The elitism of Greek life – Le Cavalier Quotidien
During my first year at the University, I took a course that addressed, among other things, the creation and maintenance of ethical spaces at the University. For our final project, my group chose to present the inequality inherent in all terrains in a short presentation, ranging from the dilemmas posed by merit-based versus need-based financial aid to counseling and psychology services in the field. ‘university.
One of the subjects of the mission was fraternities and sororities. Greek life in college is huge – around 35 percent of undergraduates are members of a fraternity or sorority. One could argue about the opportunities these groups provide for networking and forming lasting friendships and lasting memories. Certainly, the existence of fraternities and sororities allows for an experience of leadership and service, and it cultivates a sense of community – a home away from home, so to speak. And that’s something to celebrate, right?
But the more I researched – and the more I talked about people – the harder it became to deny the obscurity that lingered on all the positives. Brotherhoods and sororities have suffered from a myriad of problems throughout their history – dangerous hazing rituals resulting in deaths and suicides, repeated instances of racial ignorance and racism, and the prevalence of rape culture. .
This is not to say that all fraternities and sororities reflect backward ideas about race, sex, and gender. My specific interest was not in the explicit negatives, but rather in the culture of economic stratification – the condition where social classes are separated, or stratified, along economic lines – perpetuated by these organizations. Economic stratification on college campuses inherently puts low-income students at a disadvantage because it excludes them from assets that high-income students have easy access to, maintaining a cycle of economic inequality. And that, to me, is perhaps the greatest sin of all – the elitism of Greek life.
The Inter-Fraternity Council says that membership fees vary between $ 500 and $ 1,500 each semester, but some groups have higher costs, and that is exactly what is prepaid. The price range of $ 500 to $ 1,500 neglects any merchandise that a member of a fraternity or sorority might have to buy, social events, gifts exchanged between large and small and other hidden costs. .
Simply put, Greek life is expensive. Experts estimate that the fees can reach $ 3,000 per semester. University fraternities and sororities offer scholarship opportunities, but it is questionable how useful these scholarships really are in offsetting the costs. Although there are many, it is clear that there is still a high barrier to entry for low-income students.
A lot of my friends rushed in in my freshman year – some made it into sororities and fraternities and some didn’t, but all had very different views on the rush process. By design, it is a difficult process, but also a very rewarding one. However, most of their accounts shared a common theme: the indirect pursuit of wealth and financial standing. I highly doubt that any of this was done on purpose, but, in my mind, it just shows how structurally entrenched elitism is in Greek life.
My intrigue only intensified during the discussion my class had about Greek life. The question asked was simple: are fraternities and sororities unethical spaces if it is true that they encourage economic stratification? Many of the students in the class were opposed to the idea and argued that the high costs allowed them to spend less on other equipment. One girl mentioned that her honorarium was intended to pay for a chef in her sorority house, thus reducing food costs.
But the discussion also unveiled many other anecdotal stories surrounding Greek life that caught me off guard. During this course, I heard stories about bag and clothing checks, intended to judge the quality of individuals’ belongings. A rushing classmate admitted that a friend who was in another sorority advised her to mention the annual “fun” vacation she took with her family at social gatherings and talks.
Our nation and the institutions that make it up must tackle the systems in place that allow inequity to flourish. I think we can all agree on something – the University has to do better. The university is ranked in the lowest 15 percent for social mobility, so it’s no surprise that the university struggles with the challenges that Greek life poses to some students when so many of our institutions the more deeply rooted implicitly deny these same students the same experiences as those with higher incomes?
I don’t have an expressly negative opinion on Greek life – I just strongly believe that we will have to be careful how we approach this subject in the future. As an outsider, hearing friends, classmates, and others talk about their experiences will continue to shape my own vision and ability to craft potential solutions to these organizations’ most enduring problems. I can’t wait to hear how this conversation develops over time – the class discussion I’ve had is probably just a taste of what’s to come.