IT’S EASY TO SPOT THEM walking around campus, with their distinctive letters printed on bags and shirts. The symbols mean only one thing: greek.
While greek life is a major part of many universities around the country, where one’s affiliation is one’s social life, greek life at UM, while still a major presence, does not have the same draw. The University of Miami boasts its 30 fraternities and sororities as examples of campus leaders, philanthropic events, scholarship, and camaraderie, but to those not affiliated with a greek organization, it can seem like another world, and the members, like representatives for the No-Individuality-Club-of-America.
Because of the stereotypical ideas that Hollywood has created, many people are under the impression that fraternity and sorority life is akin to Animal House, Old School, and Legally Blonde: binge drinking, easy girls, and dumb jocks with complete disregard for academics and the community.
So what do people on our campus think of when they see the foreign letters and matching shirts? Some students still see the blonde girls walking in packs throughout campus and think, “Uh! Here come the perfect sorority girls.” They’ve got the big designer sunglasses and advertise the latest trends in Juicy, Prada, Chanel and Marc Jacobs. They sport perfected tans as if they live on a perennial beach without a care in the world. And then there are the equally cookie-cutter frat guys, sun-kissed and sculpted with an affinity for hair gel and “sorority skanks” (read: YouTube’s infamous “My New Haircut”). And I can’t say that I was any different. But what did I really know about greeks? In reality, nothing. But, like many other non-greeks, I thought I knew all about them.
Although some students on campus admit to never really thinking about fraternities and sororities as a whole, those who did had an overwhelming amount of negative things to say. Sophomore Lauren Levy described greek life as, “Hot-ass beer drinking guys and skinny gorgeous hot-ass chicks who are either really smart or ‘like ohmygod!’.” Others students used words like “time-consuming”, and “forced-conformity” to describe fraternities and sororities.
BUT THE REVIEWS ARE MIXED, because some see the letters as a status symbol and a way of impressing others. Like it or not, members of the greek community are respected among administration and employers alike; greeks hold 85% of the student leadership positions on campus, represent a majority in student government, President’s 100, and are in 24 different campus honor societies. A commitment to a greek organization indicates time-management skills, compatibility in group settings, and social awareness, with a strong G.P.A. to boot.
While the facts speak for themselves, it is the image carried with these organizations that is more commonly understood at the undergraduate level, and it is the greeks themselves who have a keen awareness of the stigmas with which they are associated. Joe Fasullo, a senior and former president of Sigma Chi fraternity, knows that fraternity guys may be seen as arrogant and rich, and that greeks are simply buying their friends; and while it is true that costly dues can’t be overlooked, participation is one of the best avenues for getting involved. Holding a position within the organization creates connections, opportunities and invaluable skills that can be improved among a group of close friends, rather than the scary, unforgiving public.
Kelly Bree, former President of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, is a Bio-Chemistry major with dreams in the medical profession, and can boast that her sorority’s overall GPA was higher than that of the average un-affiliated woman on campus. Admitting that while “some girls do fit the stereotype to a ‘T’,” in a group of upwards of 120 girls, it is ridiculous to think they could be all the same. After all, it is for reasons of personality and compatibility that any of us choose friends, greeks just do it bigger. When Kelly was questioned about scandalous parties and the previously mentioned stereotypes, she quickly responded, “obviously that is not what greek life is about, or I wouldn’t be president.”
Rachel Spangenthal is a junior Broadcast Journalism major. She plays intramural soccer, is an anchor for UM TV show News Vision and is part of the Dean’s Circle in the School of Communication. This year she decided to join Delta Phi Epsilon. She had always wanted to join a sorority but felt she could not afford the dues, which can be pretty steep (some as high as $500+ per semester, more if you live in a house, which is only available to a few fraternities). “I never thought [a sorority] could be that good,” says Rachel, but recruitment showed her that these girls were genuine, rather than superficial as she had previously thought. For Rachel, meeting and becoming friends with the diverse group of people that make up Delta Phi Epsilon has been completely worth it, and she has gotten even more involved by working in sorority functions.
LET’S NOT FORGET that part of the cash shelled out for dues each semester does in fact budget for the social events that make greeks notorious for theme parties (Office Boys and Intern Toys anyone?). But at these events, alcohol is more strictly regulated than at any bar, club, or house party, and violations could result in Dean-sanctioned social probation, keeping these dolled-up party animals on their best behavior. Fasullo admits, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time,” but knows that there is much more to greek life than just partying.
It is interesting to see that most people don’t really know that much about greek life, and how UM greek life is different than at other schools. Many of the greek organizations at UM do not have a house, which is traditionally a big part of the organization and where many of the Hollywood stereotypes are derived from.
Because many of the fraternities and sororities do not have houses, they create a brotherhood and sisterhood through meetings and events, crafting genuine, lasting friendships, and through being involved in their community and school. Yet that is not the image the student body has of greek life, if they even care enough to have one. Many people came to school with a preconceived idea of what sororities and fraternities were like, and decided that they were not interested in ever giving them a chance.
When it comes to disproving stereotypes about greek life, there are only so many stories and statistics you can list, but Kappa Sigma fraternity president, Michael Bookman, put it best saying, “you can’t really know something until you try it”—greek life is really what you make of it as an individual. It can simply be a social outlet, or the best decision of your college career. It can be a way to meet people and get involved, or a waste of four years drinking and skipping class. But, let’s face the facts, you don’t need greek letters on your shirt to do that.<<