My big ‘frat’ Greek Life

As rush week comes to an end, it’s important to know what accepting that bid really means.

As students see portrayals by ABC Family’s television show “Greek” and countless other fraternity life-focused shows and films, many assume Greek life on U.S. college campuses must live up to the meat-headed, beer-guzzling and valley-girl stereotypes. But life doesn’t always function like a TV program.

Although Temple’s 36 fraternities and sororities on Main Campus do not compare to the 89 at Penn State’s University Park campus, Greek life here carries the same morals and responsibilities as any fraternity or sorority elsewhere.

With rush week coming to a close, some freshmen and a few upperclassmen are debating whether going Greek is in the cards. While many people are afraid to pay dues, others appreciate the family feel Greek life can offer.

“I wanted to be part of a group, and I wanted to be able to know a bunch of people that I had something in common with,” Cady Hurtzig, an undeclared freshman, said.

But as much as Hurtzig said she would have enjoyed the bonds of sisterhood, she needed time to focus on picking a major instead of going out for a sorority.

“It’s just a lot of time and a lot of money to participate in events and be part of the sorority,” Hurtzig said. “And I thought for my first semester, I should concentrate on my school work.”

Alisa Ustayeva, a sophomore biology major and a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon, said being Greek is time-consuming between her schoolwork and sorority activities, such as fundraisers and meetings.

But Delta Phi Epsilon was willing to plan around her class schedule when she found her grades were slipping. she said.

The deterrent of time commitment aside, there’s the old saying that going Greek is just a way for people to “buy their friends.” But Dan Lyons, the president of the Temple University Greek Association and Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, said the phrase doesn’t hold true on Main Campus.

“You’re not buying your friends,” Lyons, a junior marketing major, said. “You’re buying to do activities with your friends, socials with sororities – we go to Phillies games together. That’s what our dues pay for.”

For those curious enough to venture into Main Campus’ Greek life, rush week is packed with all sorts of meet-and-greet events.

“[Fraternities and sororities] always will start with an open house or a general interest meeting where anyone who’s interested can come and learn more about the fraternity or sorority,” said Jayne Appley, the program coordinator for Greek life and student activities.

“It’s really low-key, and it’s just a way to learn more about the organization before really starting the recruitment process,” she added.

The walls and corkboards on Main Campus are usually littered with Greek rush fliers at this time. Most fraternities and sororities use these fliers to advertise events the groups have planned.

Some fraternities test potential recruits’ reflexes in the latest version of Madden NFL, while other fraternity members showcase their athleticism in a game of real-life football.

Young women who consider joining a sorority in the Pan-Hellenic Association have the chance to meet sisters from all four sororities in the Student Center to find out which group they click with best.

If a male is invited back to the fraternity house or if a female receives a bid from a sorority and he or she decides to join or pledge, then the arduous journey to become a full-fledged brother or sister begins.

It’s not uncommon for students to be reluctant to rush or join Greek life out of fear that they may be hazed. Hurtzig said she heard about people being hazed during their pledge period.

Other Greek brothers and sisters said some level of hazing does exist on Main Campus.

“[Hazing] does not build a better fraternity,” said Alpha Tau Omega brother Taylor Whitson, a sophomore international business administration and Italian major. “Because you can embarrass somebody, because you can break somebody down, does not mean that they’re going to be a better person afterward.”

While hazing could be another factor in why some people refuse to pledge, others don’t want to be associated with the images often connected with the term “frat boy.”

“Greek life is not for everybody,” Lyons said. “And if you’re too stubborn not to check it out, then you’re too stubborn to be in Greek life. It could never hurt to come check it out.”

Lyons and others cited the benefit of networking with current and former members of their fraternities.

“I want to get more out of college than going to class every day,” Lyons said. “I want to make connections.”

Former brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, CNN Correspondent Wolf Blitzer and former ESPN President Chet Simmons.

“You benefit a lot by connections, especially after graduation because you have some [graduates] who can hook you up with other jobs, accounting jobs and internships,” Lyons said. “It’s a huge perk in joining a fraternity.”

“I didn’t pledge until my second semester of freshman year,” said Alpha Epsilon Pi brother Ryan Josephs, a sophomore business major. “I went out and saw what the difference between not being Greek and being Greek [is]. It’s a huge difference. It opens up different kinds of paths.”

While most fraternities and sororities encourage people to rush and become a member of Greek life, there’s still the matter of dues. However, most fraternities and sororities are willing to work with someone if funds are running low.

Whitson said his parents paid his dues because they want him to focus on schoolwork and that he shouldn’t worry about finding a job.

When Whitson’s mother needed a $13,000 surgery last summer to treat cancer, the brothers of Alpha Tau Omega worked with Whitson on a payment plan so that he wouldn’t have to drop out of the fraternity.

“I think the positives far outweigh the negatives and that someone who is in the Greek experience will recognize that too,” Appley said. “That they’re getting more out of it.”

Kenny Thapoung can be reached at kenny.thapoung@temple.edu.


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