Throughout Winter Quarter, as I became more accustomed to Greek life at Northwestern (and joined a fraternity), I kept on hearing things like, “Oh, you hooked up with a girl from that sorority? Wow, way to step your game up.” Or even, “Wait, you’re pledging that frat? Aren’t all those guys douchebags?”
What I’m getting at here is that, unfortunately, the student body labels fraternities and sororities on this campus unfairly, and places them on a social “ladder” (on several occasions, I’ve even heard fraternity guys directly inform sorority girls where their respective chapters ranked on the “ladder”). This “ladder” creates a negative environment that discourages intermingling among the chapters.
Reed Kolbe, a McCormick freshman in Sigma Phi Epsilon, admits that there is “definitely a hierarchy presence [in Greek life].”
Since his fraternity wasn’t on campus yet during Winter Quarter, Kolbe didn’t get to experience mixers with sororities, but he did gather a lot about them from his friends, which only reaffirmed his belief. “I would hear some kids say, ‘Oh we’re having a mixer with (name omitted) tomorrow, so even though I have a test to study for tomorrow, I’ll just go there,’” he said. “Sometimes when it’s Friday night, [they will say] ‘I have better things to do than to go to a mixer with a low tier sorority.’”
The fact that the term “low tier” exists for fraternities and sororities is a major problem in itself. It creates the notion in people’s minds that Sorority A is better than Sorority B; therefore, people will be more motivated to socialize with them.
Even those who aren’t Greek-affiliated understand the perceived hierarchy system. During fall quarter, Michelle Hsu, a freshman in the School of Communication, was talking with one of her friends, who gave her a “rundown” of all the sororities on campus.
”She didn’t really call it a ranking, but she kind of clustered it in groups of three,” Hsu said. “There was like ‘here’s the [top] three, here’s the next three, here’s the next three and here’s the bottom three.”
Although she didn’t end up joining a sorority, Hsu still participated in the rush process. During this period, she heard a lot of chatter about what college websites were saying, regarding stereotypes associated with different chapters.
Clearly, non-Greek students are aware of the problem at hand, which is unfortunate because it might lead them to hold a negative view towards Greek life. Could it have factored into their decision to not rush in the first place? My guess is that it probably did.
What’s even more frustrating about this whole situation is that we all go to a school full of smart, motivated young adults and yet many of us in the Greek system are quick to judge others solely based on the Greek letters on their t-shirts and sweaters. As a Greek community, we need to grow up just a bit. It’s not like we are in high school any longer: social status shouldn’t matter any more. Furthermore, we can’t act like we are “better” than those who have no Greek affiliation whatsoever. I have heard several instances of fraternity men say things like, “That kid’s not cool because he’s not in a frat.”
So how did this social status problem arise in the Greek community? A huge reason is that fraternities and sororities don’t plan enough events with one another. Basically, Fraternity A rarely associates with Fraternity B. I do have to say though that fraternities and sororities intermingle fairly often in the form of mixers and intramural sports, but even those aren’t enough.
Essentially, if we don’t bother to get to know others just based on what fraternity or sorority they are in, then we will most likely to continue to judge them unfairly. We might also be missing out on an opportunity to meet fraternity men and sorority women, who might have more in common with us than we had thought.
Although there are many ways in which the Greek community is looking to fix this problem (including holding inter-fraternity and sorority dinners), it apparently isn’t enough. Fraternities and sororities continue to be labeled within the Greek community, which is blatantly unfair. After all, shouldn’t all of us in the Greek system be proud to be associated with our “brothers and sisters,” rather than feeling insecure and judged? Personally, I couldn’t be happier to be where I am, but I know that others struggle with their perceived location on the “ladder.”
Northwestern Greek life has so much to offer, but if we, as a community, continue to judge one another based on an uninformed opinion, then we are only giving Greek life a bad name.