If you have ever walked on Ring Mall, chances are you’ve seen a fraternity or sorority. They’re hard to miss. Innocent freshmen searching frantically for their next class can’t help but feel the vast presence of Greek culture. While scattered signs taped to a brick wall have been sufficient for various clubs to advertise on campus, the flash of a frat may just render such persuasions unrecognizable.
“Frats have grown by leaps and bounds since I was a freshman. Other clubs are being diminished by their heavy presence,” said Richard Mara, a UC Irvine graduate.
Emon Heidari, a third-year biomedical engineering major and a former Phi Delta Epsilon member, concurs with the growth.
“On a scale of one to 10, my freshman year it was a four. Now it’s an eight,” Heidari said.
Seeing Greek letters on sweatshirts has practically outnumbered school letters. So, how do unsuspecting freshmen deal with such a dictating force? For a city that’s frequently called a bore, the importance to fit in and be part of a “cool” crowd can feel suffocating. Most freshmen just want to be a part of something outside of their academics, and that’s what Greek life can offer.
Sarah Machat, a first-year psychology major and a rusher this year gave her reasons for rushing.
“Greek life gives girls a sense of community, and can be more diverse as opposed to joining a club that links you by a common interest,” Machat said.
Fraternities and sororities can offer an enriching environment to those who choose to be part of them. A feeling of belonging is an important thing for anyone to have, and there are countless current members who will tell you that they have changed for the better by being Greek.
While having a sense of community is what makes the Greek system worthwhile, the bloated appearance on campus and gaudy displays is part of what gives this crowd such a bad reputation.
“With all the guys looking and judging you, sometimes it can be uncomfortable. But sometimes it feels like the only way to be social,” said Jason Wang, a first-year undeclared major.
The expectations of being included in a fraternity or sorority are constantly on show around Ring Mall, whether they’re exaggerated or not. Either way, public image is what gives rise to all the negative stereotypes associated with these organizations. What certain members consider an extra push for recruitment, others might consider it to be public displays of obnoxiousness.
This excessive push is what can be frustrating because it clouds the belonging that students want in the first place.
“When a sorority or fraternity pushes their image, it’s a big turn-off.” said Marjory Vazquez, a first-year criminology major,
The idea of brotherhood might be overshadowed by the games of water pong, beer pong’s PG cousin. The thought of community service might be hidden underneath a couch somewhere. It’s not difficult to see why the essence of Greek life can be lost for people outside of it.
If these shallow extremes are seen as the only way certain Greeks can beat out the competition, they might be wrong.
“It gets overwhelming, and certain sororities feel exclusive. But the setup can be so prissy and unwarranted with some of them that it’s easy to tell the fake ones from the real ones,” said Rosemary Garcia, a first-year biological sciences major.
The Greeks that let their audience come to them seem to be the most appreciated by newcomers. While expecting the entire system to take a less aggressive approach without all the theatrics is a bit of a stretch, it’s promising to know that there are groups that do make use of this strategy.
For those unsure about Greek life, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that won’t stunt your growth.
However, those options don’t need to be screamed at your face. The point of being in college is to find out for yourself what you want, and not to let someone else choose a path for you.
If Greek life is something you want to do, it’s not something you need to be told to do. If it’s not for you, then that’s also perfectly fine; you don’t have to force yourself to fit in. Everything will come naturally, and that transition should be yours to enjoy.
Shapan Debnath is a fourth-year psychology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.