Plato, one of the original Greek Philosophers, envisaged a society where justice was founded on moral absolutes. While today’s Greek system falls somewhat short of Plato’s Utopia, it still uses the original alphabet….besides providing an excellent housing alternative for many college students (popularly called a Greek house).
However, most incoming students opt for school- sponsored dormitories and choose to live in those that are single-sex, co-ed by room or co-ed by floor. Although this chapter cannot pretend to make the choice between going Greek and staying in the dorms, it will illuminate the differences surrounding these two living arrangements. Below are the answers to the most common questions regarding Greek vs. dormitory life.
Typical dorm accommodation consists of two people sharing a room. Each dorm floor has one or two community bathrooms, depending on whether the floor is single-sex or co-ed. The typical dorm may also have a dining hall, television room, a mail room, study cubicles, pay phone and laundry facility.
Most Greek fraternities and sororities are based in large houses. Denoted by three letters of the Greek alphabet: Sigma, Alpha, Epsilon, Alpha Epsilon Pi, most Greek houses or ‘chapters’ are located close to each other, sometimes on a street known as Greek Row. As in the dorms, you may have to share a room.
Even worse, many Greeks are forced to sleep on sleeping porches which house about 30 students in one large room filled with bunk beds. If you are sleeping on the porch, you may have to keep your clothes in another part of the house and commute back and forth. Like the dormitories, Greek houses have dining halls, television rooms, mail rooms, study rooms, pay phones, a laundry facility and a ‘party area’ as well.
Because of housing shortages, some colleges (e.g., UCLA, Berkeley) may require students to find off-campus housing, even during their freshman year. The housing office at your school usually has a list of apartments and homes available to students. One good reason to go Greek is that your fraternity or sorority will undoubtedly provide affordable housing.
If you are on a school meal plan, i.e. living in a dorm count on eating two to three meals a day in a specified cafeteria. Some meal plans, however, allow you to dine in a variety of campus cafeteria, each with a different style of food (Mexican, Italian, etc.). Check out the meal options, paying special attention to the number of meals you are allotted and the stipulations on your plan.
If you sign up to eat 20-plus meals a week, remember that you will have to get up early for every breakfast and you may rarely have the option of eating out. Signing up for 14 meals a week may be more prudent. Most Greek chapters have cooks who make all the meals. The quality of food, therefore, is contingent on the ability of the cook. Depending on the student, the taste buds may play a slight role in determining which house you sign up for.
What is the procedure for joining?
In the case of dorms you sign up…you pay…and you’re in! Actually, it’s not quite that simple. Many colleges permit you to request specific dorms. Seek advice from senior students from your country regarding different.
Do living costs differ?
Although tuition costs fluctuate from college to college, housing costs remain relatively the same. Regardless of whether you are in a fraternity or dorm, expect to pay at least $450 per semester for room and board. It is a common misconception that Greeks pay more for housing because they have so many social functions. Fraternities and sororities manage to keep living costs low and still have a multitude of social gatherings because members perform many of the household chores otherwise handled by paid employees. Greeks often wash dishes, clean bathrooms and take care of physical repairs themselves.
Dorms on the campus. They will tell you some are better than others. Many colleges also give you the opportunity to select co-ed, single-sex, all-freshmen or four-class dormitories.
Joining a Greek fraternity or sorority is slightly more complicated than signing up for a dormitory. Instead of choosing a place to live, a student must be invited to join the Greek system. This invitation to join, called a bid, must be approved by a large majority of the sorority or fraternity members.
Bids are handed out following a period called rush. Although it may appear that the fraternities and sororities do most of the choosing, this is certainly not the case. It’s you, in effect, who does most of the choosing by deciding which houses you wish to rush and which houses you wish to ignore. Rush takes place during the summer at some schools. In this case, you might have pledged (or chosen to join) a fraternity or sorority before you even begin your freshman year. At other universities, rush takes place during the school year.
Various colleges handle rush differently. At many schools, the women go through formal rush and visit every sorority before deciding on which one they wish to pledge. Men, however, usually get to choose which fraternities they want to rush without looking at all the houses. Although you can join only one house, you can rush as many as you wish. Those students who receive a bid to join a fraternity or sorority must go through a pledge period before they become members.
During this period, the pledges are expected to perform various tasks for the actives, the other members of the house. These tasks are usually given with good intentions. The pledges may be asked to clean dishes or rake the lawn. Sometimes, however, the tasks can be abusive; this is called hazing. Hazing is illegal at all schools and fraternities and sororities can be severely punished for this type of pledging.
A un housed fraternity or sorority
Along with a housed Greek system, some campuses also have un housed fraternities and sororities. These un housed Greeks hold meetings in a specified area on campus each week. Their members may live in the dorms or off-campus. Un housed Greeks claim they have the best of both worlds: the students can intermix with a variety of men and women living in the dorms while still maintaining many of the bonds formed in a fraternity or sorority.
Greeks Vs. dorms
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In a nutshell, a fraternity or sorority is likely to give you a more active social life and a closer- knit group of friends. Your time will be more regimented but most of the activities you participate in will be enjoyable. The most frequently heard complaint about Greeks is that they tend to be superficial, caring only about their fraternity and/or sorority and not about other things affecting the college community or the world at large.
A dormitory will allow you more freedom than a Greek house. You will live with a wider variety of people, including both men and women. Perhaps the friends you make may not be as long-lasting as those made in the Greek system nor will you have the fellowship that the Greek system fosters.
Should I rush?
If you have any questions about whether or not to rush, do it. You can always back out later. However, don’t go into rush with your heart pinned to your sleeve! The rush process is not perfect. It favors the more outgoing and the more physically attractive. Actives make decisions based on first impressions. The system is, at best, superficial. Keep this in mind and be prepared to face rejection.
The social life
You have a lot more control over your social life in the dorms than you do as a Greek. Although your dormitory will undoubtedly throw parties and have meetings, your attendance at these events is never mandatory. The events are simply put on for those who wish to attend them. In the simplest of terms, you make your own social life in the dorms. You can attend as many parties as you like or you can study until the Red Sea parts again.
It is much easier to have an active social life in the Greek system. There are more parties, more functions with other fraternities and/or sororities and most importantly, a more ‘social’ crowd. In addition, your attendance at many of these events is mandatory or at least, strongly suggested. Being in a fraternity or sorority also puts you in a more social scene. For example, it is quite common for a fraternity brother or sorority sister to set you up on a date with one of their Greek friends.
Learn to be yourself
Regardless of whether you are rushing a fraternity or sorority or planning on living in the dorms, remember to be yourself. A lot of people will rush a fraternity or sorority and act totally different than they otherwise would. For example, a guy may get drunk every night even though he hates drinking. This will only lead to problems later when the people in your fraternity or sorority may expect you to act in a certain way and you don’t want to. As we suggested in a previous chapter in this book, other students will probably like you more for what I you are rather than for what you pretend to be.