Looking back a few years, I did not think highly of fraternities and sororities. However, once I entered college, I realized that I was wrong to do so. Movies and pop culture put an unnecessarily negative aura around Greek life. Before entering the University of Massachusetts and hearing positive and inspiring stories from my friends from other universities about the topic, I believed that sororities consisted of constant partying and acting in inappropriate ways. After meeting students in sororities and fraternities, my thoughts have changed. My involvement in Greek life is one of the best decisions I have made. The strong friendships I have made in my fraternity are going to last forever, and the connections with members from other schools are amazing. Participating in Greek life is a great way to network and gain connections, create strong friendships and form instant bonds between brothers,sisters, and alumni from chapters across the country.
Although Greek life is not prominent at UMass, those who are involved love the friends they have made and experiences they have participated in. On campus, there are seven social sororities, 14 social fraternities, one co-ed Honors fraternity, one co-ed community service fraternity, co-ed academic fraternities, the National Pan-Hellenic Councils, the nine historically African American fraternities and sororities, Multicultural Greek Council, Marching Band service organizations and music organizations.
If students are turned off by social Greek life, there are plenty of other options to consider. Phi Sigma Pi is a co-ed Honors fraternity which incorporates service, education, and fundraising, along with social activities. Alpha Phi Omega is a co-ed service fraternity with requirements for community service hours, providing a great way to bond with other members by doing these acts together.
Jake Coffin, current President of the UMass chapter of Phi Sigma Pi says, “As an initiate, if you are looking for help in the process, you have a Big Brother that will always be ready to lend a hand. With the friendships you will make with our brothers you won’t ever eat alone again, even if you wanted to. Beyond that, coming from all walks of life you will always have someone to relate to on some level.”
I think it is important to be involved in at least one organization on campus, whether it is Greek or not. At such a large school, you could easily feel lost among the 25,000 other students. There is more to college than the classes you take for the degree you plan to earn. Being a member of a club or extracurricular activity allows the large campus to feel smaller and allows you to find common interests you share with other students. I always see at least one or two people I know from the organizations I have joined in the crowd of unfamiliar faces on my way around campus.
Max Shuchman, a junior brother of Theta Chi discovered that Greek life “was a lot different than the media portrayed it. It is a community of people from all different backgrounds who share a common bond, brotherhood. It is about being there for each other, working together for a common goal, and being part of something bigger than [one]self.”
Samantha Weinstein, a junior transfer student and sister of Alpha Chi Omega agrees. “Honestly, rushing was one of the best decisions I made when first going to UMass. I met some great people and got a perspective on what type of people I would meet here,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn about yourself and try something new. Rushing takes a lot of time, but the time is worth it.”
The rushing process is different depending on the organization, but if you are worried about hazing, the most common word that seems to plague Greek life, you need not be. Under the UMass hazing policy, hazing is defined as “any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person.” Hazing is “a violation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts laws and University policies. Every national fraternity or sorority has banned hazing, and each chapter is obligated to comply with these regulations.”
That being said, rush, sometimes called recruitment, is about having fun, meeting members, and figuring out if the organization is right for you. There are different events to attend, information sessions and interviews. You can ask questions about anything from past and future events to the time commitment required.
If you make it past rush, you are up for initiation. Many students’ favorite part about the initiation process is receiving a Big Brother or Big Sister, commonly known as a Big. You then become their Little. These pairs are matched up based on similar interests and personalities. Your “family” in the fraternity or sorority consists of lines of Bigs and Littles who create a family tree.
Kimberlee Delchamp, a senior member of Sigma Alpha Iota, a women’s service fraternity for those highly interested in music says, “Students can benefit from rushing because of the lifelong friendships they will acquire from becoming a member. I’ve made some of my best friends through my fraternity. Always knowing someone has your back is the best. It’s great to watch how music can make a difference in the lives of the community around us. I think America puts a huge stereotype on Greek life. Instead of being this party club, it’s more personal and strong.”
Some events at UMass that Greek life is often involved in are UDance in the fall, a 12-hour dance marathon to raise money and awareness for BayState Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Mass., through Children’s Miracle Network. Additionally, Relay for Life, a night-long event to raise money for cancer through the American Cancer Society as well as Greek Week in the spring, where participating fraternities and sororities team up to compete in an Olympics-style competition. Sororities and fraternities each host their own events, as well.
So, now what do you think about Greek life?
Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.