Oftentimes in today’s society, Greek Life is described as “Archaic and stupid”, and that joining a fraternity or sorority is an expensive old-boys club that caters to the privileged and beautiful. It is hip to bash Greeks, and paint them out to be heathens and party animals. However, if you approach those who are or were actually involved with Greek life, an overwhelming majority will tell you that it is the best decision that they have ever made in their lives. Joining a Greek organization provides a strong group of peers, ranging from freshmen to seniors, across all majors, that are there to assist with the adjustments and changes that go along with beginning your college career. This study’s aim is to examine the positive and negative aspects of joining Greek Life in college, and how those who are involved in Greek Life have been affected by their choice to join a letter society. In addition, this study looks at independent college students who never joined a Fraternity or Sorority, why they made that decision, and whether they regret it. Overall, this research and ethnography into Greek life examines how Greeks view their decision to join, why they joined, the best and worst things about Greek life, and their views on school spirit versus the views held by non-Greeks.
The first research question asked subjects if they felt that going Greek was a good decision, and why they chose to join a Greek life to begin with. UH Supply Chain Management Junior Max stated “To improve my status in all aspects both socially and academically… while obtaining a real college experience and lifetime memories with genuine friends”. The position held by this respondent matched a bulk of the opinions held by the Greeks I interviewed. Travis, a business administration sophomore at the University of Mississippi said that he “always knew he wanted to join a fraternity, but had no idea the lasting impact that it would have on his life through friendship, networking, and my education.” The others interviewed during this research also maintained that joining Greek life was absolutely a good decision, and there was not a single respondent involved with Greek life that said they regretted joining or that it was a bad decision. The research does point out, however, that the university attended swayed the opinions of independent students on whether they regretted not joining. For example, UH Junior Nate confessed that he did regret not joining a fraternity because of UH’s lacking campus life, and that it took longer for him to make good friends because of the decreased networking that comes along with not being a part of a Greek organization at a commuter-heavy college. However, USC Sophomore Joseph did not regret his decision to remain independent, because the atmosphere of the school and extracurriculars made it easy for him to make friends and connections regardless of Greek affiliation. This study showed that Greeks do not regret their decision to join, and joined mostly for friendship, networking, and better grades. In addition, non-Greeks at schools with smaller social atmospheres oftentimes regret their decision to stay independent, while non-Greeks at larger schools with more things to do tend not to regret their choice. All in all, this research question showed that joining Greek life is a good idea.
Any decision that a person makes will have both negative and positive effects, and joining Greek life is no exception. The decision to go Greek brings along with it a large time commitment, an added financial obligation, strict GPA requirements, and other additional burdens on a schedule that already includes class, homework, studying, and possibly a job or family. However, the responses received through this research showed that the positives easily outweigh the negatives associated with Greek life. UH Senior Cameron noted that a big positive was networking, and that an alumni from his fraternity offered him a job upon graduation. A large part of the appeal of Greek life is that it provides business connections from both undergraduates and alumni. Another positive aspect that was talked about was housing. Greek housing is generally cheaper than dorms or apartments, and oftentimes provides better amenities, such as study lounges, large kitchens, and workout facilities. UH Petroleum Engineering Junior Moira said that she enjoys living in her sorority house because she always has someone to go eat with or study with, and it is less expensive than living in a dorm or apartment. Greeks were also eager to talk about charitable work and philanthropy, such as UH Sophomore Ashlyn who said “What is so great about our philanthropy is that we get to interact with the victims of domestic violence every week. Watching the women and their children gain independence and strength back is so fulfilling”. The other main upside that respondents talked about was better grades. UH Junior Jeremy remarked that being in a fraternity helped him with his grades because there were older brothers that had taken many of the classes that he was enrolled in. Greeks, on average, have a higher grade point average, retention rate, and graduation rate when compared to those who did not join Greek life. The downsides to going Greek focus mainly in areas of time and financial commitments. UH Sophomore Salomon said that the only downside to being in his Fraternity is the large time commitment associated with being an active member. Overall, the positives for Greek life far outweigh the negatives.
School spirit, and being passionate about the university that you attend, are very important to having a better college experience both socially and academically. Other studies have shown that having more school spirit leads to higher GPAs and graduation rates. Through talking to Greeks and independents about their school spirit and overall opinions on the school they attend, it became apparent that morale and school spirit were much higher among Greeks than non-Greeks. UH Sophomore Emily said that she goes to every football game, and always wears school branded clothing, and is extremely passionate about her school. Greeks participate in many more school sponsored functions, and tend to appreciate their university more. Several of the independents that I spoke with had never even been to a school football game. “I think that school spirit and being involved.. is a big part of having a fun college experience”, remarked Travis, an Economics Senior at University of Houston. Overall, it was clearly evident that Greeks had a big appreciation for school spirit when compared to independents, and that Greeks felt much closer with their university.
The research methods used for this study included face to face interviews, questionnaires, and qualitative research. The most compelling information came from the interviews, where open-ended questions left more room for those taking the survey to elaborate on their opinions. The interviewing process was also time consuming, but due to the useful information yielded by the survey, it was well worth the effort. The questionnaires passed out to fraternity and sorority members helped immensely with gathering information on school spirit. The ethnography relied heavily on qualitative research, and the descriptions and opinions described by the respondents. The only quantitative information in this ethnography came from secondary sources.
The secondary research in this ethnography chiefly performed the task of providing a basis on what questions should be asked. By reviewing data collected by past studies, it became clear what to ask the respondents, and what the results would most likely be. In “The Influence of Fraternity or Sorority Membership on Students' College Experiences and Cognitive Development”, Gary Pike discusses how being a part of Greek life has positive recourse in regards to the overall experience that a student has in college. Pike also noted that Fraternity/Sorority affiliation had an overall positive effect on the social skills and mental fortitude of subjects. The research reported by Pike was a clear indication that this ethnography needed to ask about the negative aspects in addition to the positives, and that university pride may well have a relation to Greek affiliation.A study about the survival of Greek life talked about the positive and negative aspects of fraternities and sororities, and concluded that the educational and community service areas of the Greek system needed to be maintained and improved to keep the system alive. This secondary research showed that it was absolutely necessary for Greeks to appreciate and enjoy the philanthropic and scholarly ambitions of their respective organizations. The questions in the survey were tailored by the secondary research found in the preceding two secondary sources.
Taking a closer look into Greek life provided several interesting conclusions. The research found that Greeks do not regret their decision to join a fraternity or sorority, and that non-Greeks regret their decision except in the case where the school attended has a large social atmosphere outside of Greek life. The study concluds that positive elements of Greek life include networking and business connections through alumni and undergraduate members, housing that is less expensive and higher quality than dormitories, the charitable work and philanthropy done by the organization, and the increased grade point averages and help with courses from older members, while the negative aspects include a large time commitment and financial obligation. When examining the effects of Greek life on school pride and college experience, it is evident that Greeks feel closer to their University and in turn, come away from college with a better experience. Surprising results from the survey showed that there are people who do not regret joining a fraternity or sorority, and that Greek affiliation led to a higher grade point average and graduation rate. Future studies may examine the effect of joining a fraternity or sorority on those who are clinically depressed, and whether it led to increased levels of happiness and life appreciation. In addition, examining correlations of fraternity and sorority affiliation with divorce rates may prove fruitful, since it would appear that Greeks are more likely to say with their spouse based on the increased dedication that comes along with Greek affiliation and school pride. Overall, the findings of the ethnography proved to be similar to the initially expected results, and this study of Greek life shows that it is a worthwhile idea to become a part of a fraternity or sorority.
Works Cited Page
- "Why I Oppose the Greek System."Brute Reason. Brute Reason, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
- Doherty, Risa. "The New York Times."Greek Letters at a Price. NYT, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
- Schwantes, Canden. "Media and Hollywood Inaccurately Represents College Greek Life."Media and Hollywood Inaccurately Represents College Greek Life. Elon University, n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.
- Glass, Nicole. "Examining the Benefits of Greek Life."USA TODAY College. USA TODAY, 8 May 2013. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.
- "Research by Varsity Brands Identifies Connection between School Spirit and Student Achievement, Involvement and Confidence."Varsity. N.p., 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
- Pike, Gary. "The Influence of Fraternity or Sorority Membership on Students' College Experiences and Cognitive Development - Springer.". Research in Higher Education, 01 Feb. 2000. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
- Ackerman, Robert. “The Survival of Greek Life:Concerns and solutions” . Eric.Gov. NASPA journal, Fall 1990. Web. 12 Nov. 2014
 "Why I Oppose the Greek System."Brute Reason. Brute Reason, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
 Doherty, Risa. "The New York Times."Greek Letters at a Price. NYT, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
 Schwantes, Canden. "Media and Hollywood Inaccurately Represents College Greek Life."Media and Hollywood Inaccurately Represents College Greek Life. Elon University, n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.
 Glass, Nicole. "Examining the Benefits of Greek Life."USA TODAY College. USA TODAY, 8 May 2013. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.
 "Research by Varsity Brands Identifies Connection between School Spirit and Student Achievement, Involvement and Confidence."Varsity. N.p., 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
 Pike, Gary. "The Influence of Fraternity or Sorority Membership on Students' College Experiences and Cognitive Development - Springer.". Research in Higher Education, 01 Feb. 2000. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
 Ackerman, Robert. "The Survival of Greek Life: Concerns and Solutions."Eric.gov. NASPA Journal, Fall 1990. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.