I Went From Shunning Greek Life To Becoming A Founding Father

How I Went From Not Wanting To Join Greek Life To Becoming A Founding Father

Sometimes we can't plan for certain events.

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To say I was all over the place in high school is an understatement. When I went on college tours I was sometimes interested in Greek Life at one university and at other times it would be on the back burner. Many of my friends knew they were going to join fraternities but whenever someone would ask me I wouldn't typically have an answer. I was going to a school where Greek Life is a huge part of campus and people are constantly wearing their letters around campus. There was always one fraternity I wanted to join but they weren't at Alabama so I assumed that it was a sign that I didn't need to rush.

My freshman year was a little tough. While I did have friends and was having a good time in college I felt something was missing. Not in regards to parties or drinking alcohol but I felt I was missing that distinct group of friends. I always had a group of friends in my life wherever I went and I still do but I didn't have that in college. My freshman year I decided to join an academic fraternity known as Phi Sigma Pi. I liked the idea that it was a social fraternity that had an academic aspect. PSP would hold events such as fundraisers and social events but would also have study nights. PSP made me find my group of people in college and also helped me grow. For someone who didn't know if a fraternity was right for him I was lucky enough to have found a college family but what makes things even better in college is when the opportunity can find you.

As long as I can remember I have always heard the words Alpha Epsilon Pi. Growing up at a Jewish camp many of the counselors were members of this fraternity and would be seen wearing their letters during the day. They spoke highly of the Jewish fraternity which was full of all Jewish members and how many people are Ramah alums. I had told myself I wanted to join this fraternity but when I found out Alabama didn't have an AEPI I abandoned the thought. In the middle of my junior year, I received a message from the national headquarters about their interest in bringing back AEPI to Alabama and that they would like me involved as a founding father. AEPI was the only fraternity I ever wanted to be apart of and while I would not be in school much longer I had the opportunity to create something for the future.

I thought about Judaism, Ramah, my friends and family before I accepted this challenge. Fraternities aren't made overnight but I had the chance to build something that becomes significant in the future and is talked about by everyone.

Its been a year and a half since the eleven founding fathers started Alpha Epsilon Pi at Alabama and in just that time span Alabama AEPI has received a charter, recognition by the university as a fraternity, 26 amazing members who are about to add many more and gained the support and love of a Jewish fraternity that has shaped so many great people. I took a big risk as a 20-year-old who decided to become a founding father but I can say that this risk is one of the biggest payoffs I have ever received.

If you asked me when I was 17 if I would join a fraternity I would respond with "I don't know." I didn't know if fraternities were my thing and I didn't know what I wanted to focus on in college. Many people have told me that joining a fraternity was the best thing that happened to them but for me, I think starting a fraternity and seeing the success in such a short period of time is the best thing that happened to me. Alabama AEPI has a long way to go but the future is bright for this fraternity that was only an idea a year and a half ago. AEPI has allowed me to connect with my Judaism and bring in experiences that could be useful to the rest of my chapter. I haven't gained just my friends but I have gained another family. So whether you want to be in Greek Life or not just know that when an opportunity comes knocking sometimes it is best to answer the call, no matter how late in the game it is.

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Greek Life Does More Harm Than Good And It's Time We Canceled It

Greek Life is considered an almost essential part of campus culture, but do we really need Greek life?
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If you are a college student in the United States, you will be affected in some way by Greek life.

It doesn't matter whether you want to join or not. When you go to school, you will hear about it all the time. You will hear about which frats throw the best parties, be asked which sorority you are rushing, and see them hosting charity events. And of course, you will hear the criticisms.

It is impossible these days to not hear about the criticisms surrounding Greek life, the most common one being the high rates of sexual assault. There are also the criticisms that it promotes binge-drinking and partying, it fuels nepotism, the hazing, and there have been numerous racist incidents involving fraternities.

If you ask anybody in Greek life though, they will usually tell you these criticisms are overblown. Yes, occasionally there might be some racist jokes. Yes, sometimes a sexual assault might occur, but they will assure you that these are just a few bad apples. Then they will wax poetic about the various benefits of Greek life, how it fosters lifetime friendships, instills good values such as serving the community, and grooms young adults for professional life.

But there is another question you should ask. Who reaps these benefits?

In a study conducted by Princeton University, researchers found that at their school 77% of fraternity members and 73% of sorority members were white, despite making up 47% of the student body. Additionally, 30% and 19% of fraternity and sorority members were legacy admits, meaning they were children of alumni. Obviously, this is only one school and not necessarily reflect the entire United States. Fraternities and sororities do not publish statistics on their demographics, so it is impossible to tell exactly how pervasive this phenomenon is. Nonetheless, it is worrisome and is surprising, considering that the first fraternities were founded by the people that have always been most privileged in our country: white, upper-class men.

You do not need an extensive, university-sponsored study to understand that it is difficult for students of lower incomes to join Greek life. Not only must you maintain a certain GPA, but you must pay monthly dues in order to stay in. These can range in cost from $250 to $775, and that is not counting “new member fees" or “badge fees" that may be added to the overall cost. Additionally, members must attend regular meetings and functions. If somebody comes from a low-income family and has to work in order to make it through college, it will be significantly harder to join Greek life.

Some organizations offer payment plans, but many potential pledges still say this is not enough. This begs the question: is Greek life really creating new leaders, or is it just fostering a culture of nepotism and providing a pathway for those born into privilege to access high-paying jobs more easily? This is not to say it is impossible for someone of lesser means to join, but it is significantly harder.

In recent years, excessive drinking and hazing-related deaths have also caused Greek life to come under fire. It is not uncommon for college students to abuse alcohol, however, members of Greek life are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol. One study by Harvard found that 4 out of 5 fraternity and sorority members are binge-drinkers in comparison to 2 out of 5 overall college students.

Another study at Brown University found that fraternities are often opposed to alcohol education and intervention because they view it as an impediment to their social and sexual goals. Again, this is not to suggest that only Greek life-affiliated students binge-drink. Many college students engage in binge-drinking while they are in school, but they are much more likely to do so if they are involved in Greek life.

These are only some of the problems associated with Greek life. There are many, many more, which I will discuss in next week's article. But for now, I want readers to sit and consider the facts they have been presented with, and ask themselves the kind of mentality that Greek life promotes through its culture of exclusion and binge-drinking.

Cover Image Credit: Stephen F. Austin State University

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I Didn't Join A Panhellenic Sorority

It's okay if you don't join a panhellenic sorority. Sometimes a different organization can turn out to be the best thing.

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Before going to college I was faced with a dilemma, should I rush? I wanted to rush just for the social aspect, I thought it would be my best shot at making a bunch of friends. However, deep down I knew that greek life really wasn't me. I didn't want to do something if I wasn't one hundred percent behind it. There was a part of me that did want to be in a sorority but the other part of me really didn't want to rush. Let me be clear, I don't think Greek life is bad, I just think it wasn't for me. I talked to my brother and sister-in-law about this because they both were in Greek life at the college I attend now; they told me that they didn't think I would like it either.

What my brother and sister-in-law told me that I might like was, a Christian sorority called Sigma Phi Lambda. When they described it to me it seemed like exactly what I was wanting. As soon as I got to college I sought them out; and I went to their recruitment nights. I loved it! It was exactly what I was looking for. I ended up joining. This sorority brought me an amazing group of friends! Most importantly, I have joined the perfect sorority for me! A few things I liked most about Sigma Phi Lambda was the people were so welcoming, it was more low key and laid back, I was still able to have a big and a "Pham", we still did lots of sorority things whilst also having activities that strengthened us on our walks with the Lord, and I gained so many sisters that I now have strong relationships with. Sigma Phi Lambda gave me so many friends and something to be involved in on campus. They gave me somewhere to belong and I am so glad I chose to join them.

Rushing may be exactly what you need when you go to college, but if it's not that is okay. Just join something that makes you happy. Join an organization that helps you grow and surrounds you with people that you want to be around. I promise when you get to college that there is an organization for just about everything, find the one that fits you. No matter what you choose I promise it's good. Just make sure you choose what is right for you.

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