Greek organizations value academics, leadership, service and sisterhood/brotherhood
An all-you-can-eat pancake feed in the middle of the night might seem unusual, but it's become routine for the members of UND’s Pi Beta Phi sorority and their fellow Greeks.
Each semester, the sorority holds a pancake feed that attracts hundreds of Greeks and non-Greeks to their home. This semester, their event raised $2,042 for First Books, which is a national organization that buys books for underprivileged children.
Nearly every Greek organization at UND hosts a different type of feed throughout the year to raise money for their philanthropy. But, these spaghetti and pancake feeds are just one of the many ways they help local and national nonprofits. UND’s Greek organizations raised $46,887 and spent a combined 22,453 hours volunteering their time for charity last year.
As the coordinator for fraternity and sorority life at UND, Alyssa Walker said she sees a lot more positive than negative in the Greek community.
Along with philanthropy, Greek organizations value academics, service, leadership, sisterhood and brotherhood. They hold their members to high standards but also provide support for their members in all aspects of their lives.
“(Greek life) gives them such good opportunities for holding each other accountable, for developing leadership skills that they never had before and connecting them with people throughout the community,” she said. “It also establishes a home away from home environment for students, especially for those who may be further away from home than others.”
Finding the best fit
There are currently 1,095 students involved in Greek life at UND, which accounts for about 10 percent of the undergraduate population. Many of the students join as freshmen, but students can join any time throughout their college career. Formal recruitment is held in the fall and spring semesters every year. For sororities, the recruitment process involves a three-day weekend, where students are introduced to each chapter. For fraternities, Walker said most of the recruitment is done by word-of-mouth.
From the outside, the process may seem selective, but Walker said, “It’s really just about finding the chapter that fits you best and vice versa.”
For her, it was Kappa Alpha Theta, which she joined when she was a sophomore transfer student at UND. Like many students, Walker had negative perceptions of the Greek community, but she gave it a try.
Dylan Torgerson, junior member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and president of the Interfraternity Council, said he too had those perceptions. He never expected to join a fraternity, and he said that’s the case for about eight out of 10 people now involved in Greek life.
“I totally had those perceptions, too,” said Alexis D’Souza, junior member of Alpha Phi and president of Panhellenic Council, the governing council of sororities. Now, D’Souza said she understands that Greek life is so much more than partying all the time.
Once students join a sorority or fraternity, they have many opportunities for leadership within their organization and in the Greek governing councils. Through those leadership roles, students can build their resume and develop important life skills.
D’Souza said her involvement in the Greek community has allowed her to further develop her communication skills.
“I would go into a meeting and get to speak to 100 people every week, and I think it’d be hard to get that experience anywhere else,” she said.
Greek leaders also learn confrontation skills when addressing members who aren’t upholding the standards, which they wouldn’t necessarily face in other organizations, said Walker. But, it’s not just the leaders of these organizations that benefit.
“I’d be hard pressed to think that there’s anyone that’s ever been in Greek life that can’t attribute some part of their professional or personal growth to that experience,” said Corey Mock, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals and UND Delta Upsilon alumnus. “You don’t need to be an executive of an organization to witness the benefit of being in Greek life.”
Mock said everyone in a fraternity learns accountability because if one member doesn’t pay his bills, it can affect the entire house.
He said Greek life also gives students an understanding of politics, how to interact with people and how to make progress to reach goals in an organization.
Members of these organizations are also urged to succeed academically. Each organization has a minimum grade point average that its members must maintain to keep their membership privileges. If one falls below that minimum, they are often restricted from social privileges, but they are also provided the resources and support to get back on track.
“If you’re falling behind, we’ll do whatever we can to help that person out,” Torgerson said. “We have probation structures and academic structures and academic plans that people have to go through to be in a house just to make sure they’re succeeding.”
Walker added that each chapter has a judicial board that holds members accountable for academics and behavior.
“Typically, if something were to occur, they’d go to that judicial board and the judicial board would give them some sanctions, things that they would have to do to get back in good standing with the chapter,” she said. “Our students know how to balance getting the job done but doing it well because there are people who will let them know if they’re not.”
They are first held accountable by members and leaders of their chapter. If there are continuous problems, leaders from the national organization may step in. Walker said the chapter and national organizations can end memberships; the school cannot, but all members are held to the same university standards as other students.
Greek houses allow for deeper connections
For many students, a big advantage of Greek life is the close relationships they build with fellow members.
Walker said when students come to college they’re looking for genuine, lifelong friendships, and Greek life allows them to make those deeper connections.
“It’s more than just friendship; it’s a brotherhood and a support structure,” Torgerson said.
He may not talk to all of the fraternity members on a daily basis, he said, but he knows that he could go to any one of them if he was having a problem.
D’Souza agreed. “No matter what happens, whether that’s family members getting sick or having a bad day at class … you always have that support system,” she said. “They just become your family.”
Mock said he believes the reason the relationships are deeper than those formed in other organizations is that many of the members live together in the sorority or fraternity house and spend the majority of their free time attending Greek events together.
“You live among the members, you share ownership in the organization’s success, you attend all-campus meetings together, you attend philanthropy and service projects together,” he said. “It’s not just a student activity; it takes a pretty good chunk of your time.”
About 40 percent of Greeks at UND live in their chapter houses at any given time, Walker said. Most members live in the chapter house their sophomore and junior years. Many Greek houses provide meals, and some chapters have cooks who work full time in their houses; other chapters have lunch and dinner catered from the campus dining service.
Many members, especially those who live in their Greek houses, eat, sleep and study together every day.
“When you have that close knit group of friends that have shared passions you can really develop deeper friendships and relationships that will last much beyond your days in college,” he said.
Whether it’s through advising, joining alumni foundations or just visiting Greek brothers and sisters, many said ties to Greek organizations are lifelong.
Stacey Dahl, alumna of Delta Gamma sorority, said she served as an adviser to the sorority for three years after graduation. Now, she is a part of the sorority’s alumnae foundation, which plants flowers at the sorority house every spring, recognizes the senior members and plans social gatherings.
Walker said almost every Greek organization has alumni chapters around the country, so its members can stay connected, support one another and support their sorority or fraternity. Joining alumni chapters also allows members to have an immediate connection to a group of people with similar values if they ever move to a new city.
D’Souza said she believes it’s deeper than just one’s chapter or specific Greek organization though. “Just being Greek in general kind of stays with you forever,” she said.
While many are proud of their experiences in Greek organizations, Mock said some might feel the need to hide their Greek ties because of the negative stereotypes associated with the organizations.
“We’re hoping to create a brand of fraternity that you don’t have to hide from, where people can proudly say ‘I’m a member of Delta Upsilon’ and people can look at that and go ‘You’re the guys that go down to Jamaica and do mission projects...,’” he said. “And they (can) feel proud of that as opposed to hiding from that negative label that could exist.”
“I would never hide and take that off of my resume,” he added. “It’s a part of my life; I think it’s defined me as a better person.”
UND Greek By the Numbers
- 6: Number of sororities.
- 13: Number of fraternities.
- 40: Percent of Greeks who live in-house at their fraternities and sororities.
- 81: Percent of Greeks involved in other student organizations outside of Greek life.
- 1,095: Number of students involved in Greek life.
- 22,453: Number of hours volunteered by students within the Greek community last year.
- $46,887: Money raised by Greek organizations for philanthropic organizations last year.
The cost of being Greek
Greek life comes with many benefits, but those benefits come at a cost. Each fraternity and sorority member must pay membership due each semester. The cost is determined by each chapter.
The average cost for a first semester sorority member at UND is about $840. The average cost for following semesters is about $680. UND does not track the averages costs for fraternities, but Alyssa Walker, coordinator for fraternity and sorority life at UND, said the prices are comparable to sororities.
Many members choose to live in the chapter house their sophomore and junior years, and the total cost of room and board and membership dues is often less than living off-campus of living on-campus in a residence hall. The average cost for live-in sorority members is $2,230 per semester, while the costs of living in a residence hall with a meal plan ranges from $2,638 to $4,575 per semester.
Greek organizations often offer payment plans, which allow members to pay in installments throughout the semester. And, some Greek organizations offer scholarships to help offset costs.
Walker said once a student graduates they are no longer required to pay membership dues, unless they join the alumni chapter.