Growing Greek Life
Greek Panhellenic Council adds new sorority and fraternity to a strong system
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 11:10
Since before John Bellucci donned a toga in “Animal House,” the party-hard image has been synonymous with college and Greek life in popular culture. Yet, the letters are nowhere to be found in official Santa Clara literature.
The presence of Greek life is felt throughout the campus though. Affiliated members can be seen sitting together wearing neon colored shirts in class. The windows of Swig Hall are decorated with the Greek alphabet. Kappa Alpha Theta songs ring out rush weekend.
“Greek life at Santa Clara is expanding because of the amazing, unique experiences countless affiliated students rave about,” said junior John Lahlouh, a founding member of a new fraternity at the university.
The ubiquity of the eight major sororities and fraternities at Santa Clara is about to increase with the chartering of two new houses: Alpha Delta Pi for the women and Tau Kappa Epsilon for the men.
The popularity of Greek life at Santa Clara among the student population has risen as well; numbers from 2000 show that the total Greek population in the traditional houses was well under half of what it is today.
“We need the fifth sorority right now,” said Vice President of Panhellenic Recruitment Allison McPartland. “We want every girl to have a home,” she said, “there are just limited spots at the moment.”
The sororities take about 50 girls in each pledge class, totaling 200 spots in the current four houses. Last weekend, 300 girls took part in rush, meaning that 100 girls were turned down, according to McPartland. “We don’t want girls crying and leaving or having low self-esteem or thinking they weren’t good enough,” she said, “but that’s just not the case.”
The limited space creates an exclusive nature in the Greek system, which can lead to negative self-perception for some pledges as well as a high level of pressure to fit into the group. According to a July article from the New York Times, a study of women who go to Northwestern University showed that thinner girls were more likely to join a sorority.
Sophomore Kathryn Hackett, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, said that she understood how the recruitment process could be intimidating for some girls, but for her it was “easygoing.”
After participating in Recruitment this past weekend, Rualo said that she had never felt this close to a large group of girls before.
“It truly is a sisterhood, it’s not just a T-shirt club,” she said.
Sophomore Karisma Garcia had considered rushing her freshman year to gain the close bond and community that going Greek could offer, but ultimately decided that the Greek system was not for her.
“I did like some of the aspects of a sorority, like their philanthropy or their service work,” said Garcia, “even their social events seemed like a great opportunity for bonding, but I just realized I’ve also found that away from the Greek system.”
These were some of the issues that were examined 12 years ago when the university began the review process that resulted in the disassociation of Santa Clara’s fraternities and sororities from the school. A student committee appointed addressed that annual limits set by “unnecessary bureaucratic measures” led to a perception of exclusion in the Greek system.
After a review of the report by then President Paul Locatelli, S.J., the decision was made to seperate from the traditional Greek system. Locatelli asked for “a sensitive and orderly transition to closure of the chapters” in a 2001 letter to the student body.
Interestingly, the University Policy Committee for Student Affairs overwhelmingly voted that Santa Clara stay tied to the fraternities and sororities but push to change them. Ironically, the board which oversees the traditional sororities nationally is in favor of being unaffiliated.
“It gives us freedom to do what we want and not have to go through the Jesuit school which could sometimes create problems,” said McPartland, “but we do have to rely more on our headquarters.”
With the current system, the school has no involvement with the traditional Greek houses, an issue that was addressed in the 2001 UPCSA report. The committee acknowledged that a lack of involvement from advisors was problematic to Greek life, and they recommended faculty advisors for each house, like the other student organizations. This would mean a lot of control for Santa Clara, and more work for Panhellenic.
Even unaffiliated, the Greek system is expanding at Santa Clara, and mixed student feelings towards the houses can be heard all over campus.
“Hearing negative comments about my house or a different house was something that made me pretty defensive,” said Hackett. “This was something I had devoted my time and my energy to, and I wanted people to understand why.”
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