‘We want to push for a different stigma’

By Hannah Fink, The Western Carolina Journalist

According to the American Freshman, a survey done through the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, as of 2018, 12% of incoming university students reported having a high chance of joining a fraternity or sorority. This is a 1% increase from 2015.

On Western’s campus alone, there are 13 active fraternity chapters and eight active sorority chapters.

So what makes the Greeks so attractive to join in despite the stories of hazing, drinking, and sexual assaults?

Martin Chan, a current member of Delta Sigma Phi for almost three years, was hooked after one event he attended for the free food.“After that, I just enjoyed the people in the fraternity and kept going back at their events until I crossed into as a Brother,” Chan said.

As a first-generation student, Chan had only seen the stereotypical representations of fraternities on TV and movies. But what persuaded him into joining and leaving behind any hesitations he had were the men in his fraternity.

“The guys in the fraternity were kind and most importantly accepting to me. Plus their goals were in line with mine, which involved giving back to the community and becoming our better selves,” Chan explained.

James Sneiderman, a member of Pi Lambda Phi, has been a brother for about three years now and chose to rush to make some new friends.

“I only left my room to get food and I was altogether miserable,” said Sneiderman. Being homeschooled before coming to Western, he decided that joining a fraternity, like his father and grandfather, would help him make friends.

Sneiderman was aware of the stigma behind Greek life. “However, I knew that these stereotypes were not altogether true and were like the stereotypes you hear about minority groups in America,” said Sneiderman.

A similar story comes from former Delta Sigma Phi president and current member, Dylan Rood.

“I grew up in a female dominant house and I wanted to connect with other males. I didn’t get that connection in high school, so I wanted something I wasn’t used to and to get out of my comfort zone,” Rood said.

Although Rood was aware of the stigma behind fraternities.

“My dad was in Greek life and he told stories, I knew,” Rood said, adding that he was determined to create his own story with a different outcome. And after meeting the other men in hisfraternity, the instant connection Rood felt with his brothers really made it worth it.

Unless you’re a part of that world, most people don’t see Greek life in the best light. The first thing that comes to mind is what is portrayed in movies and headlines that pop up including: “Campus Greek Life Fosters Toxic Masculinity, Appropriates” and even “Student Sues Drake University, Fraternity After Alleged Hazing Incident Nearly Killed Him.”

But what are fraternities doing to help end the stigma that surrounds them?

“To be accredited,we are supposed to have one anti-hazing and alcohol awareness program and another one on responsible recruiting,” explained Rood. Greek life is seeing a reduction in the risk because the programs are working, according to Rood.

Programs that members must attend include Values-Based programs. The values are community-based and include: Accountability, Community and Civic Engagement, Inclusion and Social Justice and Personal Growth. The goal is to have every chapter member attend at least one program related to every value during their undergraduate fraternal experience.

Western participates in a registration and recognition process for their fraternities and sororities. This process serves as an assessment of achievements and areas of improvement. This states that 80% of chapter members must attend these values-based programming.

Rood gave a glimpse behind the reputation he hopes Greek life can get.

“We want to push for a different stigma – we want to push for being nerds rather than partiers.”

Currently, Delta Sigma Phi, which has 23 current members and 13 incoming members, has an accountability program within the brothers. They reward one another for good grades and hard work within the fraternity and come up to create academic plans to help set goals.

“When people hear ‘Greek life’ or ‘fraternities,’ I want them to think a group of like-minded people who wants to advance ourselves and the community,” said Chan.