When people hear the word “frat,” it conjures images of “basic bros” in boat shoes and Vineyard Vines doing keg stands and bonging beers. A healthy number of people here at Elizabethtown College scoff at the idea of Greek life and, it’s about time that changed.
Recently, there has been a lot of negative media attention surrounding Greek life. Unfortunately, the stories about hazing, sexual assault and racist chants associated with fraternities and sororities are what grab headlines instead of the various philanthropic events and volunteer hours put in by these organizations. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology and other supporting sources, Greek organizations raise over seven million dollars and donate 850,000 volunteer hours annually to charitable causes. Sure, this is the shield the Hellenistic community likes to hide behind when it’s under fire from the media, but there are other benefits to having fraternities and sororities on campus as well.
Etown would greatly benefit from having Greek life on campus, especially given the current financial situation. Alumni who were involved in fraternities and sororities give four times more money to their alma mater than unaffiliated students. Not to mention, of all the donations made to colleges and universities alike, three quarters of that money is donated by former fraternity brothers and sorority sisters, according to Elite Daily. The reason for this is because, generally speaking, students involved in Greek organizations are more successful post-graduation. Eighty-five percent of fortune 500 companies’ executives belong to a fraternal organization, and 43 of the nation’s top 50 corporations are headed by fraternity men.
A quick look at Fraternity Advisor continues this theme of post graduate success for students involved in Greek life. Since 1910, 40 of 47 U.S. Supreme Court Justices were fraternity men. Seventy-six percent of all congressmen and senators belong to a fraternity, and every US president and vice president born since the first social fraternity was founded in 1825 has been members of a fraternity (except two in each office). The numbers don’t lie. This success extends to sororities as well with both the first female senator and first female astronaut belonging to a sorority.
Another argument that is raised against fraternities and sororities is that when someone joins one of these organizations, they are paying for friends. However, the reality of the situation is less than two percent of an average college student’s expenses go toward fraternity dues, and this fact is supported by the US Office of Education. Those dues pay for valuable life experiences that transfer to post collegiate life. They include getting used to holding weekly meetings to discuss important events that have to happen and to address any existing issues that need taking care of. Also, members develop strong interpersonal skills and function well within a team setting, which are skills employers look for when hiring.
All that being said, every positive is accompanied by a negative. It should come as no surprise that alcohol abuse among Greek life is higher than students who are not in Greek life. Unfortunately, that is one stereotype that holds some truth. However, when a person chooses to join one of these organizations they are not being blindsided by this fact; they know what they are getting themselves into.
Hazing is also a major concern when it comes to these organizations. To say there is no basis for this would be a lie. In recent years, the situation has been getting better with many, if not all, national chapters adopting anti-hazing rules and dealing out swift and crushing punishments for offenders.
Due to the fact that almost all students at Etown — the exception would be transfer students — have not experienced the social aspects that Greek life brings to a college campus on a day-to-day basis, they are unable to formulate informed opinions of Greek life as a whole. From personal experience attending a college that has fraternities and sororities, I can say the atmosphere on campus is greatly enriched by the presence of these organizations. There are always engaging and interesting events on campus that people want to attend. Lectures are great, but watching a bunch of fraternity brothers try to synchronize swim for charity is a little more entertaining to watch. In addition to that, when an athlete is a member of a fraternity or sorority, there is always a guaranteed cheering section at home games. This is especially nice for sports that do not draw large crowds.
At first glance, the idea of fraternities and sororities at Etown sounds like a perverse idea that is contrary to the type of environment here. However, by keeping an open mind and doing some fact checking to debunk preconceived notions, the idea becomes a little more palatable. The benefits Greek life would bring to campus far outweighs the negatives.