The initial weeks on a new college campus are tough. For an undergraduate student living in Lincoln for the first time, everything is new, strange and lonely. Finding a place where you belong seems like the dream: living, eating and dwelling within a perfect-match community of well-rounded ladies or gents. This is part of the allure of Greek life.
Supporters of Greek life tout connections, success and lifelong friendships — as long as you are accepted and can shell out thousands of dollars. Let’s not kid ourselves. All of the benefits Greek life claims to offer are not hard to find and don’t require strict rules or a hefty price tag. Although there are many wonderful individuals in this community, the Greek system in general is toxic because it upholds outdated patriarchal and elitist values, the exact opposite of what is needed on a college campus.
It is already well-known that the UNL Greek community has issues with partying, hazing and alcohol. It’s not new information so this point won’t be expanded, but it is yet another negative aspect of Greek life that needs to be considered.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life community values webpage claims the groups promote higher GPAs, successful alumni, leadership opportunities and socialization. Their members are high-quality people, which seems to imply that others can be just as awesome if they’re part of the community. However, the Greek system’s self-praise of cranking out individuals who hit stereotypical success indicators is a question of correlation versus causation. There’s no way of knowing if the selected individuals could have achieved greatness without them.
Exclusiveness is one of the most compelling factors of joining Greek life. Essentially, they are the country clubs of college campuses. Fraternity and sorority members don’t even make up one fourth of undergraduate students, according to fall 2017 data from the Interfraternity Council and the UNL Fact Book, and they are very selective of the individuals invited to join their houses.
Of course, they are going to pick already well-rounded and high-achieving individuals, or at the very least those with potential. If the Greek community truly wanted to prove it helps people become more successful, it should pick a sample of comparable non-Greeks and track their progress throughout their undergraduate years.
The selectivity of the Greek community and its recruitment processes naturally causes homogeneity. It’s a scientific fact that people favor others who are most like them in looks, values and other qualities. The Greek community is a textbook scenario of this. Despite any claims fraternities and sororities may make about being diverse, the numbers say otherwise. According to their 2015-16 assessment, Greek houses, including multicultural fraternities and sororities, were less ethnically diverse than the total UNL population, as reported by the university’s Fact Book for the same year.
One actual benefit of the Greek community worth keeping is multicultural fraternities and sororities. These organizations are advantageous to someone who may feel like they are without a community, even as a part of the vast undergraduate population. Multicultural fraternities and sororities can be that community. These societies can be places for mentorship and empowerment. These groups are the exception to the rule, as the opportunities they offer t to their members are truly worthwhile and consistent with university values of support, equity and diversity.
Success is definitely attainable for the majority of students who are not involved in Greek life. There are many resources and opportunities available to become engaged in community service, excel in academics and make connections. I am in my last semester of college and am just one example of someone who has found community and success without a sorority. I made friends with people in my residence hall, joined clubs and organizations and followed my passions, all while making connections with a variety of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
I also spent almost nothing extra to achieve my success.
Philanthropy, friendship and support are all good things, but even these cannot outweigh an exclusive, stringent structure that is most beneficial to those who are already privileged. It's not hard to see that the college experience dream of Greek life is really a societal nightmare.