Opinion

Face-off: Greek Life

By Colin Ainsworth '17, Elizabeth Rodriguez '15

September 5, 2013

Spring rush strengthens Greek life
Colin Ainsworth '17

Let’s be real: when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way.

That is not to say that members of Greek societies are simple, or that they have nothing else by which to define themselves.  That is to say, however, that going Greek takes time. Most of it.    Ask any brother or sister, becoming a part of a Greek society is a serious, time-consuming commitment.  Hours will be taken out of days, thoughts will be frenzied and actions will be obligated.

It will not necessarily be easy and not everything will be enjoyable, but all of it is done in order to prove your extended loyalty to a new group, a loyalty that will be unquestionably returned to you.  It is an arduous process. That is why they call it pledging.

Now take that process and throw it on top of an 18-year-old who has just arrived at a new place where he or she lives with new people, eats new food, has new responsibilities and is learning new things every single day.  This is the guaranteed life of a first-year.

However, there are also the cases of first-year athletes who have to deal with the aforementioned stresses, as well as becoming acquainted with a new team, a new coach, a new system and new athletic challenges.

Or take the life of a first-year fine arts concentrator, one filled with auditions and critiques, and that is just the beginning.

While it is not only believable, but likely, that a first-year could handle all of his or her responsibilities, plus the responsibilities of a Greek society, that does not mean added stress is preferable.  Giving first-years a year to become acquainted with themselves and with campus life is more of a favor than a disservice.

The administration is also essentially doing the Greek societies a favor, as well. Bear with me here and think about Vanderbilt University. While an incredible educational institution, Vandy also manages to have some of the most stereotypical, most loyal and most dominant Greek life of any college and university in the United States. With that said, one would expect Vanderbilt’s rush to start at the standard time of first-year fall, but it doesn’t. It starts in the spring.

This essentially gives fraternities an entire semester of what can be thought of as “pre-rush.”  Those who are unsure of their interest can test it out once, and then never again.

The fraternities and sororities can gain actual relationships with possible brothers and sisters rather than make quick judgments.  Meanwhile, frats and sororities get to spend the first half of their year becoming acquainted as well. 

Isn’t Hamilton giving a year for this process doing the exact same thing, only better?

Greek life enriches first-year experience
Elizabeth Rodriguez '15

For the first time in decades, zombies will not be walking around campus this year. No, I’m not talking about the end of our beloved Humans vs. Zombies game; I’m talking about pledges. I am sure you remember hearing about the  great debate on the decision to postpone pledging for Greek societies until sophomore fall. Perhaps you followed the decision making process like you would a boxing match. That’s certainly what it felt like as students began firing away emails and Greek members started speaking up at Student Assembly meetings. While a lot of opinions were, we are living with the changes now and I’m still not a fan of the new system.

Let’s be real, because I am in a sorority, this time last year I was “girl flirting” with almost every first-year. Because pledging was only a semester away, I really wanted to get to know the girls who would be interested in joining my sorority. I remember being completely energized by my conversations and excited about the little nuances of Hamilton only a first-year would point out.

I am saddened by the fact that I can’t say I have had many conversations with first-year students this year. For myself, and a large majority of the student population, relationships that form between upperclassmen and first-years are initiated through rush events. Unfortunately, I don’t see these relationships forming as readily as they did last year.

Due to the lack of rushing by Greek societies, the rift between first-years and upperclassmen is widening. I understand strengthening bonds within a class is important; however, relationships among classes are the basis of college life. The relationships are also reciprocal. First-years develop natural “mentors” while upperclassmen, like myself, are enlivened by first-years.

I understand the argument that time should be allotted for first-years to chart their own path, unguided by social pressures to join or not join Greek life. However, if this logic were applied equally among all student organizations, well, let’s just say your inbox would probably be empty. Emails and interest meetings soliciting student organizations bombard first-years from the second the Chapel bell rings.

With the new changes, Greek societies are the only student organizations that are not allowed to solicit (also known as “rush”) their organization in the fall. They are also the only organizations whose recruitment process is hindered by the College.

The recruitment process is restricted by the College because of the major cost potential members face: pledging their sophomore year. Just as Hamilton students are determined and ambitious, they are prudent.The thought of having to declare a major, assume more responsibility in student groups, start seriously applying for internships and undergo pledging would have most students running for the Glen. This is completely understandable.

Pledging is difficult and time-consuming.  I did not use the word “zombie” in the beginning of this article carelessly. Despite this, pledging is unbelievably rewarding in the short and long term. It teaches interpersonal skills that could never be replicated in a classroom.

I do not wish to undermine pledging by acknowledging its challenging nature. It must also be noted, while pledging is a difficult and challenging process, horrifying pledging stories hardly resemble Hamilton pledging at all. I am making the risky claim because it is a fact that must be accepted in order to understand why the timing is so important.When fully acknowledging the difficulty of the pledging process, the idea of moving pledging to a more rigorous academic year becomes completely counterintuitive.

Pledging should not be coupled with upper-level classes and important decisions, such as declaring a major. Pledging should remain a staple of first-year spring when students are still focused on forming social groups and gaining positions in organizations. Simply put, postponing pledging to sophomore year is postponing full academic concentration.

It would be remiss if I did not address the influence of pledging on January admitted students, whom I will lovingly refer to as “Jans.”  A presumed drawback of pledging during first-year spring for a Jan is the short amount of time they would have to Rush and decide on joining Greek life before pledging begins. After all, Jans may already be stressed with the task of joining other groups. I certainly sympathize with my Jan friends. Arriving to a campus where the majority of student groups are already formed must be a daunting task.  However, among all the pre-formed groups on campus there remains one exception. Greek societies are the only organizations that have not yet accepted first-year members.  In fact, societies leave spots specifically for Jans. Greek organizations therefore welcome Jans entirely, allowing them the same standing as other potential members.

Greek societies not only connect Jans to a larger group of students but also help them assimilate to campus life as an equal, not a “new member.” Some may still fear that Jans will be funneled into Greek societies or limited in their choosing of extracurricular activities. I can only hope these individuals will see Jans as strong-willed and intelligent decision makers. Jans will test the waters, join groups, make friends, and begin their merry Hamilton journey. Greek societies simply serve as an open and fair option for Jans. Despite the fact that Jans are first-years and may carry a tray in Commons, they can make their own decisions concerning which groups to join.

For the sake of Greek life at Hamilton, I hope either the decision is reconsidered or I am wrong in my predictions. I fully believe Greek societies reap priceless benefits and I hope future students are not deterred by pledging changes.

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