Letters to the editor: Defending Greek life culture

Even a ‘GDI’ can recognize Greek spirit

In a recent blog post, “The sham friendships of Greek life” (Sept. 22, online), Jarred Stancil discourages students from blindly joining the fraternity and sorority scene. Stancil advocates students be wary of “sham friendships” they will find in forced socialization—he concludes one should be able to control their friend group.

As a fellow non-Greek student at GW, I disagree with his assessment. While Greek life is far from perfect, GW would certainly be a worse place without the Greek community than with it. Greek life helps foster longstanding friendships, serves as a professional network for the entirety of one’s career, and is a critical asset to forging GW school spirit.

Charles Wheelan, author of best-seller “Naked Economics,” offered a comedic commencement address at Dartmouth’s 2011 graduation with 10 realistic, counterintuitive thoughts he wished he heard before walking the  stage in 1988. His first on the list? The time spent with his fraternity was worthwhile:

“Your time in fraternity basements was well spent. . . Research tells us that one of the most important causal  factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings.

Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.”

Truly, if the man that has a knack for making unbiased statistics fun and appealing argues we all should have a new measure for postgraduate success, we may consider heeding his advice.

Greek life also provides a network of alum for one’s professional development. More than 60 percent of U.S. Congress members, 80 percent of Supreme Court justices, and over half of all S&P 500 directors are Greek. In a time of a struggling economy, connections may make the difference for one’s post-graduate employment.

Furthermore, the sitting Student Association president – as well as the past three, at least – have all also been in a fraternity or sorority.

Having 30 percent of the community involved with Greek life translates into school spirit and support. The firestorm of controversy surrounding GW’s summer plans to take Greek members’ off campus addresses proves the lasting loyalty. Upon the plan’s announcement, a number of Greek alumni revolted, promising to withdraw donations to the university. Undoubtedly, the Greek affiliation is key to alumni support.

And ultimately the brilliance of GW’s Greek community is that it successfully walks a tedious line. The university offers a welcoming, vivacious Greek community but joining is not an overbearing requirement. That is, a school with Greek participation rates about 10 percent higher than those of GW claims to be the ninth most engaging in the country. (This was College Inquirer’s assessment the University of Georgia.) A strong

Greek community is important, but students shouldn’t feel lost without taking part.

I go to GW, and I’m not Greek. And even as I recognize the benefits Greek life brings to the university, I’m not pressured to join — I’m content with the incredible opportunities offered in D.C. and find an admirable group of friends regardless. So go Greek and take part in a lively community, or don’t and find yourself in plenty respectable company. It’s your college experience.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a “GDI.”

– Joseph Nelson is a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The other side of friendship obligations

The blog post “The sham friendships of Greek life” (Sept. 22, online) states that “any friendship that includes obligation to a group as a condition for inclusion insults the concept of friendship.” Yet, in the same piece, the writer tells students that they are better off getting involved with multicultural student organizations or theatre companies because they are free from this obligation of the group and “fake” friendships.

But is that really true? How would your friends in the theater company feel if you skipped out on your obligations to memorize your lines? Or ditched practice? What would happen if you were part of a multicultural student organization, and you promised your president that you would book a room in the Marvin Center for an upcoming event, but you didn’t? How do you think that would affect your friendships in that group if you didn’t fulfill your responsibilities and commitments?

I rushed as a freshman. No, I didn’t spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on new clothes as I went through the process. No, I didn’t pledge undying loyalty and groveled at the feet of the older girls the moment I got my bid.

I’m not going to argue that we’re all friends with each other. That wouldn’t be honest. But, what you call “sham” friendships, I call a social experiment: one that has provided me with vast insight and experience in human interactions. In a group of 150 guys or girls, there are going to be differences in background, personalities, and opinions. This doesn’t mean we are all “pretending” to be friends.

It just means that we neutralize our individual problems for the good of the group.

– Gizem Tunca is a senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs, and is a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

The Greek life community: Not perfect, but still a family
As a senior who has been in Greek life since my first semester, I think I may have a bit more insight to the Greek system here than those who are not.

 The Greek system isn’t perfect. There are plenty of people who are in it for the wrong reasons. There are plenty of institutional decisions made that are wrong. There are plenty of terrible people in Greek life. I won’t pretend there are not. But that’s your first mistake. You’re assuming we’re all a faceless herd hiding behind our letters.

You think these institutions own us. But I own my letters, not the other way around. Our organizations are a part of our lives. I live my life by the principles set out by my fraternity not because I’m “obligated to” or because “passionate loyalty is expected.”

I live my life by these letters because of what they represent. They represent my efforts, my strides to be the best person I can be. I wear my letters to show that I am a member of an organization that is dedicated to making college men around the country better people.

The writer criticizes rush like it’s some sort of festival of misleading banter and a cheap –or rather, very expensive – attempt to gain “sham friendships.” But rush is about more than that.

What brings the fraternity together is character. We come together on trust. We come together on mutual assistance. We come together on family.

– James Chryssos is a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and is a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.