The statement that Greek Life in American colleges and universities merely consists of drinking sessions and parties is nothing but an unfounded assertion. Similarly, the claim that students who join fraternities and sororities should expect to see their GPAs start sliding down has never been sufficiently supported by factual information. In other words, these are false conclusions which cause great and unnecessary harm to the members of the Greek communities in the country’s colleges and universities.
These misconceptions have forced some fraternity and sorority members all over the country to go up in arms against what they consider to be a case of discrimination being hurled against them. The truth of the matter, according to them, is that while members of fraternities and sororities have “their fair share of drinking and partying,” they also engage in more noble activities like doing charitable work, performing community services, and looking after the academic well-being of students in their respective schools.
This was the substance of the article written by Andrea Cortland entitled “Paying for friends” which was published in the February 9, 2005 issue of the Daily Targum. A student of Rutgers College, Cortland (2005) acknowledged in her article that Greeks in her school indeed “drink and party. ” However, she pointed out that non-Greek students also indulge in the same activities, explaining that drinking and partying are common modes of relaxation among college students not only at Rutgers but elsewhere in the country.
She lamented the fact that people tend to be biased against fraternity and sorority members because of their greater visibility, claiming that “it’s easier to identify members of a group than isolated individuals” (Cortland, 2005). In an effort to plead the case of the Greeks at Rutgers, she pointed out that all fraternities and sororities recognized by the college were charged to engage in community service and philanthropic work as a condition for legitimacy.
For instance, Sigma Chi fraternity has been raising funds for The Children’s Miracle Network by holding an annual event dubbed the Derby Days. For this project, Sigma Chi enlisted the help of six other sororities and in 2003 alone, managed to donate $30,000 to the network. Another collaborative project organized by Greek organizations at Rutgers is the annual Dance Marathon, considered to be the biggest philanthropic event run by students in the state of New Jersey, the beneficiaries of which are needy families in the area (Cortland, 2005).
On top of their commitment to philanthropic activities, the fraternities and sororities at Rutgers College are also involved in improving the academic performance of students. For example, it has been their practice to conduct study hours for their incoming members every pledging period – a tradition which has been observed to result to higher grades for their pledges. Aside from offering scholarships and academic performance awards to qualified students, many Greeks have, as a matter of fact, high Grade Point Averages (GPAs).
The misconception about Greek life being a cause for low GPAs is therefore repudiated by these evidences (Cortland, 2005). Aside from their philanthropic work, their involvement in community services, and their interest in the academic well-being of students at Rutgers, Greek letter organizations also serve as training grounds for future leaders of the country. Opportunities for leadership positions are available to members of fraternities and sororities within their local chapters, the “Interfraternity Council [at Rutgers] or the National Panhellenic Council.
In addition, the prospect of attending conferences on the national level is always present for interested Greeks, thereby enhancing their leadership qualities as well as their public relations skills (Cortland, 2005). To further prove her point, Cortland (2005) made it a point to mention the fact that out of the 47 justices who made it to the Supreme between 1910 and 2005, 40 were fraternity men. She also declared that since Greek letter fraternities made their first appearance in American campuses, only two elected American Presidents and two Vice-Presidents were not fraternity men; and that famous personalities such as the Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Generals George C. Marshall and George S. Patton, Nelson Mandela, and Toni Morrison, to mention only a few, are all Greeks. All these are in fact only some of the benefits of being Greek. According to her, the most rewarding feature of Greek life is the “brotherhood or sisterhood” accorded to the members which they cherish as long as they live. After having said all these, Andrea took exception to the claim of some people at Rutgers that to be a Greek is to “pay for friends.
She pointed out that members of student fraternities and sororities spend only about 2% of their personal budgets for their monthly dues. If ever they make voluntary contributions, these are for the purpose of improving their organizations and enhance their capabilities to engage in community service and provide for academic scholarships (Cortland, 2005). Looking at the issue on a broader perspective, the claims made by Cortland appears to be corroborated by events in other colleges and universities elsewhere in the country.
Over in Iowa, the Greek community of Iowa State University (ISU) have also been emphasizing on academic performance. Some fraternity houses even have educational programs which are aimed at assisting new students as they go through their period of transition into college work. For instance, the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity has been conducting “The Collegiate Success Program” which is aimed at teaching students adopt “smart study habits. ” Greek students are also trying their best to maintain study hours and attain good grade point averages. Philanthropic work likewise occupies much of their time.
During the fall of 1998 for instance, fraternities and sororities at ISU “contributed 19,080 hours to philanthropic events and donated $15,790 to charity. ” The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity also takes time to make its members aware of the evils of alcohol through a program of the Prevention Research Institute called PRIME (Pike, n. d. ). Kelly Jo Karnes, Associate Director of the Division of Student Affairs at the Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia, wrote a letter addressed to the parents of new students explaining the advantages of their children’s joining fraternities and sororities while at the university.
According to her, aside from friendship, academic support, opportunities of involvement in non-academic activities, the Greek community could provide their children a “home away from home. ” As she urged parents to allow their children to join fraternities and sororities, she explained that the student leaders of the university, their leading athletes and scholars and the most successful alumni of ODU belong to Greek letter organizations (Karnes, 2006)
In Adrian, Michigan, fraternities and sororities are enjoying good membership at Adrian College where approximately 25 percent of students belong to Greek letter organizations. Membership in these organizations is widely perceived as enhancing the college experience of students at the college. The Greek chapters at the college, which are all affiliated with national organizations, are giving priority to philanthropic activities and community service, aside from the emphasis that they give to scholarship.
The fraternities and sororities at Adrian College require their members and would-be members to meet certain grade point average (Adrian College, 2005). At the University of Western Ontario (UWO) in Canada, Lindsay Satterthwaite, writing for the UWO Gazette, listed down the following advantages of joining fraternities and sororities:
1. Philanthropy projects are events in which the Greek community, as a whole or as individual chapters, donate their time and efforts to raise funds for a worthwhile cause. Some events include Derby Days, Mr. Greek and Greek Games. 2. The Greek community is dedicated to providing leadership opportunities to its members. Members have the opportunity to assume a wide spectrum of leadership roles including president, VP-finance and rush chairperson. This environment offers unique opportunities for individuals to achieve their leadership potential.
3. Academic achievement is the first and foremost priority of Greek members. Each fraternity and sorority places strong emphasis on creating an atmosphere conducive to high academic performance. A scholarship plaque is awarded to the chapter with the highest average on campus annually. The Order of Omega is also a recognized scholarship program implemented to honour high achieving Greek members. 4. Fraternities and sororities also provide balanced social programs for members including formals, date nights, grab-a-date, Greek Week and various parties with other fraternities and sororities. The most important goal of every chapter is to bring together a group of men or women and teach them values, traditions and honour while building close friendships (Satterthwaite, 2001).
In 2003, a new publication was inaugurated solely for the purpose of dealing with these misconceptions concerning fraternities and sororities. Aptly named Greek Life, its main objective was to cleanse the Greek communities all over the country of the negative impressions that other people have of them. Greg Woodman, Chief Executive Officer of Pennsylvania-based Affinity Connection which publishes Greek Life, said that “The beliefs most people have about fraternities and sororities [are] highly inaccurate.
Our publication paints a more authentic picture of what really goes on within these organizations and focuses on the outstanding benefits of belonging to such a group. ” Woodman explained that Greek-lettered organizations have been doing their members and the communities where they operate tremendous amount of service by teaching “leadership, responsibility, integrity, honesty, and dedication to academics. ” He explained that with Greek Life, which would be published once every year, an honest effort aimed at correcting the prevailing misconceptions about fraternities and sororities would be attempted (Greek Life, 2003).