“All they do is party”, “they pay for their friends”, “their parents pay for everything”, “they haze”, “they’re always doing drugs and drinking alcohol”, “it’s a waste of 4 years”, “they’re fake and hate each other”, “the guys are d*****bags and the girls are who***”, and I could go on forever. There are negative connotations associated with people who are in Greek life. Many of those stereotypes stem from movies, tv shows, and even real life occurrences, but that does not mean that all Greek organizations are the same and definitely not the ones at UMBC.
I’m sure many will think and ask yourselves why this topic is important and relevant when there are many other problems in the world. This topic is important because
it is just another example on how stereotypes have gotten the best of our society. Not only do people in Greek Life have a negative image, others are making judgments about them before even getting to know them.
I decided to choose this topic because it is something that is very close to my heart. Joining a Greek Organization was the best decision I’ve made in college. It sounds drastic, but it’s true. Before I joined, I was lost – I did not really have any friends to depend on, and I didn’t know who I was as a person or what I truly valued. The organization I joined helped me find myself and helped me grow; the women I call my “sisters” have encouraged me to step up and not let fear prevent me from being myself one hundred percent of the time. When I joined, I not only gained a huge support system and confidence from my own chapter, but I gained friendships from my council, other councils, the entire Greek Community, and the UMBC community; joining a Greek Org tied me closer to UMBC. in general.
At first, I was going to interview individuals in each chapter to get their point of views, to hear their Greek Life stories, how their chapter has impacted them and to find out what significance Greek Life holds in their lives. But then, after I started my interviews, I realized I wanted the responses to be anonymous so people did not feel any awkwardness or pressure talking to me; I wanted to view the responses as a whole representation of UMBC Greek Life. I wanted respondents to be completely honest, and I did not want them to withhold any information or feelings, and the best way to do that is to send out an anonymous survey.
This is the link to my survey: http://goo.gl/forms/zFqZHrikqw
The amount of respondents that had experiences similar to my own was overwhelming, and I was very amazed by how big of an impact joining a Greek organization could have. One word was repeated throughout almost all the responses and that word is “family” and “support”.
Many mentioned that Greek Life is so much more than what it seems on the outside. A big part of Greek Life is philanthropy, volunteering, and giving back to the community. Each organization has either a philanthropy which is an organization that they support, raise money for, donate to, volunteer at, or spread the word about. Beyond that, the Greek community gives back and volunteers at other local places, too.
Others say that joining Greek Life has opened doors of opportunity for them. For example, one person said that their fraternity brother was very involved in another organization on campus and with his encouragement, he also got involved with that organization, and then before he knew it, he was involved in all types of activities on campus and meeting new people. Many Greek life members are in honor societies, SGA, (seb), etc. Right now, our new SGA President is in a fraternity, and he is someone that a lot of people look up to, including myself.
One person even wrote a story about when her mother passed away, all her sorority sisters and people from other sororities were right by her side, providing her with everything and anything she needed. She said “I was so moved to see how many people in my own org, and even beyond that, were so supportive and loving during my time of need. That is when I knew that I had made friendships to last forever.”
Every Spring, there is a week called Greek Week that involved friendly competition between all Greek organizations, but more importantly, it is a week where all of Greek life comes together to remember that no matter how great our own chapters are, we have an amazing Greek community here at UMBC, too. During this week, one of the most intimate nights is Take Back the Night. It is a tradition at UMBC that Greek life works with The Women’s Center annually to attend TBTN and the march.
During Greek Week, I encouraged my chapter to attend this event because of how incredible it is, and we even made posters. This is the one event out of the entire week where people show up not for the competition, but because they truly support survivors and they want to put an end to domestic, sexual, and relationship violence. it is a chance to show the UMBC community that Greek life is more than what it seems. We care about the entire community and not only do we support each other’s chapters, we support the entire campus.
For my project, I tried to put together an All-Greek Councils Meeting this semester, but due to everyone’s clash of schedules and unavailability, it unfortunately did not happen. I had the entire event planned out, filled with ice breakers, discussion topics, and more. I wanted all the chapters to be on the same page and to get to know each other more. Even in Greek life, there are cliques, and I want to break that habit. In order to have a louder voice, I ran for and was elected for the council that my sorority is apart of, Panhellenic Association, to be on its executive board. The best part is that I decided to run for an executive position because of this project.
What worked for my project: I think the anonymous survey was a really good way of getting information because no one had anything to hold back because of the anonymity of the survey. I also got a good amount of responses since it was online, and in this day and age, everyone is always online.
What didn’t work for my project: I was pretty upset that my All-Greek Councils Meeting ended up being cancelled because I worked really hard to plan it and put it at all together, but I will not give up, and I hope to reschedule it for next semester. I came up with the idea of the anonymous survey after I met with a couple of people, so I wish I came up with the idea sooner.
What I would do differently next time: I would definitely continue down the path that I took, but I would also want to reach out to other Maryland colleges to compare their Greek life to UMBC’s Greek life, I’d also want the event that I planned to happen.
Greek life is just like any other student organization on campus – we work hard, we study hard, we’re just trying to get through college like everyone else. There are good people and there are bad people, but it’s unfair to be judged based off of a stereotype.
This project has made me feel more comfortable with the word “activism.” I realized that I do not have to go out and protest on the streets in order for to be an activist. Anything from making a comment to someone who says or does something that’s not ethical and that would be considered activism, too. I have learned that I am an activist and that every little action counts and matters. I learned that anyone can be an activist and that we should all stand up for ourselves and others because we can make a difference.