At the University of California, Riverside, there are 40 sororities and fraternities among hundreds of other student organizations. Though there are many different types of Greek organizations to choose from, should they even exist at UCR?
College is a time of growth, learning, and adaptation to brand-new, abrupt changes in one’s life. These new changes may include a foreign location, as close as Los Angeles, or as far as a nation outside of the United States. It can even mean lack of financial or emotional support from family due to disappointment in regards to their wishes for their child. No matter what the reason is, various college and university students often become involved in a variety of clubs and organizations throughout student life in order to connect with others who share similar feelings and interests. UCR is no exception to this.
An uninformed student may ask how one joins a Greek organization. Is it through a simple sign-up? Maybe through attending an open, inclusive meeting and becoming deeply involved? Nope. Joining a sorority or fraternity is not nearly as easy as joining other nationally recognized organizations, such as Circle K International or the College Democrats or Republicans. The lack of inclusion within Greek organizations may bother or even intimidate students around campus due to their high status. Students may feel inadequate standing next to a member of one of these societies, or even threatened. Greek organizations pose many negative connotations despite their various positive recognitions. However, the negatives ultimately outweigh the positives.
According to U.S. News and World Report, UCR is one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country. The university’s positive reputation is reflected through different organizations and resource centers for students from essentially every walk of life. Though this diversity shows through most of the clubs and organizations on campus, it is Greek organizations that do not exhibit this sense of inclusion.
Like any other sorority or fraternity, each potential Greek society member is required to experience the process of rush, only to be faced with the likelihood of rejection. How can this be possible on a campus that has such a great reputation for diversity? These organizations exhibit signs of exclusion, especially when displaying their massive Greek letters near the Bell Tower. Even when rush ends, several Greek societies continue to advertise their organization without an invitation to join. The problem with this resides in the fact that many other student organizations create displays every Wednesday during Nooners in order to highlight what makes them unique to the university. Why do Greek organizations have to go beyond this if they do not make an effort to recruit new members?
I understand the prestige and honor of being a member of a sorority or fraternity. Sororities, such as Alpha Chi Omega, and fraternities, such as Pi Alpha Kappa, continue to be recognized on the national level. However, it seems that the greater the reputation of the organization, the more exclusive it is. U.S. News and World Report states that “1.9% of the [UCR] student body is involved in a sorority, while 2.1% is involved in a fraternity”. With low percentages of students involved in such a notable area of the college student lifestyle, this definitely makes one question why so much exclusion exists—not just at UCR, but at other colleges and universities.
Why is a mere 4 percent of the UCR student body involved with a Greek organization? Those associated with these societies may feel a sense of unity and inclusion within their own “family”. Connecting with a community of individuals who share the same interests and desires is often the top reason many join any kind of coalition like a sorority or a fraternity. This is completely understandable since the distinction of UCR is its sense of unity and pride. However, outside members may only feel segregation. While this may not be the intention of these fellowships, it is the result. Once pledges are chosen to join, the accepted feel united, and the rejected feel disassociated. This feeling may worsen after rush because the “rushee” may have already begun to feel a close connection with the current members. Is this what UCR stands for? Does joining a fraternity or sorority become a statement of exclusion to others?
There are hundreds of other organizations that do not have negative reputations of peer pressure and hazing that students can feel accepted and united in, such as the American Red Cross and the Associated Students Program Board. These feelings of acceptance can even push members to say or do things that are not considered a “smart choice.” These are the choices that increase the risks of sexual assault, sexually transmitted infections, and even death. A recent example stems from the passing of a student from California State University, Chico. On the night of the student’s 21st birthday, he consumed 21 shots of liquor, resulting in death from alcohol poisoning. The student was pledging to Sigma Pi at CSU Chico, and all Greek organizations are currently suspended after this tragedy. Incidents such as these derive from a place of pressure from other members of the organization. This is not the type of community and connection the students at UCR should endorse.
I am not in support of suspending every fraternity and sorority at UCR, but I am also not in support of the selection process of Greek organizations, regardless of the university. Perhaps the selection process should be altered and based on other factors; most Greek societies are based on community service, just as Circle K International is. The process of recruiting more members seems rather superficial since rush does not last very long. A current sorority or fraternity member cannot get to know a potential member on a personal level after such a short timeframe. Therefore, Greek societies should be just as open as other organizations and eliminate any forms of superficial bias. At a university that has an incredible reputation of diversity and inclusion, such an exclusive selection of its members is not an accurate reflection of what UCR stands for.