Approximately nine million students and alumni are members of fraternities and sororities in North America. Roughly 750,000 of those members currently belong to an undergraduate fraternity or sorority chapter, yet there is much debate on whether Greek life should remain a part of the college tradition.
As a current member of Tri Delta at Southern Methodist University, I can speak to the benefits Greek life has offered me, particularly when it comes to belonging. As one of the first people in my family to belong to a Greek organization, I joined because of what I heard from other friends and alumni. It was said many times, “my time in greek life gave me some of my best memories.” I lacked a great group of friends in high school, so I was very intrigued by the fact that I could soon have 40 best girl friends from around the country.
Being so far from my family, it was important to me to find somewhere else I could call home. There is a huge loneliness epidemic on college campuses. Although we are all connected through social media now more than ever, there is still this feeling that no one is truly invested in what is going on in your life past how your weekend went. I was nervous that at times when I needed a support system, would I feel alone? Being a part of a sorority with girls of similar values and unique perspectives was very comforting to me. Moreover, as young adults, we put on such a mask when we post on social media platforms. It is all about who has the fancier clothes, who goes on the best vacations, and so on. Since technology is making it so much easier to be someone you aren’t, girls and boys are finding it harder and harder to show their truest selves to the people in their lives.
Being a part of Tri Delt has allowed me to be exactly who I am. It has given me the opportunity to share my opinions, life desires, and family stories with no judgement from anyone. I know walking into that house that I can have a genuine conversation with anyone. A sense of belonging was exemplified by the weekly Monday night chapter dinners, the several philanthropy events for St. Jude, the pep rallies and gatherings before football games, the mixers with fraternities on campus, and parents weekend extravaganzas. On top of that, the recruitment process created such a strong bond between my friends and me. We spent days organizing and practicing walk throughs of rush week. The laughs I will get from acting out the infamous dog pile and chant that we were required to perform for hours a day will be a great party story in my adult life.
I have watched as the shy boy, the football player, and the funny guy down the hall from me all arrive back from their chosen fraternities with a swagger in their step. It brings me great joy to watch as the years progress how belonging creates confidence in every facet of a person’s development. Fraternities and sororities push a person for excellence in fields such as academics, sports, music and philanthropy. As we mature past our desires to only please our parents we begin to want to make our fellow members proud. Wearing your fraternity and sorority gear around campus and back home gives you a sense of pride and belonging. You may connect with a stranger who belongs to the same chapter as you wearing your Greek letters in a different state- a sense of belonging on a national level.
Belonging, commitment, and striving for excellence are all things I had hoped for myself.
In the past few weeks, I have been so heartbroken and lost without my sisters in Dallas. During this arduous time, mental health is certainly at risk. College kids survive off social interaction whether it be in the dining hall, the dorm, in accounting class or at Starbucks in the student center. This quarantine is like taking a fish out of water. I cannot wait to reunite with everyone come the Fall.
I am not ignorant to the fact that Greek life can live up to its negative reputation. There have been cases of binge-drinking gone wrong and hazing. It can also appear that Greek life is based on socio-economic status, race, and gender. Yet most colleges and universities work hard to make sure that each fraternity and sorority is maintaining the ideals and principles set forth by their founders and aiding in the personal and professional development of its members.
Instead of putting the gauntlet down on all sororities and fraternities, we should examine the original intent of these organizations. They are places where kids can create meaningful relationships, support one another, become and grow as leaders, learn networking and professional skills and discover the importance of community service. Most importantly, they are a place where kids can feel like they have a purpose and a strong sense of belonging.
I hope we can all turn our focus to the positive benefits of Greek life and put it at the forefront of why these organizations are so important for many students across America especially in these unnerving times.