Fighting the stereotypes of Greek life

By Kit Murray

murrayki@mnstate.edu

What do Bill Cosby, Carrie Underwood, Paul Rudd, and Jennifer Garner all have in common? Each was a part of Greek life when they were in college. Of the nation’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity men. Greek members also donate more than 10 million hours of volunteer work each year. These statistics may be astonishing, but to those involved in Greek life they aren’t much of a surprise.

When I came to college I fell into the category of those who generalize and stereotype fraternity and sorority life. It’s hard not to — with movies, TV shows and stories we read all supporting the common bigotry that sororities and fraternities consist of people who party, haze, don’t study, and have poor morals. It’s easy to succumb to these ideas and let the media fabricate Greek organizations.

How do we overcome these stereotypes? What can we do to strengthen our reputation and become organizations known for having strong leaders and  members who focus on community and bettering themselves? The biggest challenge Greek members face is trying to overcome these negative connotations.

When I asked two active Greek life members what the biggest obstacle they’ve faced during their membership was, I received similar responses.

“People assume we’re girls that like to get drunk and have sex but in reality our sorority is filled with strong, independent women who care about education, community, and focusing on bettering themselves and helping others,” said Megan Parks, Gamma Phi Beta.

“There’s definitely a social stigma that frat guys are alcoholics, not studious, rapists, etc. These are definitely not true,” said Alex Brezina, Tau Kappa Epsilon.

As an active member of a sorority on campus, I can proudly say that my experience with Greek life has been way different than the stereotypes movies suggest. It has made me a better person and continues to do so every day. Although these stigmas exist, I know that what my organization does on and off campus is something to be proud of. We hold ourselves to high standards and continue to live up to the ideals that we were founded on. Love, Labor, Learning, and Loyalty are our four core values. By volunteering in our community, being a strong support system to our members and providing a home away from home, we are constantly working hard to give back. I’ve noticed that if someone tries to knock a Greek down, we come back ten times stronger. We cannot fight hate with hate; we must fight hate with love.

Greek life may not be for everyone. It is definitely a time and financial commitment, although only about two percent of a student’s finances go toward paying for the organization. It requires hard work, stepping up to take on offices, and attending weekly meetings to organize events, discuss issues, etc. Those who do become involved, however, have reaped countless benefits. To name a few, I have learned how to manage my time better, and holding an office has helped me become more organized and responsible. I have also become more involved on campus as a result of joining Greek life. It is nothing if not a challenge to tell my story to those who have not experienced it firsthand. I’m  writing this solely because I believe that Greek life has made me stronger, more confident, and essentially a better woman inside and out.

I strive every day to lessen these harsh stereotypes and hope that one day Greek life is known throughout the world for having powerful and compassionate members. The people within my organization as well as the other two on campus, Delta Zeta and Kappa Sigma, have made me so proud to be an MSUM Greek. It’s easy to relate to them as my brothers and sisters — we’re not just organizations. We’re a family.

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