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is Sarah Buckley. I am currently a freshman nursing major enrolled at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. However, I am also a member of the Chi Omega Sorority here on campus. Greek Life—I know what you must be thinking. Greek Life at any University across the country is full of girls who are always peppy and tan and boys who haze pledges, drink beer all day, and wear cut off tee shirts. However, there is more to Greek Life than what you see on television and read about in magazines. I am writing to you today to tell you about the Greek Life that you are not used to; the Greek Life that is about building character, leadership, and preserving a brotherhood and a sisterhood. Social fraternities and sororities create smaller communities within that larger university environment and are committed to the basic principles of membership: academic achievement, service and philanthropy, leadership, brotherhood and sisterhood, social, and alumni involvement. There are many benefits that come with becoming a Greek. One just needs to overlook the nasty stereotypes that the media has given to these houses. I do not expect to dramatically change your mind about stereotypes of Greek Life; however, I do ask that you keep an open mind while reading this letter. First I will start by giving you a brief history of Greek Life. The first fraternity appeared at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia in 1776, the same year that the United States signed the Declaration of Independence and gained independence from the British Empire. This fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, created a men’s club that offered camaraderie, secrecy,
Buckley 2 and intellectual discussion for the members (DeSantis 3). Throughout the next century, different fraternities and sororities were created across the country. Contrary to popular belief these fraternities were considered valuable to campus life and proved to be some of the best students. According to Alan D. DeSantis, the author of Inside Greek U., during this time Greeks were considered to be “valuable adjuncts of student life and , instead of opposing then, most institutions decided that they might be out to work helping the school, keeping recalcitrant students in line, acting as convenient units of discipline in college” (DeSantis 4). However, all fraternities and sororities experienced a period of dramatic revolution in the second half of the twentieth century. When World War II ended in 1945 along with the economic and baby boom that proceeded, record numbers of men and women started to attend colleges across the country as well as pledging Greek organizations. The older organizations that brought “members together for conversation and camaraderie” were transformed into social clubs dedicated to amusement for which they are known for today (DeSantis 5). So you may ask yourself, how can you defend a group of students who have such a bad reputation? Well it only takes a few bad apples to spoil a bunch. While there may be many students who live up to the typical Greek Life stereotypes, there are twice as many exceptions that represent the Greek community well. Even though Greeks make up 8.5 percent of college students in America, they yield from among their ranks many American leaders. According to the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity, Greek alumni make up many of the elite positions of today’s society. For example, 76 percent of U.S. Senators were Greeks while attending college. As well as 85% of the Fortune 500 executives, 120 of the Forbe’s CEOS, 85% of the U.S. Supreme Court justices since 1910, and 18 U.S. presidents since 1877 were all Greeks (DeSantis 5). If some of our leaders in today’s world were once Greek, then Greek life
Buckley 3 cannot be all that bad. In fact, while being a Greek in college can actually give students exposure to many leadership opportunities. Each house usually elects a president, vice president, and a governing board. Fraternities and sororities allow elected students to develop leadership skills and apply them in practical situations through chapter participation and campus involvement (Cohen 142). As college professors, you goal is to prepare your students to become active members of society and to possess leadership qualities. Then how could you disapprove of an organization that helps you do your job? Sororities and fraternities help active members of society as well as leaders through executive positions and responsibilities that each member of Greek Life is required to have. Not only do Greek communities across the country produce fantastic leaders in society, they produce an extensive alumni network for its members. Alumni organizations help students network for potential employment opportunities after graduation and keep in touch through newsletters, meetings, and alumni events (www.greeks.psu.edu/). There are millions of Greek alumni in the country and every spring those numbers are improved by approximately 200,000 graduating seniors. Given that fact, it is inevitable that you find other Greek alumni among our communities as neighbors, teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses, and school board representatives (DeSantis 9). Graduating with Greek letters on your resume can actually do more for you than you think; it can help you make connections with many people especially in a potential job interview. To continue, as a college professor you can only hope that your students graduate to become successful in their majors and in their professional lives. While on campus you encourage your students to make connections with you and with other professors in order to further their resumes and bolster their network of connections. Greek Life can help take your students to the next level and increase their network of connections significantly.
Buckley 4 Although Greek life has the stereotype of being the scourge of campus, Greek communities do a good job in bolstering many college transcripts by helping to foster excellent grades but also in adding many extracurricular activities. A major goal of the fraternity and sorority community is to encourage and assist their members in academic (Cohen 142). Each chapter across the country works with its individual college or university to create academic goals. Each house before they even offer you a bid look at a student’s GPA. Sometimes if a student’s GPA is not high enough they will be denied a spot in the house. Each house has its own GPA requirement, some are higher than others. Once you are a part of a chapter a member is expected to maintain that same GPA and are given many tools and resources to make that GPA even higher (www.greeks.psu.edu/). For example, at my sorority here on campus, we have a program called “Tutors for Hoots”. In this program sisters are encouraged to tutor other sisters who are struggling in some classes. This way, students get help from more experienced students who have already taken the class. This program has proved itself to be very successful at Chi Omega; our GPA average is a 3.2 and last semester five of our members achieved a 4.0. Therefore, being in a sorority can significantly help you in the classroom. Not only does being a Greek give you support in tutoring but members give each other motivation to do well in the classroom. Coming from personal experience, I never have to go to the library alone. I always have a sister to go with me. Most importantly, academics is your biggest concern as a college professor. How could you hate an organization that helps you do your job by giving support to your students that help them achieve success in your demanding courses? One of the biggest rules in Chi Omega is that academics come first. Academics is one of the only valid excuses for missing an event or a house meeting. Chi Omega, like all other sororities and fraternities, place a high value on academic success and do everything they can to help your students do better. Not
Buckley 5 only do good grades reflect the intelligence of your students but it also can help the reputation of the house as well as your reputation as a professor. Although you may not notice this in the classrooms, but the Greek community is very involved in community service and philanthropy. Fraternities and Sororities individually, as a house, and collectively, as a school or community, are involved in many philanthropic activities across the country. Sororities and Fraternities give back to the community in many ways. For example, this past year at Penn State, the Greek Community put on one of the most successful philanthropy events in Greek history. Every year, Penn State puts on what is called the “Penn State IFC/ PanHellenic Dance Marathon,” which is a 24 hour dance marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer. Since its start in 1973, Penn State’s Greek Life has raised over 78 million dollars towards the fight against Pediatric cancer. With that being said, last year alone, Penn State’s Greek Community raised 10,686,924.83 dollars for this cause (www.greeks.psu.edu/). Unfortunately not every Greek Life community can raise over 10 million dollars a year due to fewer Greek members, but that does not stop every chapter from giving back and making a difference. Participation in these community service projects and philanthropy events helps build character in each Greek member. Events like this help students put their lives into perspective and realize that other people are in need. For example, Chi Omega puts on two philanthropy events each year: Mr. UNH and Swishes for Wishes. Although our philanthropy events did not raise over ten million dollars, we raised over three thousand dollars for the Make a Wish foundation. Not only does each house sponsor their own philanthropy events but each house is expected to support each other’s philanthropy events as well. This helps to make each event more successful while creating a network of support in the Greek community that connects all Greek chapters. Penn State’s Dance marathon is definitely one of the most respected
Buckley 6 philanthropic events; however, every little bit counts. Whether a house can raise ten million or 1,000 it is all going to a good cause. There is more to Greek Life than rowdy boys and preppy girls—there are people who care about the community and want to give back. These students help make the University of New Hampshire a welcoming, philanthropic place that may attract future students that help bolster your pay check. Although I want to tell you the positives of Greek Life and try to convince you that there is more to Greek life than underage drinking and hazing; one cannot ignore the unfortunate examples that have helped give Greek Life those embarrassing reputations. Yes, you are right; there are problems within the Greek community with alcohol and hazing. For example, on November 14, 2005 Frankie Dickinson died at Chico State University after a night of hazing. According to Elaine Korry, the author of the article, “A Fraternity Hazing Gone Wrong”, Frankie along with other boys were forced to do things all night. Although Frankie was sober the night of his death, he and other boys were “forced [to do] pushups and trivia quizzes. Through it all they were ordered to drink from a five-gallon jug of water, which was filled over and over. Fans blasted icy air on their wet bodes. They urinated and vomited on themselves” (www.npr.org/). Unfortunately, after a night of intense hazing Dickinson died at the age of 21 from water intoxication that led to swelling of his brain and lungs (www.npr.org/). Regrettably, Frankie Dickinson is one of many students to die from intense hazing situations or alcohol poisoning. However, Greek Life is not the only organization that has been caught doing these types of activities. Sports teams are also to blame for such tragedies as well—not just Greek Row. According to a comprehensive study done by Alfred University that surveyed athletes on 224 college campuses, hazing happened frequently on sports teams as well. In this study, “79 percent said they had been subjected to what the authors deemed questionable or unacceptable hazing”
Buckley 7 (Farrey). It is easy to point fingers at Greek communities across the country and blame them for all that happens, but I challenge you to look a little deeper and see that Greek communities are not the only ones guilty for these actions. I am not trying to make excuses or say what any of these people did was right, nor does it bring back Frankie Dickinson but what I am trying to show all college professors is that events like these are not isolated to Greek Life. Reporter Mary Beth Marklein agrees with this statement in her article, “Binge Drinking’s Campus Toll”. She reports that “Alcohol is the No. 1 issue on every college campus I’ve ever been on. (But) it isn’t just the No. 1 issue in fraternities and sororities. It’s the number one issue for all students” (www.USAToday.com/). Hazing and death by alcohol poisoning happens all the time on college campuses whether or not it involves Greek letters, a sports team, or even self-inflicted binge drinking. Spreading the blame does not make up for any of these events nor does it bring back any of those who have died, but Greek life across the country is taking a stand to help stop these actions. There is more accountability for Greek houses. Every house has a national advisor and a local advisor that they need to answer to and check in with often; therefore, there is more accountability for these houses and more pressure to always be on their best behavior. The University of New Hampshire has no tolerance for such events or any criminal activity having to do with Greek life here on campus. For example, earlier this year, a fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, was kicked off campus when the police became aware of illegal drug and alcohol use. Greek communities across the country have to answer to and follow the rules of the Council for the Advancement of Standards, CAS. This council creates a set of guidelines each sorority and fraternity has to live up to. These standards are very strict with matters of hazing and alcohol and drug use, allowing no tolerance to any of these events (Shonrock 79). Once again as college
Buckley 8 professors, you do not want students to ruin the reputation of your college through illegal and embarrassing activities. Therefore, each Greek house is doing their best to ensure that no reputation is spoiled and that everyone is kept safe. I hope that after reading my letter you are better informed about Greek Communities across the country and more specifically some of the Greek houses here at the University of New Hampshire. Many people outside the Greek system know little about what happens at fraternities and sororities except for what has been portrayed in movies such as Animal House, Old School, Revenge of the Nerds, and Legally Blond. I hope that after reading my letter that you have a better understanding of what fraternities and sororities are truly about. There is more to Greek Life than drinking alcohol and hazing pledges; there are actual people who care about their academics, their friendships, and community service. Chi Omega means so much to me and it kills me to hear that my Greek house is automatically grouped with every stereotype. My sisters are some of my biggest role models who have taught me so much in my first two semesters in college. I hope after reading this letter and listening to my side of the story you can see the other side of Greek life; the prettier side. I do not expect your minds to be completely changed but I do appreciate you keeping an open mind. I hope the end of the semester finds you in good spirits.
Thank you for your time and consideration, Sarah Buckley
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