Alpha to Omega: Greek Life Explained

Greek life does not deserve the reputation it often receives.

Daily News

It’s been the best of times and the craziest of times. I am, of course, talking about Greek life. Ball State University is on the cusp of Greek recruitment as today marks the first day of sorority recruitment and Monday marks the first day of fraternity recruitment. Greek life is one of the most misunderstood things on a college campus. Before rushing, I thought the Greek community was something like the movie “Animal House.” But since becoming a Greek member, I believe it’s one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. So, to help set the record straight, I address the benefits of joining Greek life. One of the biggest benefits of Greek life is the lifelong friendships you create by being a member. Some say going Greek is just a way to pay for your friends, but true friendship cannot be purchased, and true friendship is what Greek life offers. Some of my fellow fraternity members are people I know I can call at 2 a.m. and they would drop everything to help with a project or be there to talk to. Some will be my groomsmen at my wedding. In essence, they’re my extended family. Part of what creates these friendships is something known as ritual. Ritual is unique to each Greek organization and is highly respected and guarded. The best way I know how to describe ritual is as a collection of ceremonies that teach the values of each Greek organization to its members. It connects you to something bigger than yourself. And no, it’s nothing like a cult. There is also the less serious side of Greek life, including intramural competitions and numerous socials and formals between chapters on campus that brings members of those chapters together. And yes, some of these socials are parties that include alcohol, but Greek organizations are far safer than some people may lead you to believe. Each chapter must follow risk management policies as laid out by its headquarters, Ball State and the state of Indiana. Greek life is also beneficial if you’re looking for something to build your résumé. The number of people in the workforce who are Greek is huge. Networking with other Greeks may help you land a job. Every Greek organization has a GPA requirement to join and to remain a member. This pushes you to perform academically. The Greek community’s GPA has been higher than the general Ball State GPA every semester I have been a member and likely much longer. In addition, many Greek organizations offer member development. These can range from courses in self-defense to personal budgeting and finance, to résumé creation and CPR certification. In addition to membership development, Greek organizations offer leadership programs and opportunities. They’re similar to many types of companies in the real world and holding a position within a Greek organization can help you in a similar position later in life. Greek organizations also provide a great service to the community. Chapters donate hundreds of hours of their time to community service. Many also run their own philanthropies to raise thousands of dollars for a variety of worthy causes. There are some tough aspects to Greek life, however. One is the constant judgment you face in your daily actions. When you do something stupid or break a law, you aren’t hurting simply your own reputation, but that of your entire chapter. One member can damage the entire group. I thought this was a massive responsibility when I first joined, but I learned it makes me a better person. On many occasions I have stopped myself from making a questionable decision because I knew it would affect my brothers as well. Another tough aspect to Greek life is the instant label that some uninformed people put on you. Some people only associate Greek life with massive parties and hooking up, which isn’t the case. As with joining any organization, there is a time commitment. However, the additional meetings and events that one must attend are with fellow members, so there’s a great social aspect to the time commitment. Also, as with some organizations, there is a financial obligation. As I mentioned earlier, some say that going Greek is just a way to pay for your friends. This isn’t what that money is going toward. It’s paying for the chapter house and to participate in Greek-wide activities and act as part of the overall organization. Lastly, some believe that Greek life promotes cliques and rivalries. While I’m sure cliques exist in some chapters and I certainly do agree rivalries among chapters can sometimes go over the top, I don’t think it’s a major deterrent towards going Greek. Part of what drives me to say this is that I have seen firsthand that when something tragic happens in the Greek community, all rivalries and all cliques disband and everyone comes together. We come together because we’re part of something larger than ourselves. We’re part of Greek life, and in the end, we’re one big family. This column was originally published in the Daily News at Ball State University. Please send comments to [email protected]