Greek Life: What is it really like?

Over the past year, you have probably seen many news stories on fraternities and sororities throughout the country. It is also likely that most of those stories are negative.

But, can we conclude that these organizations are negative overall because of the news?

The news stories covering greeks this year have mainly focused on occurrences of hazing, sexual assault and discrimination. From the news, one wonders how these organizations are still in place. After all, if all they are doing is harm, then why are they allowed on campuses throughout the nation?

Well, we found that it isn’t quite as simple as most media outlets like to profess. In fact, if every member (approximately nine million nationally) of every one of the 123 organizations was committing sexual assault, hazing its new members or discriminating against other students once per week, that would be nearly 1.3 million occurrences daily. Obviously, that is not happening or it would be even more widely reported on.

When it comes down to what is causing specific chapters to haze, discriminate or assault, it becomes both their institution and national organization’s responsibility to regulate behavior and ensure that fraternity and sorority members uphold their organizations’ values — which do not under any circumstance tolerate these behaviors and crimes.

At UTampa, the institution has implemented procedures and policy to prevent hazing and discrimination, but hasn’t noticeably targeted the topic of sexual assault to date. This would be a good topic for UTampa to tackle in upcoming semesters as according to an MSNBC article, greek men are 300 percent more likely to commit sexual assault and sorority women are three times more likely to be raped. It’s clearly a problem within greek life, though these numbers likely vary from campus to campus, and should be addressed.

As for hazing, the university just had National Hazing Prevention Week on campus last week with speakers and activities that were mandatory for all chapters to attend. One speaker, Mindy Sopher, directly addressed this public perception.

She told the audience that when she was younger she would always put her greek affiliation on a resumé, but with the media coverage today, it is sometimes seen as a detriment to employers rather than an asset. Sopher told the audience that it is the responsibility of greek men and women to change this negative perception by not harming others and promoting their philanthropic service.

So, if media’s representation of greek life as a whole is inaccurate, then what’s it really like?

Greek life offers a lot to its members, many positive things and some negative. As for the positives, fraternities and sororities do offer a social aspect to college. It’s not all that different from joining student government or a sports team. Greek life offers a social setting for individuals that hold the same values. Most greek organizations have values such as sincere friendship and high academic goals. Take a look at our last post to see what the UTampa fraternities and sororities stand for.

Greek life also offers many leadership opportunities within its organizations for members to grow as leaders and improve skills such as public speaking. These leadership positions also require members to be responsible and offer students a taste of real world responsibilities and expectations.

Additionally, greek life allows for increased networking beyond the campus borders. Fraternity and sorority members can make connections with members from other chapters before or after graduation that could help members find jobs as well as other opportunities.

Another aspect of greek life is the philanthropic service and academic responsibility. All organizations have a philanthropy to raise money and awareness for through both on and off campus events. Nationally, greek organizations raise millions of dollars annually for varied charitable organizations. In addition to philanthropic service, members must maintain specific grade point averages. At UTampa, this number must be above the all-women’s and all-men’s average for the university.

So, greek men and women aren’t just there to party as the stereotype suggests.

However, there are some drawbacks to greek life. It can be costly, for one. Dues per semester are no cheaper than several hundred dollars and this money goes toward events, chapter necessities, national dues and other organizational costs. Money is an important factor to consider if thinking about joining a greek organization.

Secondly, a negative aspect of some greek organizations are the publicized topics of hazing, assault and discrimination. It clearly happens in some places at some chapters or it wouldn’t be in the news at all. However, it is important to recognize the aforementioned analysis that most organizations are well-regulated by their national organization as well as their institution. It is not happening everywhere, and greeks that uphold their organizations’ values want it to stop where it is occurring. The actions of one greek man or woman represent to the world that organization as a whole. That individual doesn’t stand alone, for better or for worse.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, greek life can be negative due to the negative stigma associated with it because of recent publicity. Nearly any member of greek life can tell you a story about someone they know being surprised or disappointed with them for joining a fraternity or sorority. This comes from the negative stereotypes associated with greek life.

So…what should I do?

Well, that’s up to you. Consider the organizations at your institution and look into the anti-hazing policies there. See what your university is doing to keep greek life on the path it was made for with the values it is based on. If you see a problem, whether you’re greek or not, report it to the university coordinator for fraternity and sorority life so that it can be remedied and the actions of a few won’t permanently blemish the reputation of all greeks.

At the end of the day, greek life may be for you and it may not be, but there’s no reason to perpetuate negative stereotypes about all greek life due to incidents that occurred within chapters that are not representative of their organization in the way that most others are.

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