Saturday, September 28, 2013

Greek Life: Myths Debunked

Hello all,

Due to popular request, I've decided to write an entry about Greek life, and in particular, my experience as a sister of Alpha Chi Omega. Because the topic is so huge, I've decided that debunking popular Greek stereotypes is a good place to start.

Usually, the terms fraternity, sorority, Greek life, chapter, etc evoke images of Animal House, Old School, The House Bunny, and the TV series, GRK. Thank you, modern media. Thus, when I joined a Greek chapter, I surprised everyone, including myself. At the time, I was in uncharted waters. Yet, I hadn't seen any signs of the theatrics, the hazing, or the "dumb sorority girl" psychology, so I went through with the process. Three years later, I have not experienced many of the major stereotypes, and while the Greek system isn't perfect, it isn't as crazy as the stereotypes project.


False. While joining a sorority is an excellent way in meet new people, in no way are you paying for friends.

Though it is difficult to study this phenomenon in a scientific way, I can speak from personal experience. When I joined AXO, I had many friends. Some of them also joined AXO, but many of them joined other Greek chapters, and some decided to remain independent. Over the past three years, I've maintained strong friendships with all of these people, AXOs or otherwise. I've also made new friends across campus, and around the world. The money I pay to Alpha Chi Omega is mostly for room and board. I am essentially paying to have a place in the house because, to be honest, it's a lovely place to live.

So, I have two questions about the mythical assertion: Don't all college students make friends with the people in their living units? By the same logic, is paying a room and board fee to your university "paying for friends"?

Additionally, as a fun fact, membership dues account for less than 2% of average college student expenses. In my personal finances, I actually pay less to be an AXO and to live and eat in the house than I would to live in university housing with university food. So, being Greek was actually a super financially responsible decision for me.

Best cook on campus? I think so.

Greek housing rocks. Just saying.


Hazing is always a tricky concept to discuss because it isn't entirely a myth. To be perfectly honest, yes, it does happen in some Greek chapters. If you google "Greek hazing," you'll get over 2 million results. However, hazing is not universally practiced among Greeks, hazing is not condoned, and hazing is not a Greek "tradition." Officially, hazing is against National Fraternity and Sorority Headquarters policies and most universities ban hazing in their codes of conduct.

Paddles are not for beating new members, they are a welcome gift and symbol of pride for one's chapter. Many sororities actually "craft" paddles for their incoming members, adding an additional level of effort to welcome the newbies into the chapter.

Crafted paddles. So cool.


Let's be real, the sorawrity depiction is a little ridiculous (see this YouTube video for a clarification of the term "sorawrity": I also bought into this stereotype initially, and I was quickly checked upon arrival at DePauw.

For some facts via the University of Missouri-Kansas City:

* Greek students actually have a higher average GPA than their non-Greek counterparts.

* Nationally, 71% of all fraternity and sorority member graduate, while only 50% of non-members graduate.

* A study by the University of Missouri found that Greeks throughout the US and Canada are more involved on their campuses and rate their overall university experience better.

* Over 85% of the student leaders on 730 campuses are members of Greek-letter organizations.

* A study from the University of Missouri (the same noted above, actually) found that fraternity or sorority members are more involved in their communities; and give more generously to their alma maters.

* Fraternity or sorority members form the largest network of volunteers in the U.S.-Nationally, fraternity or sorority members volunteer approximately 10 million hours of community service annually.

So...Greeks, who are often a minority portion of the student body, have good grades, represent a significant portion of leaders on campuses nationwide, and are the largest body of volunteers in the US. That's pretty cool.

Can we talk about this small library that exists in my room? Mind you, this isn't even close to all of the books that exist in there. These are only the ones that are put away.


Do Greeks drink? Absolutely--like most college students, we tend to indulge. Whether you choose to spend your night with a solo cup or not is up to you. This is not a Greek occurrence, this an age 18-22 occurrence. Welcome to college.

Red Solo Cups: the college drink holder of choice, marked for your measuring convenience.


Hokay. So. This is a myth that I was concerned with as a first-year going through recruitment. Now, through the added lens of my experience with AXO, I feel like it's time someone weighed in on the issue.

Somehow, this reputation has filtered down through the masses, when in reality, "ain't nobody has time for that." Sorority women, like all other women, have lives. We have coursework to do, passions to follow, and friends to catch up with. We are involved in our campus and community according to our varied interests: athletic, musical, theatrical, scientific, civic engagement, or otherwise. We have personalities (see below for a few quirky pictures to back that up) and we're very different from each other. We're a community of involved people (remember, 85% of leaders across 730 campuses are Greek affiliated). Reasonably, I think I can make the statement that most chapters are looking at who you are, not what you look like, during recruitment. As such, I think it's fair to say that, as a general rule, sorority women do not spend their days judging stray hairs and make-up smudges. We aren't perfect. We don't expect you to be either.

It was December. I was going to study in my sweats.

Gooch was going to a theme party.

Either way, we both look fabulous.

Hmmm...taking my picture? Good. I'll make a face.

And...I thought this picture was going to be a wide shot. Oh well.

Like most stereotypes, the ones about Greek life are pretty inaccurate. I hope this post has answered a few questions, and maybe brought up some interesting arguments. Enjoy the "Greek Glossary" below!


BADGE: also known as a pin, it is an item of jewelry given to members upon initiation. The badge is to be worn at all official functions, and upon a members death it should be returned to the sorority or fraternity headquarters. The badge must be worn with business like attire, usually over the heart and above all other pins.

BID: An invitation to join an IFC fraternity or Panhellenic sorority. They are given out during formal recruitment (on Bid Day for sororities, at anytime before the end of formal recruitment for fraternities). The NPHC process does not include bids.BID DAY: The last day of recruitment in which potential new members receive formal invitations to join a sorority.BIG: Nickname for big sister or brother, a mentor assigned to a new member. Many organizations have special names for these pairings.CANDLEPASS: A sorority ceremony in which a sister announces her receiving of a lavaliere, pin, or engagement ring from her boyfriend. Also known as a Candlelight.LAVALIERE: A necklace with the sorority letters, often worn by members. Lavaliering is a process where a fraternity member would give his lavaliere to his girlfriend, as a sign of a serious relationship. Depending on the campus, this can be equal to "pinning".DIRTY RUSHING: When one organization will attempt to influence a potential new member through gifts, bad mouthing other organizations etc.RUSH: See Recruitment. Rush is an outdated word that was replaced in 1999 by recruitment.Rush referred to the practice of fraternities "rushing" to the train station to meet the newest members of the freshman class of a college or university and pinning their fraternity colors on the freshmen to identify them as a potential member of that fraternity.We don't "rush" anymore.RECRUITMENT: The process where sororities and fraternities get new members. Potential new members tour each house, are invited to parties and choose the new members of their organization. The old term is rush, which is still used by the fraternities. The formal name is Formal Recruitment.

And some less formal terminology, usually used jokingly:

CHUBBIES (NOUN): extremely short shorts, often sported by fraternity men.

FRATIO (NOUN): The area adjacent to a frat castle (or home of a fratdaddy or fratdaddies) where the grilling of meats, boiling of crawfish, and consuming of frat water occurs.

FRAT CASTLE (NOUN): another word for fraternity house

JORTS (NOUN): jean shorts

NORTS (NOUN): Nike shorts

OBVI (ADVERB): short for obviously

FRACKET (NOUN): A frat not wear your nice winter coat to the fraternity house, take your fracket instead
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