The Unrecognized Benefits of Greek Life

Students received an email last week from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord that discouraged them from joining Greek life. They reminded students that social sororities and fraternities are not representative of Georgetown’s deeply rooted Catholic traditions — for this reason, the administration does not openly or financially support us. As a member of a sorority, I don’t see a problem with that; the administration has the right to abide by its Catholic tradition.

What completely appalls me is the blatant hypocrisy of Olson and Lord’s next statement: “Student organizations at Georgetown are expected to comply with a standard of open membership, one which contributes to building the inclusive and welcoming student community at the heart of the Georgetown experience.”

Do we go to the same school? One of my roommates just received her third e-mail rejection from Hilltop Consultants, another her second denials from the Georgetown University Student Investment Fund, Students of Georgetown, Inc. and the Student Advocacy Office. My last roommate, during the four-minute walk between an audition at the Gonda Theater and our apartment, already had a “we regret to inform you…” email stewing in her inbox. As for me, my first semester I was denied from a medical volunteer program. I have been (so far) rejected from Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society twice, my best friend, three times. In fact, the members of Blue & Gray were recently told, by representatives of the administration in the admissions department no less, that their organization is twice as hard to get into as Georgetown itself. Is this the “standard of open membership” to which Olson and Lord are referring?

Just for the sake of comparison, in the sorority recruitment process of spring 2015 (which required zero essays for admission, as opposed to Georgetown’s usual standard of five to seven), 100 percent of girls that completed the process received a bid. Every. Single. Girl. I do not have the statistics for our fraternities, but I can’t imagine that at a school with such minimal Greek life the numbers are so different. And as for “engaging actively with other students” and our community, each member has 20 mandated service hours a year in addition to weekly study sessions and incentives for good grades. We are hardly the terrible influence we are made out to be.

I do not mean to attack the exclusivity of the extracurriculars here at Georgetown. On the contrary, I think it is a realistic microcosm of what we will encounter in the “real” world in terms of graduate schooling and jobs. I also do not at all disagree with the administration’s unyielding attachment to its Jesuit identity. But when the sole supportive, nourishing niche I have found as home on the Hilltop is falsely advertised as restrictive and unwelcoming, I am strongly offended. Most students at Georgetown face a strikingly large and frequent amount of rejection. We are nerds and bookworms used to straight A-pluses dealing with our first C’s. We are class presidents and activity leaders being turned away probably for the first time from being volunteers, coffee shop baristas or even general body members of clubs. We are nervous peers watching our classmates do more, do better, wondering if we can spend any extra time on another internship. I’m 19 years old and I’m already applying to medical school. We need a break.

The Georgetown administration is not immune to these facts. We continuously beat our Ivy League counterparts on lists of the most stressful schools (eighth in a ranking published by Newsweek). That is why I am surprised that it has chosen to attack one of the few communities on campus that, even if temporarily, relieves such pressure with distinctive inclusivity. My sisters are the shoulders I cry on when I bomb an exam. They are the glasses I share a toast with when I do get into another organization. They are my roommates. They are my friends. They are my Hoya family.

So in response to Dr. Olson and Dr. Lord, I ardently encourage Georgetown to go Greek.


Danielle Zamalin is a sophomore in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

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  1. This was an excellent article that exposes the hypocrisy of Olson and Lord. Interesting too trot out the “Catholic traditions” card when they allow Hoya’s for Abortion to receive University funding. Greek like exists for a reason and there are plenty of opportunities for Hoyas which will only continue to increase, especially when you consider how exclusive some campus clubs are. My guess is they’re worried about it b/c frats are a target of feminists and social justice types.

  2. There is an extremely simple solution to your dilemma: don’t go to a school that discourages greek life if you want to go to a school that encourages greek life.

  3. This is great. I’m actually not in Greek Life but i totally agree with the author that the idea of campus organizations having a policy of “open membership” doesn’t reflect the reality of Georgetown’s campus or certainly my experience of it. Frankly, it’s disappointing. My experiences with students at Greek life at Georgetown have been overwhelmingly positive. I think greek life has, unfortunately, developed a poor reputation largely because of the actions of Fraternities and Sororities at other schools, and if Georgetown is not willing to reconize them I understand that. However, the reality is that Georgetown student groups fall far short of any objective of being “inclusive” and that really is something that needs to change. One idea- perhaps Joe Luther and Connor Rohan, who seem to have made major strides in reforming campus policies on sexual assault, can try to start a dialogue about our campus culture and how it could become more inclusive. Otherwise, we can’t really claim we’re better than schools that allow greek life if the exclusivity (and lets be honest, a lot of the misbehavior) of greek life is just replicated on our campus through student clubs.

  4. You should be mindful that many students here came to Georgetown in part for its disassociation with Greek life and the different social atmosphere that entails. While I understand the negative aspect the article brought up about Georgetown clubs, it is true that much of the same and more can be said about Frats–

    In best case, they are socially exclusive, foster Vineyard-Vine-type homogeneity, and conflict with Georgetown’s philosophies. In the worst case, they are plagued with scandal.

    I don’t think the status quo is bad. If you want to join Greek life, you still can. If you want to go to a school that encourages Greek life, transfer.

    • >In best case, they are socially exclusive, foster Vineyard-Vine-type homogeneity, and conflict with Georgetown’s philosophies.

      My fraternity has brothers from all walks of campus life, all political backgrounds, all religious backgrounds, and all over the “bro”-to-“nerd” spectrum. It certainly might be the case that fraternities at big state schools with huge Greek scenes push a strong in-group mentality, but I would venture to say that my fraternity is actually less homogeneous than other groups I am a part of and certainly than other groups on campus. And, for the record, wearing Vineyard Vines (and Patagonia and Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers and…) seems to be a “Georgetown” thing in general, not a specific “Georgetown fraternities” thing.

      We are hardly socially exclusive (our acceptance rate is literally an order of magnitude greater than that of some other organizations on this campus) and the idea that we are in conflict with Georgetown’s philosophies is laughable. The number and quality of student leaders on this campus who are involved in Greek life is impressive, and plenty of them are deeply Catholic.

      Personally, when I came to Georgetown I very much enjoyed the fact that it did not have a big Greek life scene, but over the course of my time here I decided to join a fraternity. I remain glad that our social atmosphere isn’t dominated by Greek life (I would not want to go to UVA or Dartmouth), but for the administration to demonize us like they do (while ignoring coffee shops and singing groups that engage in plenty of behavior reminiscent of social fraternities) is unfounded and absurd.

  5. It’s not at all true that 100% of girls received a bid.
    And yes, a group that charges $350 a semester to take part is in fact “restricting”

    • I can’t speak to all Greek organizations on campus, but my fraternity offers scholarships to members who cannot afford or struggle to pay dues. We promote these scholarships during rush precisely so that there are no financial restrictions for those interested in joining.

  6. When Olson and Lord drop this “stay away from frats” talk every few years, and they do, it reads as if it’s some sort of legal disclaimer just in case someone gets into trouble.

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