Staff Editorial: The changing identity of Greek-letter life

At this point in the school year, it is inevitable that the GW community will focus a great deal of attention on the role of Greek-letter life organizations on campus. Yet the identity of fraternities and sororities at GW has been changing and the evolving identity of the community highlights the need for the Greek system to re-evaluate its responsibilities and functions.

GW’s Greek-letter life community has expanded, and currently makes up 25 percent of the student body. The size of this community, and the impact it has on the rest of campus, stands in stark contrast to the way it was in previous years. Whereas before, Greek-letter life was merely something that GW offered, it is now growing into a fundamental element of GW’s identity. For better or for worse, a changing community needs to alter its focus accordingly.

Greek-letter life parties have become a very popular destination for GW students on weekends, and they play an important role in GW’s social scene. The need for these organizations to evaluate their position on campus is highlighted by the focus on these parties. Both University officials and Foggy Bottom residents have taken note of the social side of Greek-letter life as of late. This awareness underscores the impact of the Greek community. The leaders of Greek-letter life are surely aware of the increased attention on their events, but they should also be cognizant of the fact that as a community expands, it is bound to affect people outside of the immediate organization.

What is even more striking about this time is the absence of a fixed GW administrator to oversee this community. Former Director of Greek Life Dean Harwood left the position this summer, and GW has not yet hired a permanent replacement. Leaders in Greek-letter life have a greater responsibility now than they have had in previous years, and pending the selection of a new director, they should develop a vision of where they, as students, want the community to go. Then, once a new director is hired, they can work with that individual to ensure that this person is aware of the changes in Greek-letter life’s identity over the past few years, and work to implement the newfound focus.

GW’s Greek-letter community differs immensely from the Greek systems at other schools, and leaders should take this into consideration when looking to the future. Already a perennial fundraising force, Greek-letter life should continue to participate in other organizations on campus. Though we do not anticipate that GW’s fraternities and sororities will turn into a solely party-focused community, it could be one direction to take. We hope that members of Greek-letter life remember what makes Greek life at GW so unique – that it is not merely a social hub, but a center for leaders and philanthropists too.

Today is the first day of fraternity rush, and this weekend marks the beginning of Panhel recruitment. Greek-letter life is growing for a reason, as students are attracted to the benefits of joining fraternities and sororities. The identity of this community is changing, and now it is even more important for the Greek-letter community to define where it sees itself on campus not only this year, but in years to come.

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