November 22, 2017

It’s All Greek to Me

[blake]Confession: I am a sorority girl; I am a member of the Delta Chi chapter of Kappa Delta sorority at LaGrange College. I am the President of the Panhellenic Council as well, so I truly know the in’s and out’s of sorority life now. Despite the fact that both my mother and sister had participated in Greek life during their college days, I was convinced that being in a sorority was not for me.

I came into college with my mind set on not going through formal recruitment, better known as rush, in the fall of my freshman year. Television, movies, and occasional terrible news stories often portray being Greek as a very negative thing. Naturally, not knowing any different, I fell victim to the negativity and believed that this was not something I wanted to waste my time or money on during my years in college.

However, shortly after arriving on campus and meeting all of the girls who were Greek, being convinced by other freshmen who were rushing, as well as talking to other influential people on campus, my decision changed. My first year of college would not have been the same without Greek life, and I am very grateful to the people who helped me look past the many misconceptions that I had towards it. Many people that I went to high school with as well as many adults give me confused looks when I tell them that I am in a sorority.

I feel that they, too, probably have some of the same ideas about being Greek that I had before I actually decided to join myself only a year ago. I would like to clear up what I believe are the top ten biggest misconceptions of Greek life to put a more positive light on the subject.

Misconception 1: Greek life promotes the consumption of alcohol.

Fraternities and sororities are governed by the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council. These governing bodies enforce the national risk management policies of all Greek organizations. They also encourage Greek organizations to come up with their own guidelines strictly prohibiting the use of alcohol by minors in their chapters. Members who are of the legal age of alcohol consumption are not forbidden to drink at an organization’s function such as a formal or social, however it isn’t something that is encouraged either. Workshops regarding risk management, including hazing and alcohol consumption, are mandatory in most chapters. Many also have key words or phrases that let a member know when he or she is too out of control and must go home. Failure to comply with the rules and regulations of either the national or local risk management policies can result in fines or probation from Greek activities.

Misconception 2: Greeks pay dues to buy their friends.

All chapters prepare a yearly budget that delegates what member dues go towards. Chapter officers as well as the chapter’s national headquarters monitor these budgets to make sure that money is spent appropriately. Not every Greek organization pays the same amount in dues per month, because for example, larger chapters may need higher dues than a smaller one, or one organization might need more for philanthropies than another. For the most part, dues mainly go toward national dues, socials, formals, mixers, house fees, educational programming and workshops, alumni relations, philanthropic events, recruitment, and other miscellaneous items such as t-shirts, scrapbooks, banners, etc. You also pay a one time only membership fee which is where many people say you “pay for your friends.” In fact, however, this payment secures that your name is filed in the national headquarters of your organization and you receive a certificate of lifetime membership to that organization.

Misconception 3: Girls in sororities are stupid.

The national headquarters for any Greek organization has it’s own academic GPA that must be achieved in order to remain on academic good standing, avoiding national probation which means no fun, period. Many chapters individually set their own goals required to be on good standing higher than the one set nationally to compete with other Greek organizations on campus. If the requirement is not met, social restrictions are possible and you may even lose your chance to speak or vote at chapter meetings. Documented study hours are mandatory for many chapters. Also, awards are created and prizes are given as incentives for girls to keep their GPA’s up. Basically, you can’t be stupid and be in a sorority. Not for long anyway.

Misconception 4: If my child joins a fraternity or sorority, they will go wild.

It would be wrong to say that this doesn’t happen to some people who join Greek organizations, but to be fair, it also happens to many other college students who do not choose to participate in Greek activities. Being Greek actually holds you to a higher standard than the typical college student, because you have the eyes of the entire school and community on them. Doing anything that could be considered inappropriate could mean that a member is put on probation, or forced to leave the organization completely. Any student who is on their own for the first time has the potential to “go wild,” but with guidelines and restrictions regarding appropriate behavior and reputation, going Greek could actually be considered a smart move, because you are being held to a standard.

Misconception 5: Greeks give nothing back to the community.

Nearly all Greek organizations are founded on moral principles that among other things, emphasize community service. Even the biggest partiers on campus believe in charity work. Community service gives members opportunities to make a difference outside of their organization. It is used as a teaching tool to instill a sense of giving back. Nationally, each organization has it’s own philanthropic organization that each chapter is responsible for holding events to raise money for, and it is typically for a cause that means something to them. Locally, a chapter may have several smaller organizations that are nearby that they also support. Aside from these service activities, many chapters require a minimum number of other service hours in order to be able to attend socials, formals, sisterhood or brotherhood retreats, etc.

Misconception 6: The chapter house is just a place to party.

Most organizations strictly prohibit the presence of alcohol on their property, sororities much more so than fraternities. Every chapter has its own guidelines and house policies. Breaking any of the house rules can result in a member being sent to the standards board, locally or nationally, where you may be placed on probation or be forced to pay a fine. Chapter houses also serve many other functions: a place for meetings, bonding events, philanthropy events, etc.

Misconception 7: Being Greek means you are only a number.

While chapters must reach quota on it’s members in order to keep their charters, members are not just chosen to be numbers. After each night of recruitment, potential new members are either kept or dropped from each organizations list of people that they would like to return to the next party for consideration of brotherhood or sisterhood. If being Greek meant you were clearly a number, they’d just keep everybody. Recruitment is a complex selection process where you find the best match between yourself and an organization.

Misconception 8: Greek life doesn’t prepare members for their futures.
Being part of a Greek organization gives members social skills, leadership skills, life skills, and professional skills, among others. For some, etiquette opportunities are available because members are representing an entire group of people at all times, which requires them to conduct themselves in a mature fashion. Networking opportunities are also a big part of Greek organizations. Paying dues provides national opportunities to connect with alumni who can provide a member with the necessary connections at a specific job. Chapters have weekly business meetings that require mandatory attendance of its members. Each chapter has an executive board with officers who run the chapter and hold great responsibility in keeping the organization functioning. Holding an office often causes you to face adversity and other problems that you must find a way to overcome. These positions require leadership and professionalism that will be needed in years after Greek life is over. Being Greek isn’t always easy, but neither is life, and being a part of an organization like this helps give you skills for the future.

Misconception 9: Greeks are only friends with Greeks.

While you spend countless hours of your college life around members of the same organization that you joined, they will not be your only friends. Chapters actually encourage it’s members to reach out and be friends with non-Greeks to rid of the stuck up stereotype. It also promotes the name of your organization to others on campus. Many chapters also require that besides being in a sorority or fraternity that you also must be a part of at least two other extracurricular activities on campus such as a sport, club, honor society, resident advisor, work study, etc., so that you will have friends and connections outside of your Greek organization.

Misconception 10: You have to try to fit in to be Greek.

Membership of fraternities and sororities includes all types of backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. While some organizations are less diverse than others, every potential new member is up for consideration into that organization. For many, it is encouraged that during recruitment you diversify your chapter. Joining a certain organization doesn’t mean you lose your individuality, it just gives you a group of people who appreciate you and are there to support you in your efforts both within and outside of your organization. One good thing about being Greek is that with so many fraternities and sororities on college campuses, you have the opportunity to find a place where you fit in. If someone tries to make you do something you aren’t comfortable with, chances are you probably wouldn’t want to be a part of that specific group anyway. There is a place for anybody and everybody who wants to participate in recruitment.
Greek life has provided me with so many opportunities, friendships, and experiences that I feel like I may have missed out on had I not chosen to look past the stereotypes that I thought went along with being in a sorority. And while some Greek organizations are crazier than others, it isn’t fair to write off every organization based on the bad choices and behavior made by a few, just like anything else in life. Greek life in college isn’t for everyone, and that is okay, but it is a decision that I would not take back at all. It has been a good life lesson that you have to look deeper than just the surface of how things appear to be to actually see some of the positive things that can come from them when you give them a chance.

Comments

  1. Blake, I loved this article. In my experience, LaGrange had such a wonderful Greek system. I was not ever a member, but I know the benefits of Greek life in the community.

  2. Michael Williams says:

    Lol. You might have scared quite a few away from it!

  3. Kim lavoie hinely says:

    Blake…great article. I pledged a sorority at Georgia Southern many years ago because your sweet mother convinced me and my mother of the value of sisterhood. I couldn’t help but smile to think how positive influence transcends time. I made valuable friendships and connections which I ttreasure to this day. I think your mom would so proud of you and the article.

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