DU students struggle to break through the stereotypes of Greek life on campus

Greek life symbols at DU that make some proud.

Mixed feelings about fraternities and sororities have some questioning the gray area between perceptions and realities of Greek life on the University of Denver (DU) campus.

Only 23 percent of DU students are involved in Greek life.  However, according to a qualitative survey of nearly 50 University of Denver students participated in last week, about Greeks Life at DU, 58 percent of students felt that Greek life was a “big deal” on campus.

Greek Life at DU is said to form “perpetual bond of friendship among its members.” A surprising 77 percent of Greeks and non-Greeks a like recognized how Greek Life can create lifelong friendships.

Greek students at DU seem to think they do not fit the mold of the stereotypical Greek System.  The Greeks at DU call themselves a “Greek Community” and they feel that they embody their four pillars.  The pillars on which they build their community and which each house must support and reflect are Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship, and Service.

Some DU students feel that Greek members do not reflect those pillars.

Elise Matson, Delta Zeta Panhellenic Representative, compares “Panhell” meetings to a Thanksgiving dinner because she says it’s like extended family is coming together and we all like to hear about what each other are doing.

Panhellenic Meetings are where one or two representatives from all the Greek houses – fraternities and sororities alike – come together to meet about upcoming philanthropies, joint events, as a connection within the Greek Community at DU.

“I can personally say that I have friends in every house.  I get excited when we do stuff with others Greek houses.  It’s great! It’s nice to have an immediate sisterhood within my house and an extended family in the Greek community. Which is awesome!”  Matson said.

Greek Life Stereotypes

However this ‘all inclusive’ viewpoint is not consistent with the Greek Life stereotype.  According to the survey, only 16 percent of people believe that sororities and fraternities dislike or have strong negative feelings towards each other at DU; but on other campuses students believe that 49 percent of Greek life houses dislike each other.

When asked, “What is the Greek Life stereotype?” Haley Stephenson, a non-affiliated DU student said, “Greek life stereotypical girls get around and guys are jerks. But it’s not so much like that at DU, some sorority and fraternity members embody these stereotypes but most of them do not.”  She says it’s not “like the movies.”

When speaking about how Greek Life people and non-Greeks are different, Stephenson says that, “People in Greek life have a better idea of their goals and are more focused.  It helps them do volunteer work and be more active in the community.”

Some sophomore guys have a different view on Greek life than Stephenson.  “All the guys with scooters and long boards with the sideways hats, going out, partying and getting drunk; those are frat guys,” says Jake Newell a non-Greek DU student.

They are in college to have fun.  Although they go to class, getting their degree is not always their main priority. The social aspect of college is what’s most important to them.  That is the consensus of Newell and another sophomore non-Greek, Seth Sauer.

The survey done about Greeks on DU’s campus compared to others, only 10 percent of people believe that all Greeks at DU do is party; whereas 34 percent of people believe that is the case on other campuses.

How Greek Life at DU Has Benefitted those Involved

Sorority members await their new members before Bid Day 2012.

Greek members at DU have really strong feelings about their houses and how Greek life made an impact on their life for the better.

“Greek life allowed me to once again fight for something I believe in alongside people who shared that belief. It gifted me with the opportunity to stand for something in college other than my major and social behaviors,” said Johno Oberly, a senior fraternity man.

“I was really home sick for the first three weeks of school and then I rushed and joined tri delta, and joining Tri Delta was one of the best choices I have made since being at DU, it really helped me cope with being so far from home, Dallas, Texas, and being away from my biological three younger sisters, who I’m super close with,” says Anna Beth Gruber, a sophomore.

“DU Greek life in many respects represents a departure from traditional stereotypes. We are committed to hands on community service and a sense of belonging but without irresponsible conduct,” Oberly says.

“I know that the girls who are in my sorority are not only my friends but also my sisters and I can rely on them no matter what and know that I can go to them with absolutely anything and they won’t judge me in any way,” Gruber says.

An anonymous survey taker said, “Being in Greek Life has opened my eyes to the true bonds of sisterhood and an entire supportive community, making it one of the best organizations I have joined in my lifetime.”

Gray Areas

There is no doubt that Greeks at DU feel proud that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.  They know they make a difference to their communities and philanthropies in any way they can.

Non-Greek students, whether they just have a sour taste from preconceived notions or if they have actually experience of unpleasant Greek members, feel that the extroverts of Greek life do not have as much of a positive impact as they themselves think.

So regardless of Greek affiliation or a lack thereof, students at DU feel that although Greeks and non-Greeks may disagree about who they represent and how it’s being represented, the majority of them continue to have a blended mix of friends overshadowing the typical campus social scene.

One Response to DU students struggle to break through the stereotypes of Greek life on campus

  • Mike Middelburg
    Mike Middelburg says:

    I really enjoyed the issue you brought up in this article; I feel as though Greek life tends to be frowned upon for various misconstrued stereotypes. There is a lot of volunteer work that goes on and Greek life can really help benefit the maturity of a young man or woman through leadership opportunities and having those brothers or sisters that stay with you for life. It’s disappointing that non-Greeks oversee the benefits that Greek life can provide to a college student and definitely proves to be an unsettling issue.

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