Greek life

Greek beat writer Victoria Marchiony introduces The Temple News’ first guide to Greek life with her impressions of Main Campus’ Greek community.

Temple is known for its extremely diverse student body, and consequently, the range of clubs and extracurricular groups that thrive on campus. While at some major state schools Greek life is an all-consuming tradition, the Greek community here at Temple is often categorized by a quieter enthusiasm, which in turn can create a degree of mystery and confusion surrounding its practices.

Greek organizations are an important and thriving subculture at Temple, and with fall recruitment approaching, it is time to decode some of the more commonly misunderstood notions about what “going Greek” is all about.

“Nobody was really pressuring me [to join] and I started to feel at home. It’s nice to have somewhere to go that feels like home away from home,” Intrafraternal Council rush chair and Alpha Tau Omega brother Greg Conlin said of his recruitment experience.

While Greek life at schools like Penn State can be so consuming that participants will either lose their grades, their personalities or their self-esteem in the process of rushing, Temple’s approach is “not serious and institutionalized,” according to Conlin. Those who join are truly interested in being a part of the organization and aren’t doing it because they feel like they have to, which results in more friendly and less competitive organizations.

Good blood between Greeks is essential at any university, but is particularly crucial at Temple, where these groups make up a minority of the student population. Greek organizations are overseen by a governing body known as the Temple University Greek Association, whose purpose is to oversee the four sub-categories of governing bodies and ensure that there is unity between them, while promoting Greek life on campus.

Within TUGA there are four types of Greek bodies that more directly govern the organizations within them: Multicultural Greek Council, National Pan-hellenic Council, Panhellenic Association and the IFC.

The MGC works to “bring together multicultural and culturally-based fraternities and sororities,” according to its mission statement. The IFC manages the fraternities affiliated with the North American Interfraternal Conference, while the Panhellenic Association oversees sororities under the National Panhellenic Conference. The NPHC manages historically African-American sororities and fraternities. Seven of the nine Greek organizations governed under NPHC are currently represented on Main Campus.

Despite their fundamental differences, the 36 diverse fraternal organizations on campus all share the same core values of scholarship, leadership, community service and brotherhood, or sisterhood.

In addition to social networking, membership is excellent for professional networking. As far as community service, each organization chooses at least one primary cause, such as Alzheimer’s, Cystic Fibrosis and education, which fundraising efforts filter into throughout the year.

With so many types of Greek organizations to choose from, the stereotypes about Greek life become almost impossible to accept, particularly when one stops to consider the vastly different ways that each one functions. One key instance of this difference is the recruitment process itself.

IFC fraternities hold recruitment events first, during which more formal information about each one is dispensed and the focus is drumming up general interest. This is followed by a week-and-a-half long rush process, during which interested parties are encouraged to visit events hosted by the fraternities they have interest in.

During the course of the rush events, recruits whittle down their choices for which fraternity they like best. At the end of the week is “Interview Night” when potential brothers or sisters go through a process of more intensive questioning about who they are and what their intentions for joining are. This is followed by “Bid Night,” and those who attend are essentially accepting the invitation to begin the initiation process to become official brothers.

Panhellenic Association sororities, on the other hand, operate under an entirely different structure. Instead of events hosted by each individual organization, all four of the Panhellenic Association groups get together and host rounds of parties that allow girls to circulate and get to know sisters and history about each sorority.

As the week goes on, recruits rank their choices and begin narrowing down which groups they interact with. Thursday night is an invite-only “Preference Night” when the intense emotional bonding occurs, which is followed by “Bid Day” on Friday.

Bids are decided by the Panhellenic Association executive board members, whose job is to pair up girls with a sorority based on their interest as well as the sorority’s preference.

Both recruitment and initiation are famously tiring processes, characterized by a spike in coffee budgets and a decrease in grades.  Despite the time commitment, however, “pledging is the most fun you’d never want to have again,” Conlin said.

“[It is] definitely worth it. You just have to stick it out,” Panhellenic Association rush chair Jenn Padgeon said.

Padgeon said she has gained a lot of leadership experience as a result of her involvement in Greek life and that the support of her sisters is invaluable to her in everyday life.

After bid acceptance comes the highly-secretive initiation period during which pledge classes bond through a series of events and activities, which can last anywhere from six to 10 weeks. This is followed by a formal initiation when members are officially inducted. Those concerned about hazing should rest easy at Temple.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” Conlin said.

Anyone caught participating in hazing will face disciplinary action from both their organization’s national board and TUGA.

After induction, members function as full-fledged brothers and sisters, and are required to pay dues that can range from $250 to $500. These dues cover costs of Panhellenic Associationrel, activity fees, events and payments to the national organization.

Although dues are expensive, organizations will often work with their members to make payment as manageable as possible.  Even with scholarship and other opportunities for assistance money is one of the primary reasons for a Greek to “disaffiliate,” (the process by which a member can leave the organization).

One of the benefits of the laid-back atmosphere of Greek life at Temple is even after a brother or sister disaffiliates, they won’t be shunned from the groups to the point of transferring schools as they may feel pressured to at other universities.

The atmosphere surrounding Greek life is a major draw for members.

“I never thought I’d join,” Conlin said. “There’s always the kid who joins a frat and turns into the fraternity, but there’s also the kind where it’s always changing, because the people in [the fraternity] are giving it an identity.”

At Temple, it’s usually the latter scenario.

“My favorite part is the diversity. There are so many different types of girls and they always have your back,” Padgeon said.

For Sigma Alpha Mu President Reece Bergstrom, the best part of Greek life on campus is Greek Week, which occurs every spring.

“It’s cool to see how we get along with the multiculturals,” he said.

Greek life on Temple’s campus is thriving, and is growing all the time. With such a wide range of personalities, mission statements, and sizes, there’s an organization out there for everyone who wants to be a part of it.

Victoria Marchiony can be reached at vmarchiony@temple.edu.

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