SHARE
Women from Hillsdale College’s three soror­ities Pi Beta Phi (left), Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Chi Omega (right) are com­peting this week in their annual Greek Week. Jessie Fox | Col­legian

Across the country, college admin­is­tra­tions and stu­dents are fighting battles against sexual assault, binge drinking, and gender inclusion. 

Its target? The Greek system.

These single-sex orga­ni­za­tions are plas­tered all over the media with stereo­types including raging parties, extreme hazing, and elitist exclu­sivity. The Greek system appears to cul­tivate secret soci­eties revolving pri­marily around social func­tions, causing problems on campus rather than serving the com­munity.

In August, Harvard Uni­versity forced their last-standing sorority to close because of a rule that pro­hibited members of single-sex orga­ni­za­tions from holding lead­ership posi­tions throughout campus. Earlier this month, Mon­mouth Uni­versity in New Jersey banned all sorority and fra­ter­nities indef­i­nitely because of vio­la­tions of conduct. The college’s admin­is­tration cited inci­dents of hazing, alcohol, drug use, and “lack of aca­demic focus” as reasons to shut down the Greek system. 

Non-Greeks see Greek life as a danger; Greeks see their system in danger. 

While the Greek system is broken and falling apart in many places across the country, the foun­da­tions on which these orga­ni­za­tions were estab­lished still remain strong today, ensuring the pos­si­bility for chapters to return to the noble beliefs on which many of these groups were founded.

When exe­cuted properly, young adults can thrive and grow within Greek houses, being chal­lenged by valuable lessons to better them­selves and learn from their mis­takes, as well as the mis­takes of others. 

His­tor­i­cally, Greek houses were built on vir­tuous grounds, seeking com­munity and cul­ti­vating a spirit of service among one another and in the greater com­munity. Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary as a secret honor society, the first of its kind to use Greek letters to form its name. Its goals in forming were to encourage excel­lence in both liberal arts and the sci­ences. Today, it’s con­sidered one of the most pres­ti­gious hon­o­raries.

In 1825, Kappa Alpha formed at Union college, based off of a similar set of ideals as Phi Beta Kappa. Kappa Alpha, however, focused on a cre­ating a com­munity with high ethical and social values. The members wore badges and par­tic­i­pated in ini­ti­ation cer­e­monies.  

Today, things are the same. 

Joining Greek com­mu­nities ties members to a long history of strong ideals — building com­munity, cul­ti­vating char­acter, and enabling change within the com­munity. 

It’s an investment and can be a life-long com­mitment. Most Greek orga­ni­za­tions rely on a strong alumni base of advisors that guide active members through running the orga­ni­zation. The saying that “sis­terhood” is for a lifetime is often not just a slogan, but a reality. 

Recently, an alumna of my sorority expe­ri­enced the sudden death of her husband while she was eight months pregnant. It was her sisters who gathered together to provide whatever they could. As an advisor was sharing this story with my chapter, she said, “It’s your sisters who are the ones by your sides at the funerals.” 

Char­acter growth is at its core. Fra­ter­nities and soror­ities are run by large national orga­ni­za­tions with reg­u­la­tions to protect its members, the chapters them­selves, and the insti­tu­tions which which they are affil­iated. Each indi­vidual group has stan­dards that members must fulfill for mem­bership. Chapters are held accountable in various ways — and national pan­hel­lenic and inter­fra­ternity groups have rallied together to fight issues such as hazing. 

According to ABC News, the North American Inter­fra­ternity Con­ference is working alongside the National Pan­hel­lenic Con­ference to speak with thou­sands of stu­dents about the dangers of hazing, most notably alongside parents such as Evelyn and Jim Piazza, whose 19-year-old son, Timothy, was a victim of hazing and died in his fra­ternity house, Beta Theta Pi. 

Even after expe­ri­encing the tragic death of their son, both Evelyn and Jim are not trying to abolish the Greek System. They’re fighting for reform and increased leg­is­lation.

“We believe through the inter­ac­tions that we’ve had that there’s a real sin­cerity to make a dif­ference,” Jim Piazza said on Good Morning America. 

Greek systems at Hillsdale College have encouraged support by nur­turing the school com­munity. Hillsdale’s Greek members are one of the strongest sup­ports to the college post grad­u­ation. On the Hillsdale College Alumni Exec­utive Board, each of its four members were members of Greek orga­ni­za­tions while at Hillsdale. Of the other alumni board members, 67 percent were Greek. Of alumni and stu­dents who con­tributed finan­cially to the college in the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year, 56 percent had a Greek affil­i­ation while attending the college. 

My expe­rience in Greek life has been pos­itive. Our rituals are mean­ingful and impacting — they guide my actions and unite me to the gen­er­a­tions of sisters that have come before me. I encounter a strong support system and am con­sistent encouraged to better myself daily. I am forever grateful for the chance to “Go Greek.”

Josephine von Dohlen is a senior studying American Studies and the pres­ident of Chi Omega.

  • Camus53

    Unfor­tu­nately the college admin­is­tration has done its best to destroy Greek life at Hillsdale. Though interest in and mem­bership in the life has ebbed and waned throughout now century’s worth of col­le­giate time.

    Perhaps some day the orga­ni­za­tions will expe­rience a renais­sance on campus? Just as I muse that perhaps some day Hillsdale too will expe­rience its own renais­sance of open thought and learning? Wishful thinking for both?

    Ille­gitimi non car­borundum

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I had a good expe­rience in the Greek system at hillsdale as well.