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Guest commentary - Greek mythology: dispelling myths about fraternities, sororities

Kent Davis
Guest Columnist
By Kent Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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As a member of the greek community for four years, I have become accustomed to illogical and inaccurate attacks by independents. There is neither the space nor the time to refute all of the inimical categorizations that are made by independents about members of the greek community, but the following are a few.

  • Greeks are a financial burden on the university. Greeks receive no financial support from the university. The greek community is an entirely self-sustaining entity. The salaries of the two greek life coordinators employed in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership are paid for wholly by dues collected from university-recognized greek organizations; while these coordinators also provide services for other campus organizations.

  • The greek system is only for the cultural and social elite. The representation of greek life as a rich WASP-only club is woefully inaccurate. Our aggregate membership is comprised of people from various ethnic and social backgrounds. Any perceived lack of diversity in the reek community can be attributed to the overall lack of diversity at the University of Arizona. Furthermore, social mobility exists and can be achieved as one is rewarded for their effort and talent. The inherent result is a society where one's rewards are proportional to their work ethic and skills. While social inequity unfortunately exists in America, greek life is not at the source of that problem.

  • Greeks do nothing but have sex, get drunk and do drugs. Contrary to popular belief, in the last year the greek community has given back to the community in the form of more than 19,000 man hours and more than $48,000 in donations to charitable organizations. Our organizations' stated beliefs can be collectively generalized and described as friendship, brotherhood/sisterhood, scholasticism, morality, and social and civic responsibility. These principles are established to promote personal growth and make our members better people.

  • Greeks pay for their friends or greeks are exclusionary. This one is always troubling. People seem to lose any semblance of rational thought when making this classical accusation. I would ask them to consider most other student organizations on campus. Do they require dues? Yes. Are there criteria for membership (e.g. academic honoraries)? Yes. Greeks draw attention because of the amount they pay in membership fees, but those fees are dwarfed when compared to the rising cost of tuition, books and cost of living. Fraternities and sororities are required by the university to be insured to receive official recognition. Considering the rapidly rising cost of insuring greek organizations, this is a financially-daunting task. The national average for insuring one fraternity member is approaching approximately $200 a year due to an increasing number of lawsuits. I'm not arguing that this is unfair; it's understandably expensive to insure greek organizations, especially fraternities. Greek houses are also required to pay dues for every member to their respective councils and another set of dues to the university. There are also social events such as Homecoming, Spring Fling and Family Weekend that require a financial commitment. The point is that fraternities and sororities are the most comprehensive student organizations available, and it costs money to keep them running.

  • Greeks are stupid. The facts will speak for themselves: UA greeks hold 64 percent of campus leadership positions and 76 percent membership of campus honoraries; 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives are greek, of the nation's 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity men, 76 percent of U.S. Congressmen and Senators are greek. All but two U.S. presidents and two vice presidents since 1825 have been greek, 85 percent of the U.S. Supreme Court justices since 1910 have been greek, 63 percent of the U.S. president's cabinet members since 1900 are greek. Furthermore, a U.S. government study that shows that more than 70 percent of all those who join a fraternity/sorority graduate, while fewer than 50 percent of all non-greek persons graduate and that over 10 percent of UA greeks have over a 3.5 cumulative grade point average, compared to 7 percent of the general student population.

    While there are additional broad and inaccurate characterizations of greek life, these seem to be the most pervasive. There is a high degree of irony when people attack the greek system for being conformist, elitist or stupid. Since, when they do so they are generally regurgitating popular opinion and not thinking for themselves, never having considered joining a greek letter organization because they had already made up their mind about it while being ignorant to what greek life really is. This is not to say the greek system is without shortcomings; the greek system at the UA most assuredly needs improvement. But the next time you begin espousing why you think greek life is a scar on the face of the UA, realize you are defiling something that a) doesn't negatively affect you, b) you probably know nothing about and c) is a positive influence in millions of peoples' lives. So, please take a deep breath and engage your brain before you open your mouth.

    Kent Davis is a chemistry senior and president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

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