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Rachel Responds

Debunking college Greek life stereotypes

Rachel Woodman

May 4, 2012

“Vivian Smith” asks: What’s up with the Greek life here on campus? Why don’t they have a larger presence here? I feel like no one really knows about them.

Good question. In the interest of transparency, I am in a Greek organization. However, I couldn’t answer this question without diving into some good old-fashioned research.

It’s true bigger colleges do have a larger Greek presence. Sororities and fraternities there have a large number of members and many have sorority or fraternity houses. So why is it that at UW-River Falls the presence is smaller?

I sent out a questionnaire to the presidents of each UWRF Greek organization and cruised the interwebs in search of the answer. My findings were interesting.

According to Liz Byers, president of Alpha Sigma Alpha, it’s mainly campus size. Byers said that UWRF’s 7,000-member student body plays a large role keeping chapters small. Basically, there are less students at UWRF so there are less people interested in Greek life and smaller chapters are expected here.

“Another reason is the bad reputation that all Greek life has. They believe that the typical sorority girl is one that is all prim and proper that has had everything in her life given to her on a silver platter. Honesty, I can only think of [a few] girls that I have encountered in the Greek system that are actually like that,” Byers said.

Stereotypes. There are certain stereotypes associated with Greek life and both sororities and fraternities are impacted.

TV shows like “Greek,” which ran from 2007-2011 on ABC Family, showcased fictional fraternities and sororities behaving badly only strengthening the stereotypes and myths real Greek systems try to debunk.

The average person hears “sorority girl” and then thinks “bimbo.” That’s insulting to real sorority girls and something I was concerned about before I joined and learned more myself.

Writer for USA Today and sorority woman herself, Amanda Drum, wrote in an article, “Sororities care about the values that their chapters were chartered to uphold, and those values can hardly be exemplified by the size of a woman’s waistband, or by the brand names she wears.” Drum never thought of herself as plastic. Just a non-conformist avid pizza-eater.

Another common stereotype is that all people in Greek life do is party. In reality, it’s difficult to party as much as that stereotype would suggest and still manage to get the grades and uphold the standards you are expected to.

There are grade point average requirements, study hours, philanthropic hours, service hours and other responsibilities to manage on top of class – yeah, don’t forget class. No college is going to keep you around if you are flunking out. Even if you hosted the best highlighter-hipster-white-tblacklight- Hawaiian-ugly-sweater shindig the world has ever seen.

Being an active Greek involves a lot of time management and dedication. I know that my schedule is so packed between my positions, commitments, class, homework and job that I almost need to pencil in my Zzzzz’s if I want to get any. But, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Joining Greek life involves some dedication as well. Just not of the variety, many people think of.

I’m talking about hazing. Everyone knows what hazing is and no one, in their right mind, would hear that word and think: sign me up, Scotty!

Of course, no one wants to be hazed. No one should. Unfortunately, people who are worried about being hazed in Greek life might not stick around to learn about what Greek life is really about.

The truth is hazing is unlikely, it’s illegal in 43 states. Universities won’t stand for it, Greek councils won’t stand for it nor will the national organization backing the chapters here.

At UWRF, the Panhellenic Council governs sororities and the Interfraternity Council governs fraternities. These councils work to ensure that the organizations are fair to each other, to their members, and abide by all rules. Any foul play—of any sort—gets nabbed quickly.

A fraternity on this campus learned that last year when it broke some rules, ignored its punishment, and was disbarred by UWRF and lost its national charter. Bad behavior is not rewarded.

All of these stereotypes and myths cause many people to shy away from learning more about what Greek life represents. The original founders of the UWRF chapters founded their organizations over 100 years ago. The values chosen then are still aspired to today.

For Theta Chi President Evan Biczkowski, whom did not intend to ever be in a frat, he’s 100 percent positive going Greek was the best decision he ever made.

“My favorite part of Greek life is the bonds of friendship created with my brothers,” said Biczkowski,“There is always someone there if you need it or if you are just bored.” Those brotastic friendships created weren’t the only benefit he received by going Greek.

It’s a safe bet that every college student has heard the phrase “it’s all in who you know” at least once. And, when it comes to job-hunting, that’s frequently true. Networking is extremely important for college students trying to step into their careers after graduation – or before.

Biczkowski benefited from his Greek connections. He said, “Greek life also opens many doors. I have a job with the football team because a brother used to work for them.”

So, Vivian, to answer your question. Chapters here are small because the campus here is small. But those in Greek life feel it is also because stereotypes and myths prevent UWRF students from taking the steps to learn more about Greek life.

This campus is home to the sororities Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Phi Mu, Sigma Alpha and Sigma Sigma Sigma as well as fraternities Alpha Gamma Rho and Theta Chi. Anyone interested in learning about Greek life can visit the Student Life section of the UWRF website.

Formal Fall Recruitment begins this September when any student no matter their major, affiliation, or age can meet these organizations and its members haze and bimbo free. these organizations and its members haze and bimbo free.

Rachel Woodman is a senior majoring in marketing communications and minoring in journalism. She loves to work hard, play hard, and use clichés! Look for her Facebook page “Rachel Responds” and email her your questions or topic ideas to QuestionsForRachel@live.com.