A Big Fat Greek Decision

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Greek life is a hugely popular aspect of college life and pop culture.

Revenge of the Nerds. The Skulls. Animal House. Legally Blonde. Sorority Boys. Little Sister. The Campus Corpse. Sorority Row (soon to be out in theatres). And one of my all-time favorite shows: Greek.

Due to movies, television, and popular belief... there are a lot of stereotypes attached to going Greek. Hazing rituals. Secret initiations. Beer-guzzling guys. Easy, ditzy girls. Wild parties. The list goes on and on. But while there may be truth attached to some stereotypes, it's important to look beyond the negative reputation of Greek life. Those stereotypes are not always true and there are many benefits to joining the Greek system.

I've received news and information regarding sororities and formal recruitment at Iowa State. Being that Greek is my weekly guilty pleasure (I can't wait for next season!) I heavily considered signing up for the formal recruitment this fall. I'll let you know my decision at the end of this post.

Here are three sources that helped me out a lot regarding my decision:

In her article "The pros and cons of going Greek" in Next Step Magazine, Liz Funk gave a balanced looks at both sides of the decision to join a fraternity or sorority.

The Pros:

~Lots of Networking Opportunities
"Many leaders have sprung from Greek organizations, including George W. Bush, Sheryl Crow and Katie Couric."

Many people have gotten jobs because of people they met in their fraternity or sorority, and many fraternities and sororities churn out leaders in business and politics."
~Close Friendships
"Because members of Greek groups spend a significant amount of time together, from making breakfast to sharing bedrooms, the bond that sisters and brothers make is often incredibly strong."

choose a sorority or fraternity based on your compatibility with other students, values and programming."
~Campus Involvement
"Fraternity parties and sorority fund-raisers tend to draw hundreds of students at campuses big on Greek life. Greek organizations also organize trips and formal dinner dances throughout the year."
The Cons:

~Employers May Not Care
"Involvement in a sorority or fraternity can be intensely time-consuming, especially if you are involved in a leadership position. So if your main goal is résumé building, you might be better off joining major-related activities."
~Money Matters
"At some schools, living in the fraternity or sorority house is cheaper than on-campus housing or your own off-campus apartment. But fraternity and sorority dues can neutralize the money saved by living in the house."
~Questionable Activities
"It is both a truth and a stereotype that sororities and fraternities are involved in more drinking, drug use, academic dishonesty and sex-related crimes."

Hazing is a dangerous (and illegal) activity. And campuses like Texas A&M, which Zuniga says has a “zero tolerance” policy for hazing, are cracking down on some of the more scandalous fraternity and sorority antics."
To read Liz Funk's full article on going Greek, click here.

Rochester City Newspaper featured Jessica Bakeman's article "Student Survival '08: The pros and cons to fraternity/sorority life." Here are some snippets from the article:
"...fraternity and sorority life isn't about the drinking and partying shown in the movie "Old School," or the shallow relationships exhibited in the TV series "GRΣΣK." It's about learning and leadership."

"It's really about... the personal development, the value-based action that students participate in and gain - creating communities and providing an opportunity for students to get involved."

"There are time commitments that may be too demanding for some students, and which could have a negative effect on a student's grades if time management isn't his or her particular skill."

"The most important advice for potential Greeks: do your research."

"There's usually a financial requirement that must be considered before you make any kind of commitment. Fraternity and sorority chapters support themselves by charging members dues."

"...hazing is not only what you might picture, such as students being pressured into chugging alcohol, for example. Some frats and sororities haze new members in a variety of other ways that may seem less harsh, or more subtle."

"Hazing ranges from new members being ignored or forced into performing meaningless or ridiculous activities, to actions that can cause physical or emotional harm, such as sleep deprivation or personal servitude."

To read Jessica Bakeman's full article on the choice to join a Greek system, click here.

This last source is actually a forum topic I came across on And You Will. Mary David listed her pros and cons of Greek Life.

The pros include networking, leadership skills, and a sense of belonging.
"As a member of a large group, you’ll have lots of opportunity to network. You’ll be able to find out about campus opportunities like job openings or events that your fellow members can give you the heads up on. This built-in network often extends beyond the college years and lead to future opportunities as well. You’ll also be able to learn valuable leadership skills that will help you to interact in various social situations and provide you with skills employers are looking for."

"By being in a group such as a fraternity or sorority, you'll find that you always have someone to grab a meal with or call when you're looking for something to do."

"The friends that you make in your Greek organization can last a lifetime; I've experienced this!"
The cons include cliques, costs involved, and group mentality.
"With any group, cliques are inevitable. These close-knit groups can exclude or ostracize others. Despite the fact that the sorority or fraternity is its own group, don’t fool yourself into thinking that everyone within its bounds will be best friends. These group dynamics can be stressful and cause pain."

It does cost money to be a part of a Greek organization. There are usually annual membership costs or dues. Certain attire will be required for events like initiation or Greek Sing. And don’t forget about the formals. While it's tons of fun to get dressed up, travel to a destination, and stay in a hotel, it can be very expensive."

If you have a strong personality and value individuality, Greek life may not be for you. It can be hard to conform to some aspects of being in a sorority or fraternity, like pledging or the various rituals involved. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy being a member of one of these organizations, but it’s important to know that these dynamics do exist."
To see the rest of Mary David's opinion on Greek life, click here.

And now for my decision...

I thought a lot about what I want out of my college experience and visited the Greek page of ISU's website several times. I've ultimately decided that (as much as I enjoy watching Greek) joining a sorority isn't for me. My reasons:
  1. The time commitment really scares me away. I'm going to have a very full class schedule with lots of homework. I also want/need to make time to have a job. (Gotta keep the money comin' in somehow.) School and work will keep me busy enough. I'm a person who really cherishes alone time so that I can read and write. Furthermore, I'd like to find a way to get involved in some theatre while at ISU. Rehearsals are super demanding and time-consuming. Even I'd have one heck of a social life as a sorority girl, I don't think it's worth sacrificing my personal life.
  2. The financial obligation isn't that appealing. Tuition, books, transportation, room & board, and living expenses add up fast. College is expensive enough as it is without having to add on sorority dues. I plan on having a job while in school to make a little extra cash, but I think that cash will be better spent on groceries, school supplies, or personal things (like a little shopping trip or night on the town) than dished out to the Greek system.
  3. I don't want to live in a sorority house. Those big, gorgeous, often historic homes that Greeks get to call home... yes, the very site of them makes me giddy with decor ideas and "If Walls Could Talk Episodes". But it stops there. Nothing about living with a houseful of all girls, sleeping in a cold-air, and the other perks of such residence appeals to me. I'm much happier with my own room in a residence hall... or maybe an apartment down the road. And while I realize that it's not always required to live in the sorority house, I think that's an important aspect of Greek life that would be missed out on. If you're not gonna live there, why join in the first place?
So there will be no Greek life for me... except on ABC Family Monday nights. ;)

Good luck with your big, fat, Greek decisions! Make sure to research your university and access your personal values and goals when it comes to making the choice.


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