University greeks say what you see is not what you get

IBy Benjamin Post It’s not all beer bashes and toga parties.

But movies and television shows such as “Animal House” and MTV’s “Fraternity Life” and “Sorority Life” continue to promote negative stereotypes of greek life, said Jen Duerre, president of the University’s Panhellenic Council.

“The Hollywood stereotypes are some of the biggest problems facing the greek system today,” Duerre said.

While University greek leaders say the stereotypes overshadow their organizations’ service to the community, other students say these images might be more reflective of greek life at the University than leaders admit.

Fraternities and sororities participate in philanthropic activities that raise thousands of dollars for charities, said Interfraternity Council president John Kokkinen, but negative stereotypes sometimes prevent other students from realizing that.

“(It is) truly disappointing that the outside community doesn’t see all of the good things that we do,” he said.

For example, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity annually contributes thousands of dollars to the Children’s Home Society, fraternity president Kit Myers said.

First-year student Rachel Ward said the media has influenced her view of greek life.

“All that I know about the greek system at this point is what I see in the media, and that is they party all the time,” Ward said.

She would never join a sorority, Ward said, because she could not see herself living with so many girls in one house.

University economics and mathematics senior Ben Hood joined a fraternity his first year but quit soon after. The greek system is right for some people, but it was too expensive for him, Hood said.

He agreed that the biggest problem facing the greek system today is a perception that its members drink too much, Hood said.

“The outsiders see one girl getting really drunk or a guy womanizing and assume that that is what all the members are like,” Hood said. “It is unfortunate that the non-greeks don’t see the fraternity member that is up in his room studying or the sorority member that is home studying or watching a movie.”

The numerous social events in which greeks participate give them more opportunities to drink than other college students, he said, but usually it is a small number of members that make others look bad.

A 2001 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study showed that fraternity members were more likely to engage in heavy drinking than nonmembers – 75.1 percent versus 48.6 percent. Sorority members were also more likely to engage in heavy drinking than women not in sororities, 62.4 percent versus 40.9 percent.

Although Myers said greeks have more opportunities than non-greeks to consume alcohol, he did not think the numbers in the study were accurate for University greeks.

“The members who fit these stereotypes are few and far and unfortunately do exist,” Myers said.

Benjamin Post is a freelance writer.

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