The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Providing great opportunities for service and camaraderie.

By RuthAnne Frost

Next week, hundreds of students will walk from the Union building to 100 South to drink punch, make IV bags for Primary Children’s Hospital and ride mechanical bulls. Why? Because next week is formal recruitment for the greek system.

Fraternities and sororities have existed since the mid-1800s, and have continued to thrive through today. At the U, greek life has been present for nearly 100 years, dating back to 1908, when the Sigma Chi fraternity received its charter.

Perhaps as old as the history of the greek system itself are the stereotypes and stigmas that people have regarding greeks. In fact, many in today’s public eye are products of fraternities and sororities.

One can visit any national sorority or fraternity’s Web site to find the names of its famous alumni-Katie Couric, Ronald Reagan, Neil Armstrong and Michael Jordan are just a few. Career advisers will tell anyone the advantages of being able to list membership in a greek organization on his or her resume. Being greek is a lifelong experience, and alumni will often help new graduates find internships and careers, and ease their transitions into new jobs and cities.

Greek organizations are heavily involved in service activities. Every year, the greek community at the U hosts a Halloween party for the Neighborhood House, takes underprivileged kids to the zoo during Greek Week and organizes blood drives. The greek system also puts on an annual philanthropy week to raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

In addition to the all-greek philanthropy week, every individual sorority and fraternity on campus has a specific philanthropic cause that it raises money for during each semester. This money goes to many different causes, such as cancer research, advancing literacy and running battered women’s shelters. Last year alone, the greek community raised about $30,000 for various philanthropic organizations.

Academics are also a high priority for fraternities and sororities. Every chapter on campus has a minimum GPA requirement as well as officers in charge of academic development. Furthermore, scholarships are available to members who excel academically. Studies have shown that students involved in greek life are more pleased with their overall college experiences, earn higher grades while in college and graduate in higher numbers than non-affiliated students.

With such great opportunities available to members of a greek organization, why aren’t more people at the U involved in it? Probably because of common misconceptions many students hold about the greek system.

One of the most common complaints about greek life is that members are “only in it for the parties.” Obviously, greek life is about being social and making friendships, and parties are a part of that. However, if sororities and fraternities were only about getting smashed every weekend, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they have, and they certainly wouldn’t have produced alumni like Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As much as MTV would have us believe otherwise, greek life isn’t about hazing and pillow fights-it’s about making friends that will last a lifetime, gaining invaluable leadership experience and serving your community.

Some people would skeptically point out that the greeks are “buying their friends” with their dues. Lori McDonald, Assistant Dean of Students and the greek adviser, says this is just not the case. Dues go to operating a house, paying property taxes and insurance policies, providing meals, hosting formals and philanthropic events and sending officers to leadership conferences.

Often, undergraduates are hesitant about looking into recruitment because they are afraid of hazing, or not getting accepted into a chapter. The university has a strict no-hazing policy, as do the greek organizations themselves. Also, it is incredibly rare for a student to go all the way through recruitment week and not receive a bid from a chapter.

Another complaint about greek life is that it is only geared toward rich, white people. In reality, fraternities and sororities have officers that will work with their members in order to make membership feasible, regardless of their financial situation. Additionally, the average cost of living in a house on Greek Row is $185 a month for fraternities, and $350 a month (including meals) for sororities. The minimum cost of living in the dorms is about $3,633 per semester, and even more for off-campus apartments.

The belief that the greek system is only for whites has also been proven untrue. Sororities and fraternities look for religious, geographical and ethnic diversity in their members. Theta Nu Xi, a multicultural sorority on campus, will also be running their recruitment next week. As a sorority, Theta Nu Xi exists specifically to promote unity among different cultures.

The greek community upholds the same values that are also upheld by society generally-service, academics, leadership, diversity and lifelong friendship. Yet, it isn’t hard to find bad attitudes regarding the greek system. Members of fraternities and sororities are regularly labeled as “jocks,” “sluts,” “drunks” and “elitists”-and those are some of the nicer epithets.

The fact is, the university’s greek system is made up of a diverse group of individuals, and applying a label to people one doesn’t know is exactly the same as someone saying Asian women can’t drive, Jewish people are cheap, Catholics and Mormons all breed like rabbits, and every Southerner is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Such sentiments are offensive, and they make the speaker seem irrefutably ignorant.

The greek system is a huge asset to this university and its students, and yet less than 4 percent of the U’s students are actively involved, and only 300 men and women are expected to go through formal recruitment next week. At a large commuter school like the U, it is imperative for students to become actively involved in extracurricular activities if they are to get the most out of their college experience.

If greek life isn’t for you, then you should find something else to become involved with on campus. However, you’ll never know what is and isn’t for you if you don’t give it a try.

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