If you look on Instagram’s #frat and #sorority tags, it is not uncommon to see college students drinking, smoking, partying, playing beer pong and doing the stupidest of things.
At universities across the nation, this is not always the case, especially at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Cat Nelson, the Panhellenic Council President who overlooks all sororities on campus, said, “Coming into college, the only thing I thought I knew about fraternity and sorority life was that it was kind of like the movie “Animal House”. It’s just everybody making bad choices and getting drunk on the weekends.”
However, her perceptions on fraternity and sorority life has changed after she joined a sorority her sophomore year after her friend joined and she heard people on her dorm floor talk about social events, sisterhoods, leadership experience, and philanthropy work they were doing in their chapters.
A big part of fraternity and sorority life at MNSU is the philanthropy work each chapter partakes in. Each chapter has a set organization that they raise money for and donate to. Being a part of a fraternity and sorority involves a lot of community service – something that isn’t really highlighted about fraternity and sorority life.
Matthew McDavid, the Interfraternity Council President that overlooks all fraternities on campus, said, “Once you get a part of it, you figure out the philanthropy, community service, leadership opportunities, and you kind of keep on going from there. It’s tough to explain until you’re a part of it, but once you’re there, it’s a lot more than what social media makes it out to be.”
Before joining, McDavid wasn’t as involved on campus and mostly stayed cooped up in his dorm room doing nothing. After joining, he says he never runs out of things to do.
He said, “I gathered up every leadership experience I could, went to conferences when I could, my resume is just insanely stacked because of joining this.”
Nelson was surprised about the leadership opportunities and the fact that you could take on a leadership position upon joining the chapter, even if you were a freshman. When she first started she took on a risk management leadership position on the PanHellenic Council that fit with her interests and her program as well as gave her an opportunity to work with people around the community and campus.
Fraternity and sorority life is also a great way to make new friends and find community within each other.
Nelson said, “Our community is big enough that there is always someone new to reach out and get to know, but it’s small enough that you can know everybody. It definitely becomes more of a support system and a family and kind of like a home away from home feeling which can help a lot with the college adjustment process.”
Because of joining a sorority, having this support system boosted Nelson’s academic performance. Before joining her chapter she was placed in academic probation and had to fix her grades or else she would be forced to take a year off of school.
After joining a sorority, her GPA has consistently gone up.
She said, “It’s kind of like the positive side of peer pressure. They’re all going to study so I guess I will too.”
According to the MNSU Spring 2019 Panhellenic Council Grade Report, the average for all sororities GPA was higher than the all undergraduate women’s GPA in the University.
“We really do care a lot about our academics and we want to be seen as something other than party girls,” said Nelson.
Nelson and McDavid, hope to combat the stereotypes that social media exhibits about fraternities and sororities by posting more of the philanthropy work that they do online.
“Nationally the organizations that we’re a part of, they have a lot of weekly, or monthly pushes for every chapter on our campus to go ahead and post about the good things we’re doing,”
McDavid said. “We really encourage chapters to post about the things people don’t know about and shy away from the social aspect, and push more about the community service.
“Your academic excellence and stuff like that where you’re breaking the stereotypes but you’re also showing that fraternities and sororities do a lot more than what you’re seeing on Instagram.”
One of the big philanthropy event fraternity and sorority life at MNSU is advocating on social media is the annual Mavathon – a dance marathon that raises money for sick and injured kids treated at the local children’s hospital. The 2020 Mavathon will take place on Feb. 22.