Aegean to Appleton: Being A Greek

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Confessedly, when people first told me of the existence of “Greek Life” in American universities, I rejoiced! I imagined that this term was used to describe spontaneous emotional dancing, eating Greek salad on a daily basis, and reading one of Plato’s opuses. When I arrived here at Lawrence University, only one of my expectations was fulfilled — thanks to the Freshman Studies program, of course. Apparently, the term “Greek Life” is used to describe the system of fraternity and sorority chapters located on a university’s campus. Initially, I was quite suspicious of Greek organizations; as a European, the only source of information I had about them came from references in the media and throughout popular culture. After acquainting myself with the Greek Life culture here at Lawrence and eventually becoming a fraternity member myself, I realized how erroneous the representation of the Greek Life system is in mainstream media.

In my experience, there are three basic arguments which represent the opposition to Greek Life culture. Firstly, many people believe that members of a given Greek organization do not branch out beyond their social circle. Secondly, another grave generalization used against members of Greek Life is that they are notorious partiers. Finally, numerous people are convinced that Greek Life is not taken seriously in the professional world. These represent the three main stereotypes that drive arguments against Greek Life culture. Having had first-hand experience as a member of a fraternity, I can confidently say that each of these perceptions are false.

I would take on the refutation of these conceptions in reverse order. Being a member of a Greek organization can actually help bolster one’s resume when entering the workforce. According to the George Washington University’s Greek life database, more than nine million people nationally are members of Greek organizations. This means that there is a rich network of individuals with whom a member of a fraternity or a sorority can connect, thereby placing Greeks at a more advantageous position compared to the competition. Also, due to the high expectations of companies today, experience in philanthropy and extracurricular work is a quality that is greatly appreciated by potential employers.

As a member of a Greek organization, one is obliged to go through several trials related to work in philanthropy, academic excellence and even the completion job applications. This also invalidates the second argument against Greek Life; partying may be a very important part of being in a fraternity or a sorority, but it is not the main concern of these groups. Each of these organizations has an official code of conduct according to which all members are obliged to behave in a manner that is respectful to both the organization’s values and the rest of society. Being involved in such an organization also provides opportunities to make a difference as an active member of both campus and Greek life. Through brotherly and sisterly love, members of Greek Life bolster each other’s academic performance and encourage each member to be a leader in their circles.

Admittedly, the reputation of the Greek Life system is often blackened by individual instances of impudence and recklessness. Nevertheless, generalizations against Greek organizations are quite unbecoming, given the goals of the latter. Personally, joining a fraternity has helped me improve my social skills and excel in areas of organization and planning, whilst also providing me with opportunities to give back to the local community.