assault, or violence. Awareness about these problems is important, but it’s also necessary to realize that they are not synonymous with Greek life.
Sororities do amazing things for their communities and have even been important advocates against sexual assault. The culture of being in a sorority is changing. Even before the changes, things were never as bad as people assumed. Community service and academics are often pillars and core values for Greek chapters.
Both sororities and fraternities also do great things for networking. Many company leaders, politicians, etc will have been part of Greek life, and it can open doors wherever you go. Also, a more immediate benefit, you have people to ask about your major, and recommend you for certain jobs and internships. “Going Greek” can be a good strategic move.
Nobody can deny some of the negative aspects. There are some horrifying statistics, mostly involving fraternities. Nothing is going to be solely positive or negative. Yet, people seem to find what they are looking for in an organization.
Not all sororities and fraternities are created alike. If you want to find a fraternity that values education, or religion, you will be able to. If you want to find a sorority that values charity and community, you will be able to. It’s not hard to find a Greek chapter that you’ll fit into. Even some quick research can show which are best for particular careers or values. There are also many websites dedicated to showing which chapters at particular colleges party and which don’t. If you’re looking for the stereotypical “frat house” you’ll be able to find plenty, and the same goes with sororities. But there are more often than not chapters that want nothing to do with that stereotype.
People are choosing colleges and thinking about where they want to spend the next three or four years of their life. College is a time to try new things and explore paths you may not have considered initially. Greek life is not the only thing that you can find that has more depth to it than initially meets the eye. Sororities and fraternities can add a lot to a person’s college experience and life afterwards. They can give you an amazing community. It also just goes to show that your college experience will be what you make it.
Illustration Credit: Jenny Chang / The Foothill Dragon Press