Sophomore, WT Woodson, Fairfax, VA
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Sororities and Fraternities get a bad rap. Often times, Greek life is synonymous with debauchery and hedonism. Take the 2014 movies Neighbors and its 2016 follow-up Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Both focus on wild and rowdy parties at a fraternity and sorority house. Is this stereotypical reputation, often the only portrayal of Greek life in movies, deserved?
Most Greek sororities and fraternities are involved in charitable and educational endeavors and other positive activities. American University junior and Sigma Delta Tau Vice President of scholarship, Anne Shannon, says stereotypes surrounding Greek Life are largely inaccurate. “I think there’s definitely a huge bias in the media in regards to how they portray sororities and sorority women. There tends to be this idea that sorority women are all there to party and have fun and be blonde and skinny and pretty.”
In fact, according to Shannon, the sororities and fraternities at American University perform better academically than their unaffiliated peers. “Sorority average, according to the office of sorority and fraternity life is a 3.3 thereabouts, which is higher than campus average. And it’s not the highest GPA in Greek Life.”
In addition to higher grade point averages, sororities and fraternities are linked to higher retention rates. A 2011 USA Today study found, that over 70% of those in Greek life graduate, while only about 50% of all non-fraternity and sorority students graduate.
Shannon explains why she thinks those who pledge are successful. “First things first, in order to go through the PanHellenic recruitment process, you have to have a 2.5 GPA after your first semester …so that kind of… in and of itself filters out people who don’t have that GPA.”
After passing the initial GPA REQUIREMENTS for initiation, members of sororities and fraternities are expected to maintain their GPA.
Plus, Shannon says, there are additional academic requirements in order to be eligible for leadership positions and recreational activities. “Once you’re in our organization, you’re required to have a 2.7 GPA to be considered in good standing, so to be able to vote in chapter elections, to be able to go to social events; we just had formal the other night, so you need to have your GPA. That is a very physical, I guess, motivation to keep your grades up, but then also I do a lot of programming and how to use citations software at the library, how to find books… so… if anyone ever needs essay help or someone to sit down and keep them off Facebook, or… whatever… there’s always someone around.”
Sororities and fraternities also serve as a crucial support system for members.
Kendal Baron is a college sophomore at AU in the same sorority as Shannon.“I will be a puddle on the floor of mess and disorganization and just general college mess life and she’ll just be like ‘let’s get up, let do this.’ It’s someone to hold you accountable for yourself and push you to be like the best version of yourself.”
Sophomore and fellow Sigma Delta Tau sister Katie Seigle recalls a similar situation. “I remember last semester, I was having a really rough week. I don’t know if it was because I had a lot of papers and tests, and I had an interview for an internship, and I like really didn’t want to go, but then some sisters sat me down, asked me interview questions, and then they prepped me and gave me a pep talk and then I got the internship.”
Seigle isn’t the only sorority or fraternity member to benefit from increased professional opportunities. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, fraternity men head 43 of the nation’s 50 largest corporations. Outside of the business arena, every U.S. President elected after 1825, with two exceptions, have been members of a fraternity.
Despite all their activities and commitments, Greeks still find ways to have a social life and it’s not the wild parties so familiar in movies. Shannon says she’s not even a late night person. “My average bedtime is like 9:30. But it’s just a movie night, staying in with friends, on the coach, we like to knit. I’m a grandma.”
Shannon’s sorority sister Baron reiterates it’s all about balance. “Over spring break I went up to New York with one of my sisters and we just walked around the city and went exploring. There’s always someone to do something with. Like I know a bunch of our sisters went to Mexico for Spring Break. There’s always people to go on trips with and things to do so it is fun, and I think we all feel like we earn it because we do work really hard.”
While many sororities and fraternities prioritize academics, they also make efforts to give back to their communities. Baron says she and other members of Sigma Delta Tau support their community in numerous ways, often teaming up with other sorority and fraternity houses. “We do a lot of things, not just on campus and helping our philanthropies but helping other people’s philanthropies and organizations in the DC area.” According to the USA Today study, the Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the United States. Greeks donate over 10 million hours of volunteer service each year.
Some Members of Greek life argue that misconceptions about members behavior take away from the philanthropy that is central to Greek Life. Shannon agrees. “I definitely see… and still identifying as a sorority woman for the rest of my life. I’ve formed lifelong friendships. My roommate for the past three years was just outside. She will be in my wedding.”