By Jacob Le, Orange Media Network
When you think of Greek life, what’s the first movie that comes to mind? Animal House? Neighbors? 22 Jump Street? Lots of people get their first impressions of fraternities and sororities from movies like these, and while they’re fun, they’re far from an accurate portrayal of what Greek life is truly like.
“My perception of Greek life was ‘80s movies, jocks, the daddy’s money, a bunch of wild hooligans always battling the dean, wacky adventures and they never go to class,” said Theta Chi member Mason Crawford. “And then, very quickly, that changed. I realized that that’s not realistic because obviously no one could survive in college and have educational success in any sense, socially as well, acting like that.”
Of course, there certainly are cases of bitter fraternity rivalries, conquests against the dean and never going to class, but that’s just scratching the surface—much of the true Greek experience is what you don’t see in the movies. Right off the bat the biggest thing going Greek provides is an introduction to new people.
“Meeting people and getting out of my comfort zone is a big thing for me,” said Delta Chi President Chase Pettibone. “I didn’t want to go to a fraternity where I wasn’t going to meet new people. I didn’t have a crappy high school experience, but I didn’t want to be stuck in high school.”
Most Greek organizations boast a long list of histories and traditions, especially at older schools; there’s no shortage of stories and wisdom for older members to pass down to younger members.
“It was cool getting to be a part of something that had such a rich history, I didn’t realize I was gonna get that opportunity,” said Crawford. “Being able to explore the house and go through our old history books and see past brothers and alumni who’ve sat in the same study chairs I did or were doing the same thing as me is really humbling, and it made me realize, ‘Wow, college is definitely the right spot for me and I know I can be extremely successful, as well.’”
Lots of students enter college not planning to participate in Greek life, only to have a chapter stand out to them when they least expect it.
“I wasn’t really big into fraternities in the first place, it was kind of like, ‘free food, why not go there?’” said Sigma Nu Vice President AJ Grover. “I went to Sigma Nu and played a couple video games with the guys and I really enjoyed the friendships I made with some of the members, and kept on going back just to see and I was also getting my lunches paid for, which was really nice… five days of free lunches got me there.”
Beyond being a hub for meeting new people, Greek life also holds plenty of leadership and networking opportunities for members with the desire to chase them.
“I’ve pursued more official leadership positions and also some quasi-leadership positions. I wanted to get involved in everything I could,” said Pettibone.
Since joining Delta Chi, Pettibone has served on several committees, been his chapter’s alumni chair and now serves as president.
At Sigma Nu, Grover has served as public relations director and chaplain, and now serves as his chapter’s vice president, as well as vice president of public relations and marketing on the Interfraternity Council.
“These leadership experiences are going to benefit me later on in life, so why not try them out now in a low-stakes environment?” said Grover. “Fraternities are not really that big of a deal when it comes to delegation so it’s a nice low-stakes environment to get yourself in that leadership position; get your feet wet.”
Looking back, Grover, Crawford and Pettibone all agreed that the time they’ve spent with their fraternities has had a net positive impact.
“If you put a lot of passion into it, you’re going to get a lot out of it, you’re going to meet a lot of people, you’re going to have a good time, you’re going to talk better than you did before,” said Grover. “It’s a really positive experience ultimately, that affected my communication, affected how I treat people, affected how I make connections and friendships; it’s all been improved.”
Going Greek can be scary, especially if you’ve never been to a big school before, but what students often find is that the hardest part is just showing up.
“If you’re hesitant to join Greek life, you’ve gotta dip your toes in the water,” said Crawford. “Meet the members of each one you visit and [consider], ‘Are these the people I wanna surround myself with and eventually grow into?’ Especially if they’re older members. Look at what their organization has been doing and then see if there’s a spot you could fit in to really practice or hone in your skills.”
“Of course it’s gonna be a difficult experience, you’re meeting people who are looking at you like fresh meat,” said Grover. “My advice is be comfortable, be yourself and ultimately understand that you don’t have to join this fraternity for any reason other than yourself. If you feel like you’ll be okay with this group of people, that’s when you join, there should be no other reason.”
After over a year of Greek life being dormant, Pettibone was optimistic about the state of the upcoming school year.
“We’re coming up on a time where Greek life is going to take off,” said Pettibone. “My entire live-in chapter is vaccinated at this point, so really we’re just waiting on the school [and] state to update their policies… The switch is going to flip and you’ll want to be ready.”