Nine percent of student body involved in Greek life
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 02:01
During the first few weekend nights in September, crowds of students make the brisk walk down South Street toward Brandeis' version of frat row. For some of the first-years among these students, the crowded rush parties are their first experiences with Greek life as well as their entry into social life at Brandeis.
The influence that fraternities and sororities have on the social lives of Brandeis students is undeniable. Approximately nine percent of students are part of a Greek organization, according to membership statistics provided to the Justice by representatives from the organizations and their national affiliates. The number of students that attend parties thrown by fraternities and sororities is undoubtedly larger.
These organizations, however, are not recognized or regulated by the University, which has declined to recognize Greek organizations since its inception. According to the 2011-2012 Rights and Responsibilities Student Handbook, in 1988 the Board of Trustees approved a resolution that prohibits fraternities and sororities. The resolution reads, "The Board of Trustees reaffirms University policy of recognizing only those student organizations which are open to all students on the basis of competency or interests. Exclusive or secret societies are inconsistent with the principles of openness to which the University is committed. Therefore, social fraternities and sororities, in particular, are neither recognized nor permitted to hold activities on campus or use University facilities."
The approximate number of current fraternity members stands at 178, while there are 151 sorority members.
These numbers combined stand at 329, or approximately 9.3 percent of the total undergraduate student body which consisted of 3,504 students in fall 2011. Spring rush is currently ongoing, meaning that these numbers will probably increase in the near future.
Several of the more popular organizations have recently shown that they are successful in recruiting new members.
The sorority Sigma Delta Tau has doubled in size over the past three to five years, according to statistics from the organization. The fraternity Phi Kappa Psi has grown similarly, more than doubling in the last six years. And Kappa Beta Gamma, a sorority established only one year ago, has expanded from 25 to 42 members in the space of that year.
There have also been two new organizations brought to Brandeis in recent years. In addition to the introduction of Kappa Beta Gamma last year, the fraternity Alpha Delta Phi was formed in 2006. However, Brandeis also lost a Greek organization this year, as Alpha Epsilon Pi lost its charter from its national affiliate and was forced to disband, according the national Executive Director of Alpha Epsilon Pi Andrew Borans, who said in a December email to the Justice, "There is no AEPi recognized Chapter at Brandeis."
Many people connected to the organizations think that fraternities and sororities have an undeniable influence on life at Brandeis.
"Every Greek organization is working together trying to establish ourselves to the best of our ability on campus by taking part in philanthropy and doing what we can to add ourselves in a positive way to the scope of the Brandeis community," said Kappa Beta Gamma President Hayley Browdy '13.
"There are few facets of Brandeisian life that a Greek has not, in some way, influenced," said Max Keilson '13, president of Alpha Delta Phi.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer, "the University is not interested, philosophically or functionally, in recognizing student organizations that are selective socially."
The fact that many of the organizations include service activities and philanthropy among their purposes and goals has created some friction between those organizations and the University.
One example of such a situation occurred in the fall 2011 semester. Phi Kappa Psi hosted an event called "Invisible Children," which featured a speaker and a film about child soldiers in Uganda and the Congo. The fraternity requested permission to "put their letters" on the event, or, in other words, be official sponsors. However, the University denied their request, and Phi Psi was forced to defer sponsorship of the event to the International Club and the Brandeis African Students Organization.
Leaders of Greek organizations initiated two meetings with Sawyer and Assistant Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch last year to open lines of communication between the Greek organizations and the University administration, according to a Justice article from March 2011.
Sawyer was quoted in last year's article as saying that the Division of Student Life was working "to explore appropriate ways for [the Greek organizations] to develop more visibility and more involvement with the campus community within the current limitations regarding chartering and recognition."
However, it is unclear whether the meetings had any lasting effects on the status of Greek organizations and the relationship between them and the University.
According to Sawyer, the University has "on a couple of occasions permitted a fraternity or sorority to co-sponsor or be participants in an event when I'm convinced that the event itself is primarily being produced and created by a recognized student organization."
Sawyer also qualified the disagreement between Greek organizations and the University. "This is more of a philosophical and theoretical difference of opinion than it is a moment of antagonism or friction," he said. "This is Brandeis, this is the philosophy, this is the underpinnings, this is what we are, and currently the traditional Greek formula is just not connectable … to the Brandeis way."
"It's an ever-improving working relationship," wrote President of Sigma Delta Tau Morgan Fine '13 in an email to the Justice on the relationship between Greek life organizations and the University. "We understand their concerns and are working toward a positive relationship."
Sawyer added that the University might be open to some alternative versions of Greek organizations. "When a Greek-like organization steps forward, untethered to a national organization, and wants to present a concept about an open, inclusive Greek-like organization that bleeds Brandeis blue, I think there would be people willing to listen to that and work with those students to see how we could create our own sort of Greek-like experience on campus," he said.