“We’ll make you famous.” That is the promise on the bulletin board outside Temple’s Greek Affairs office. Greek organizations have had famous members including all but a few U.S. Presidents, Dionne Warwick, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, Maya Angelou, Scott Wolf and Aretha Franklin.
At Temple, nearly 400 students are involved in fraternities and sororities, and the number grows every year.
“Coming into college was a whole new experience. Through rush, I got a core group of friends and they’re the people you’re close to. I didn’t set out to join a fraternity; you just hang out and get swept in,” said sophomore Zack Lederer, a Delta Sigma Phi brother.
The university has eight Intrafraternity Council fraternities, three Panhellenic Association sororities, two African American fraternities and four African American sororities.
“These girls are starting the best four years of their lives,” said senior Robin Erenberg of two of her new sorority sisters. “I wish I could do it all over again.”
Erenberg, who serves as the president of Temple’s sororities, was handing out “bids,” which are letters inviting girls to join the sororities after recruitment week.
Some girls walked away ecstatic, while others left disappointed. Those who did not receive a bid may get a last minute phone call inviting them to join. Some weren’t sure they could afford the initiation fees, which sometimes add up to more than $400 per-semester.
Hillary Keller, a new member of Phi Sigma Sigma, said that the recruitment process had been both fun and stressful.
“I was excited when I got my bid,” she said.
While sororities have a complex, by-the-book recruitment process, including meetings and ceremonies, some fraternities use a more laid back approach.
“It’s not like the army,” said Delta Sigma Phi Recruitment Chair Tony Popkins. “We have events and show people who we are. We hang out.”
Events include basketball and football games, barbecues, chicken wing eating contests and what Popkins expects will be the favorite this year, a wet T-shirt contest.
Popkins also wanted to clear up the myths about Greek life.
“We’re not all drunks and jerks,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many nice guys are in frats.”
Each fraternity and sorority has its own personality.
“The recruitment process is a time to find the organization that’s right for you,” explained Greek Affairs Advisor Dominic Mingacci.
“I was torn between two houses for a while,” Erenberg said of her recruitment experience. “But then you walk out of a room, and you just know.”
Greek Organizations have had a reputation for wild recruiting methods, but Mingacci insists that hazing – and even alcohol – are illegal during rush week. He explained there is much more to Greek life than parties.
“Social events are a part [of Greek life] that people see, but most people don’t see the studying [and] fund raising. Most groups have a philanthropy they work with year-round.”
“We have walks for hunger, cancer research, food drives and clothing drives,” said Delta Sigma Phi Philanthropy Chair Don Katz. “People have a good time. It’s a good chance for everyone to get together.”
Some Greek members tutor local children daily. Some are planning a “senior prom” that takes place at a nursing home. There are also walks for specific causes and cleanup events in the neighborhood surrounding Temple.
Greek organizations require more than just community service from their members. They also require good grades. Each house also has its own GPA requirements.
“We’re not idiots. We’re smart,” said Mellisa Rittenhouse, a Delta Sigma Sigma sister. “It’s not all about boys and partying. We really work.”
Beyond the philanthropies and socializing, Aria Lazarus of Alpha Epsilon Phi explained why her sorority is so important to her.
“You have a support team. You’re never alone. Your sisters will always be there for you,” Lazarus said.
Popkins saw a similar connection when he joined Delta Sigma Phi.
“I loved the concept of brotherhood,” he said. “Guys with totally different backgrounds and beliefs, and they all get along so well.”