“Why would I want to pay for friends?” “Why would I join an organization solely known for partying and drugs?” Questions like these are targeted at students involved in Greek life everyday. The pressure to combat these questions with responses arguing the benefits of an established community with well-connected alumni is very high and all too common. If Greek life is so beneficial both socially and academically for those involved, then why is it presented so negatively in the media? Tonight, I watched a TEDTalk given by Kamal Andrawis, a member of SAE at Cal Poly Pomona, who graduated in 2016. Andrawis’ talk was titled, “Misconceptions of Greek Life and Leveraging your College Network.” He began the talk by reading the headlines that were the first results he obtained when googling his own fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. All of them revolved around student deaths, hazing, hospitalization, or drug/alcohol abuse. Articles such as these are far too common in the media surrounding Greek life.
Andrawis argues that the media refuses to portray the positive side of Greek life, such as the millions of hours and dollars donated by Greek organizations to non-profits every year. He tells a story of how ehn one of his pledge brothers died, his chapter raised over $12,000 to benefit the family. Why wasn’t this story on the news? I do feel like the media is biased in the fact that they neglect a LOT of the positive contributions Greek life has on society. Andrawis gives statistics proving that a majority of US Supreme Court Justices and senators were involved in Greek life at some point. Yes, these facts and stats do make Greek life look good. As someone who is Greek, I can confidently say that the Greek community does a lot of good, especially involving community service and giving back. However, greek life also can do a lot of bad. The media does not publish articles giving Greek life a terrible reputation for no reason. Here at UA, I have seen Greek houses that definitely make more of a negative than a positive impact on campus. Historically, Greek life is known to be racist and exclusive. The fact that this statement just recently changed (within the past ten years at UA) is embarrassing. So is the media wrong to give Greek life a bad name? Back to the SCOTUS justices and US senators… When most ordinary citizens think of these figures, we see privileged, highly educated individuals. Isn’t that who most people associate with Greek life? Greek life is considered a life for privileged individuals, and I can not say that I totally disagree. Here at UA, Greek life is overwhelmingly expensive. The financial aspect of going Greek is one of the main reasons that people decide not to do it. Maybe if we want more people to have a more positive mindset regarding Greek life, we should lower the cost of being involved or provide more scholarship opportunities.
Andrawis continues his argument for Greek life by focusing on the development of personhood that occurs while connected in the Greek community. In my own experience, I have seen this to be true. Within my chapter, I have felt pushed to be a better student, friend, leader, and overall human being. I have made friends that will last a lifetime and connections that will probably benefit me well later on in life. However, who is to say that none of these things would have happened had I not been in a sorority? I do think that Greek life can enhance a college experience, but it is an unfair statement to say that Greek life can make or break a college experience. I do find it important that those involved in Greek life try to battle the negative stigma and speak out about his/her own positive experiences that have come through this involvement. At the end of his talk, Andrawis challenged the future of Greek life to build up the supportive college network and speak highly of their experiences within a chapter. Is there bias in his opinion? Obviously, yes. Andrawis was fortunate enough to be able to afford going to college and on top of that, being in a fraternity if he wanted to. Of course he loved his chapter; he served as SAE president his senior year. However, in conclusion, I think that it is fair to say that the bias goes both ways. The concept of Greek life as a whole is only presented through popular media in two ways: either by those who were Greek and absolutely loved it or by those who see Greek life as the popular, privileged party kids. In order to eliminate these biases, it is crucial that we diversify the opinions in the media surrounding Greek life, encouraging more people to speak out so that an accurate depiction of this community can be represented to the public.