Greek Life: Toga Parties and Responsibilities

By: Zach Shapiro

Greek life. Just those two words put together make me think of hot sweaty basements, drinking an unhealthy amount, and completing a list of humiliating tasks in order to just be a part of the debauchery that takes place in the Alpha house. Or the Beta House, or the Goat House. Or really any of the Fraternity houses that are on TV now. And I have to admit, I love watching idiot kids get drunk and try to pick up random girls that are just as drunk. But the reality is that the entertainment industry has shined a poor light on the Greek Life culture. The real Greek Life has much more than random parties and hangover stories. In fact, Greek Life could be the best thing you could do for yourself in college. Now first off, this is not me advocating a certain fraternity/sorority. This is me ( Zach Shapiro, nice to meet you) advocating that you make an informed decision about your life.
As I said earlier, the idea that greek life is all about parties and drunken hook ups is not accurate at all. Just look at the titles, Fraternity is derived from the latin word frater which means “brother”, and sorority is derived from the latin word sorror which means “sister”. And that’s what greek life is all about, becoming close to your brothers and sisters. This is done through a variety of ways depending on what school you go to. Here at Emerson College, all the fraternities and sororities are pretty close. They party together, work together, eat together. They pretty much do everything together. But that could just be because we are a small school. I do know that at some of the bigger schools, like The Ohio State University for instance, the fraternities have games organized to play against each other. This is a lot of fun to participate in and it’s just as fun to watch. But as much fun as it is, it’s also very important to the fraternities/sororities. These “games” allow the fraternities to bond with it’s members, they teach the members about teamwork, work ethic, and brotherhood/sisterhood.
It’s important to note that these games are not in the “Pick-up” style. You don’t just walk onto the court, or the field, or into the living room (Yes a lot of games take place inside a house) and just get picked to be a part of the fraternity/sorority. Getting into one of these great organizations is actually a lot of work and you have to be determined if you have any shot of getting into the Greek Life. First off there’s rush week. “Rush” is where the students that are thinking about getting into greek life get to check out the different houses there are to see what the right fit is for them. Rush week is very important, if you’re interested in getting into a fraternity or sorority then you should be looking at rush week like school tours. this is the week that you get to see each house and what they are about. Before I go further, I should break down what you will see during rush week. You will typically see two types of Fraternities/Sororities. These would be Academic/social fraternities/sororities, and Professional fraternities/sororities. And there is just a slight difference between these. Academic and social fraternities/sororities are usually residential, meaning they have their own house where they hang out, get work done, host parties and events and of course pass out. These fraternities are usually more laid back and are there to help it’s members become better people as they help out the community they live in. Professional fraternities/sororities on the other hand are much more goal orientated. These groups typically don’t have residential privileges though that does not mean they can’t have their own house. Also these organizations are usually centered around a particular major (i.e. Engineering, Performing Arts, Political science, etc.). Because these fraternities/sororities are focusing on certain majors, they have the goal of progressing their members careers and tend to be more formal in order to be taken more seriously in the eyes of possible employers.
Now that I broke down the two types of fraternities/sororities let’s get back to rush week. This week consists of small get togethers like parties or cook outs and is a way for the brotherhood to get to know you. This is an elimination period, so keep that in mind. But remember that they just want to get to know you, so don’t stress over this. Just be yourself. All that the brothers are looking for in this week is to see if you would get along with the members. And if the members like you they will give you a bid. Think of a bid like a vote, if you get voted for then you progress to being a pledge. The most important thing you have to remember is that it’s okay if you don’t get a bid. All it means if you don’t get a bid is that the brothers/sisters don’t think you are the right fit for their house. It doesn’t mean you’re not cool or anything like that, this isn’t high school this is just about finding the right people to surround yourself with.
If you got the bid then you are initiated into pledge-ship. This is the focus of all those movies and TV shows, where the pledges have to complete a list of outrageous tasks or where they had to endure being paddled in order to be accepted into brotherhood. As much as I want to say that this is complete bull shit, I can’t. It is true that when fraternities first started, hazing was an important part of the tradition. The idea behind it is to put all the pledges in a situation that will provide them with a common enemy to bond over. It also helps to put a value on the brotherhood as it is something that sacrifice was given for. There have been stories of making pledges drink unhealthy amounts, sororities circling parts of the pledge’s body to indicate where they are overweight, paddling, and even being forced to take drugs. However it has been a long time since these practices took place. Many fraternities and sororities today are looking for progressive ways to fight against hazing. Some have written policies saying that they will not participate in activities involving hazing, while others like the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has given up pledge-ship. Instead the fraternity has an extra long rush period in order to get to know the prospects better before making the decision to accept them into brotherhood. And the ones that do still have pledge-ship are approaching it from a more laid back way of bonding as the fraternities and sororities will now have mandatory hikes or dinners for the pledges to attend. Other times the pledges will have to simply clean up after a party or pick up food for someone. It’s important to note that the pledge period is crucial in the idea of Greek Life. not only does it bring you closer with the brothers and sisters, but it prepares you for those pesky internships (Think about it, doing meaningless tasks, getting food and coffee, and doing grunt work in order to hopefully getting a job, it’s the exact same thing as pledging a fraternity/sorority).
After pledge-ship is another elimination round. The pledges are sorted through by the brothers and judged by how well they handled their pledge tasks. So as long as you can clean and do simple tasks with a smile you should be just fine. If they accept you into brotherhood there will typically be a ceremony that you will be mandatory for you to attend. The stories I have heard about this are usually fascinating, for instance a friend was walking home from class and a van pulled in front of him with the brothers of the fraternity inside. They asked my friend to accompany them to the fraternity house where a party was all set in honor of the pledges being accepted into brotherhood. Isn’t that awesome!? That just seems so cool to me. Anyway, once you are a brother or sister you have the responsibilities of helping run the fraternity/sorority. There are a ton of ways brothers help run the fraternity but what will typically happen is a brother will run for a position. The positions include: President, Vice President, Chair of Philanthropy, Chair of Recruitment, Social Chair, etc. The responsibilities that these positions hold are about keeping the fraternity/ sorority running as well as putting the group into the right light. For instance the Chair of Philanthropy has the task of getting the fraternity/sorority involved in charity events to help out the surrounding community, while the Chair of Recruitment is tasked with setting up activities to draw more students to the idea of rushing. It all functions together to be almost like a business.
Think of it like this, the fraternity or sorority is like a giant chipotle. The brothers are the seasoned managers, the pledges are the line cooks, and the rushes are the kids that just sent in their resumes in hopes of getting an interview. The really great thing is that the chipotle (Why chipotle? Because I am currently in a giant double steak burrito as I’m writing this) family does not end outside of one location, they have a huge chain of delicious chipotle restaurants. And it’s exactly the same as a fraternity or a sorority. Greek Life is all about family, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. And the family does not end with the chapter you are in. All you have to do is meet someone from a different chapter and you instantly have a bond. This does’t just work with your peers but also your elders. Members of a fraternity do not stop being a part of the fraternity after graduation, in fact a lot of them frequently come by to help out with the brothers or they simply donate to the organization. But a definite perk of the Greek Life is making connections through current and passed generations of the fraternity. These connections are vital as they can help you get a job after graduation. A possible employer doesn’t even have to be a part of the fraternity to appreciate this on a resume as being part of a fraternity or sorority shows that you are able to handle responsibilities as well as work well within a team.
Fraternities and sororities can have a huge impact on your life after college. It’s not just about the amazing experiences you can have during your years on campus. Being a part of a the Greek Life is a lifetime commitment. From growing with your brothers and finding out who you are, to helping you get started on your career, and everything in between fraternities and sororities should be looked at as a very smart decision for your college career. There are just a few things to remember before you make the decision to go out and start rush week. First off, it’s okay to not want to be a part of Greek Life. Second, don’t believe the stereotypes of “Frat Bros”, from my experiences I can tell you that there are a few bad apples in the group but for the most part fraternities and sororities are very progressive and like uniqueness so don’t be afraid to be yourself. And lastly, if you are the type that likes the idea of a family that is always there for you, and doing anything you can for that family then Greek Life might be perfect for you. Also, it’s a fraternity not a “frat”.