SJU is one of the few Jesuit schools that has not done away with Greek Life on campus. But this is not for lack of trying. Students have repeatedly seen administration question the value that Greek Life adds to our campus culture with issues getting budget money, and scrutiny over the purpose these organizations serve. Just last Spring, the Office of Student Life conducted an external review of our Greek organizations. As the former Panhellenic president Alaina Boccino told The Hawk, “We’re seen as social organizations that drink and that’s all we do. We’re so much more than that.” So, is Greek Life a good or bad contribution to our campus? Depends who you ask.
Greek Life is not just a social club. These organizations each have a philanthropy which they participate in fundraising for. They also have plenty of benefits for members. The most obvious benefit, and the one most people think of, is social. Joining an organization immediately connects you with hundreds of other men or women to make friends. These connections can also be super helpful when it comes to professional networking.
Another professional benefit of being a part of Greek Life is the opportunity to hold leadership positions and gain experience in that way. Many Greek organizations also have academic benefits, such as required minimum GPAs, academic support, and study hours, as well as opportunities to apply for and receive academic scholarships through the chapter.
In light of all of these benefits, it is easy to see how the Greek system could be exclusive in a dangerous way. As non-Greek student Robert Herrick so eloquently says, “being involved in Greek life is beneficial beyond graduation, but only if you can afford it.” These academic, professional, and social benefits available to only those who can afford to dish out a couple hundred dollars each semester. This creates a gap in opportunity for students who cannot afford membership. Although most chapters offer payment plans to make involvement affordable, there is still an element of exclusion that cannot be ignored.
All in all, Greek Life certainly has some room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. Greek Life contributes to our campus community by exemplifying our Jesuit values. In the broader campus community, Greek life fosters a sense of community like no other club or organization on campus, and we all know how Saint Joes loves to preach about its loving community to prospective students and parents on admissions tours.
When you join a Greek organization, you don’t just gain a friend group, you gain a hundred brothers or sisters. The amount of time, energy, and yes, money, that one must invest in order to be a part of Greek Life fosters a bond that exemplifies what it means to live with and for others. Greek life also encourages participants to embrace the Jesuit value of caring for the whole person. By offering personal, professional, and academic support, Greek organizations truly encapsulate this value.
In these ways, the values of Greek life align with and uphold our Jesuit values. Although there is clear room for improvement in the Greek system, these organizations add value to our campus for students and the community as a whole.