Since 1906, Temple’s Greek life has garnered more than 1,000 participants and 107 years of parties, philanthropy and pledges. Despite 30 Greek organizations on campus representing six Greek councils, not all students understand the pretense of joining, participating students said.
Students involved in Greek life said they confront numerous misconceptions from students who are not involved in a sorority or fraternity.
“It’s not an organization, it’s a lifestyle,” said Temple University Greek Association President Cori Shearer, who is also a senior strategic communications major.
This lifestyle is often perpetuated through stereotypes spread by the media and other students, whether it’s buying into the presentation of Greeks in “Animal House” and “The House Bunny,” or observations around campus. Greek students acknowledged that these stereotypes exist, but said they are not the status quo.
“People perceive Greek members as stuck up, cocky,” said freshman engineering major Anthony Vu. “They show off their Greek attire and want everyone to know they are Greek, [but] the members I’ve seen do not perpetuate these stereotypes.”
Freshman Shelby Guercio said she disagreed.
“TotalFratMove.com exists and that’s all I have to say about Greek life,” Guercio said.
The website perpetuates stereotypes of nonstop partying, drinking and casual sex within Greek life across college campuses.
“Some [girls] live up to the image of a sorority sister and some boys live up to the ‘sloppy, drunken frat boy,’” said sophomore journalism major and Phi Sigma Sigma rush candidate Jeseamy Muentes.
TotalFratMove.com is an anonymous forum that focuses on stereotypical party-centric Greek behavior. Pages include “Rush Boobs,” which contains links to pictures of girls who’ve written “Rush” followed by a fraternity across their chests. It also has a wall to post comments about life in a fraternity or sorority.
“TotalFratMove.com makes [Greeks] look bad to outsiders who don’t know better,” Shearer said. “There has to be a shift in the way society views us.”
That shift may come in the desire to join Greek organizations for community and friendship, members said. Greek organizations intend to bring together individuals who share values and interests. These include moral values, such as friendship and justice, or a bond of similar backgrounds in historically diverse organizations such as Omega Psi Phi.
“The foundation is community,” freshman entrepreneurship major David Yastremsky said of Greek life. “It’s a commitment to something.”
Some organizations, such as honors Greek chapters, stress academic success as a qualification for members. Many organizations have mandatory study hours and GPA requirements.
“The study hours I had to attend definitely helped me in class,” Muentes said.
Despite the benefits of academic, social and charitable commitments, pledgers said they can be a deterring factor because of the pressures of meeting requirements. Muentes described her rushing experience as “overwhelming” due to the various meetings, events and other requirements that can make it difficult for busy students. This time-consuming aspect manifests in various can shakes, fundraisers, volunteer events and chapter initiatives requiring member donations. In return for their time and financial investment, events are meant to provide networking, social and philanthropic opportunities.
“In life, nothing is free,” Shearer said. “Even if you aren’t in a sorority or fraternity, you’re in another organization and you’re paying dues. I feel like [Greek life is] an investment in my future.”
The future Shearer referred to includes the lifelong commitment to one’s Greek organization. Taking the pledge means continued kinship after graduation. This sense of togetherness is key when deciding whether to rush, pay dues for membership and commit to the lifetime of Greek events and responsibilities.
Some students said they feel constant togetherness can be polarizing to non-Greeks.
“I tend to feel excluded when I don’t participate in Greek life [events],” Yastremsky said.
Other Greeks said they see the value in kinship, despite the cost of maintaining it.
“Joining Greek life, you definitely gain a bunch of new friends who already love you despite not even knowing you,” Muentes said. “It’s also a very expensive lifestyle. Sometimes the dues seem like a way to pay for friends, but you’re not bound by contract to every girl in the sorority, and more often than not, you won’t like a lot of them.”
In terms of getting along with every sister or brother in one’s organization, Greeks said the idea is impossible simply due to numbers. As the amount of student interest rises, the selection process for who qualifies for each Greek organization must also adapt.
TotalFratMove.com and GreekRank.com both address the controversial issue of hazing on campus. Temple has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing and refuses to recognize any Greek organization that hazes potential members.
“[Hazing] happened a lot previously because organizations forgot why they were here,” Shearer said. “Greek life is trying to find itself again, but in a very good way.”
Shearer’s fellow Greeks agreed that hazing should not define the idea of being a fraternity brother or sorority sister.
“The farthest hazing gets is learning a bunch of pointless information about the sorority itself, packets and packets of information,” Muentes said. “The fraternities, on the other hand, don’t follow the same rules and I can’t say I’ve ever seen the hazing happening, but there are definitely rumors that aren’t hard to believe.”
Though students remain divided on what it means to be Greek due to stereotypes, members said one thing remains constant: Greek numbers are rising and the Greek persona must continue to evolve.
“[Greek life is] supposed to be about a sisterhood, and for someone like me, it just seems like an outdated idea,” Muentes said. “There are some people who live for the sorority and that’s awesome, but it’s not everyone.”
Lora Strum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.