Greek life extends beyond house into campus life

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To go Greek or not to go Greek? I say go Greek. I faced this question three years ago just weeks into my first year — and my decision to go Greek was the best I have made in college. Four years will seem to speed by, and I couldn’t be more glad that I made the choice so early on.

In talking with my Greek friends, their biggest regret is often that they didn’t do the same, and instead waited until sophomore or even junior year. There are three categories of students who walk onto our campus: the nevers, the maybes, and the “OMG I must go Greek”s. For the nevers, there is often nothing that can convince them to go the other way. They will continually mock us, citing robed rituals, social mixers, and constant wearing of lettered shirts with cheesy sayings. The “OMG”s will no doubt join us as soon as they can get to the Quad. The maybes, however, make up the majority of Greek life on our campus. I was a maybe, yet have found myself addicted to world that Greek life offers.

As a member, the opportunities are endless, and to the unaffiliated student, the benefits these groups bring to campus should be crystal clear. Although represented by just 1006 students, or 20 percent of campus, the impact of our Greek community is quite big.

For members, the effect can be tremendous. Joining up may seem daunting to incoming first-years, but you should not let it phase you. Greek life at Carnegie Mellon is unique. Our size allows for a network small enough to get to know people, and large enough for every student to find their niche. And our reality is far from commercialized stereotypes as seen in Animal House and Legally Blonde. Like all things at Carnegie Mellon, we don’t do things halfway. We do it all — scholarship, leadership, philanthropy, networking, friendship, and support, just to name a few.

Fraternities and sororities were founded on these principles and we stick to them today. Sixty percent of Greeks are members of other campus organizations, with 32 percent serving in leadership roles, as of spring 2009. Four of the five Panhellenic sororities earned QPAs above the all-women’s average, and four fraternities surpassed the all-men’s average. Throughout a member period, we enforce a strict no-hazing policy. We make sure that members are held accountable for all that they do, allowing them to excel.

The support network offered serves as a home away from home for all its members. The physical chapter facility is available whenever needed for a room to stay overnight or a place to find people to listen to your problems. Greek housing is usually cheaper than campus housing, includes free laundry, and large common rooms, and — for the majority of the fraternities — a personal chef. Some fraternities and sororities even allow first-semester first years to move into the facilities if space allows. The diverse groups of personalities within a house allow each member to find an even closer niche within the chapter. This diversity allows members to play upon their strengths and take up leadership positions in everything ranging from Booth, Buggy, and Greek Sing to networking and event planning to philanthropy and community service.

Leadership is encouraged, but not required. In our community, you really do get what you give. If you don’t have the time to be the organization’s next president, you can enjoy all the privileges of just being a member. If leadership is what gets you, you have the chance to explore this in whatever area you choose.

Our community extends its passions far beyond its house and into every area of campus life. Five of the six Head Orientation Counselors for this year’s Orientation are Greek, as well as a large portion of Orientation leaders and Orientation counselors. Six members of the small cheerleading squad are Greek, as well as a majority of the varsity football team. Greeks are a constant presence at Spring Carnival, placing in Buggy, and making some of the most impressive Booths on Midway.

Greek life is not just a one-time experience — it’s a commitment for life. Once initiated into a Greek organization, the member is often given access to an extensive alumni directory of professionals, an alumni chapter in almost every city, and a lifelong connection to collegiate friends.

As Greeks, we graduate from college knowing not only that they are connected for life but also that they have made a difference. Greek organizations were credited this past spring with over 4500 community service hours, $28,419 raised for philanthropies, and 59 campus educational programs.

We enter the real world knowing that we have formed an extensive social network. While our campus has just over 6000 undergraduates, the tight-knit qualities of our community ensure that we meet a few people in every campus demographic who can introduce us to even more people. Who knows who these people will be one day? Greeks alone represent 76 percent of all Congressmen and Senators, 85 percent of all Fortune 500 executives, 40 of 47 Supreme Court justices since 1910, and every U.S. President and Vice President since 1825 but four. When you add in the Carnegie Mellon intelligence factor for both Greeks and non-affiliated students, the benefits of a large social network are grand.

When I look back on my letters next year, I’ll remember with great pride the best thing I chose to do with my college years. And if you are a maybe or an “OMG,” I’m excited for you to get the chance to experience it too!