It’s all Greek to Me

Thinking about going Greek?

Fraternities and sororities are portrayed both positively and negatively in the media, and the decision to join can be a difficult one for a college freshman to make.

Some media outlets portray sorority members as dumb, superficial, and dramatic, and fraternity members as muscular, party-crazy, and alcoholic (anybody ever seen the TV show, Greek? Point made.)

On the other hand, Legally Blonde paints Greek life in a positive light, showing the main character, Elle, as living in a lavish mansion with 60 of her closest friends. The best way to decide if going Greek is the right decision for you is to be informed about how the system really works.

Recruitment

If you decide to pledge a fraternity or sorority, you will need to go through a recruitment process, known as “rush.”

For boys, rush consists of various scheduled events (picnics, sporting games, parties) formed especially for the recruitment of new members. Any potential new member (PNM) can attend these events to become acquainted with active members of the fraternity. These rush events are both for the active members to get to know a PNM, and for the PNM to ask questions about the fraternity.

If the PNM continues to attend events and active members believe the fraternity will be a good fit for him, the PNM will receive a “bid,” or an invitation to join the fraternity chapter as a “pledge.” The pledge period can last weeks or even months, until a final initiation where the pledge officially becomes a brother of the fraternity.

Sorority recruitment can occur in two ways: formal and informal. Formal recruitment is larger and much more organized than fraternity recruitment, while informal recruitment mirrors fraternity recruitment.

During formal recruitment, all PNMs will be divided into “rush groups” and travel from chapter to chapter until they have visited all the sorority houses on campus. During their visits, PNMs will usually dress up and have a chance to spend time at each house talking to active members and taking a tour.

After the PNM leaves, the sisters she has spoken with will write down notes about the PNM (outward presentation, conversation topics, etc.) and report back to her sisters. Sometimes, a PNM will be invited back for a second or third round of parties. At the same time, a PNM will “preference” which houses she is interested in being invited back to after each round.

The “rush” period ends on “bid day,” when the PNM will receive an invitation to join a chapter. After bid day, the PNM will enter pledge-ship until she is initiated as an active sister.

Expectations

When you are a member of a fraternity or sorority, you will have various expectations to fulfill.

First, fraternities and sororities charge “chapter dues,” or payments to the organization in order to keep membership. Charges may range from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars a semester, depending on the chapter (sometimes scholarships and financial aid is available).

Members will often be expected to live in the fraternity/sorority house or floor for a set amount of time. Additionally, there are different events that you will be required to attend (usually philanthropy and recruitment events). These events, as well as social exchanges, can be a great way to meet students on campus or maintain your social life amidst all the studying.

While you can ultimately choose exactly how involved you want to be in your fraternity or sorority, there is a level of commitment you must make when deciding to join one.

Hazing

Hazing is the act of forcing another being to do humiliating or degrading physical or emotional acts in order to have a sense of belonging or to be “initiated” into a group. Unfortunately, hazing can still be found within the Greek system, although many sorority and fraternity chapters are strictly against hazing.

If you are a victim of hazing, you have every right to report the fraternity or sorority chapter to a higher authority (such as your school’s office of fraternity and sorority affairs or the chapter’s national organization).

Many fraternities and sororities also provide pledges with a member manual, where the topic of hazing is addressed. Read this manual carefully and become familiar with the chapter’s rules against hazing.

If you aren’t sure if an activity is formally considered “hazing” but you feel uncomfortable doing it, you have every right to refuse to participate. You can also choose to withdraw membership from the chapter altogether at any point in time.

The Greek system has remained a large part of campus life for hundreds of years (the first fraternity was founded in the 1750s at the College of William and Mary, where Thomas Jefferson was a student member).

Despite the stereotypes that surround it, many students say that being a part of the Greek system has helped them form lasting friendships, network with chapter alumni, and gain leadership positions on campus early in their college careers.

Others believe they can achieve the same without ever sporting Greek letters. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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