Είναι όλα ελληνικά για μένα (It’s all Greek to me)
A guide to Greek life on campus
As first-year students trek the hills of the Brandeis campus, many for the first time, they’re bound to catch a glimpse of a shirt with colorful Greek letters embroidered on the front. Brandeis University does not officially recognize Greek life, and University tour guides often dodge the question or simply say that Greek culture is a small part of campus life, with only 5 to 10 percent of students participating. The lack of recognition has stirred up controversy for years, as Greek organizations have fought to make the case to school administrators that Greek life has a positive impact on the community. Separate from the masses of chartered Brandeis clubs, fraternities and sororities have existed under a veil of uncertainty — while exerting substantial influence on the lives of many students here. In investigating how these organizations actually operate and impact the community, the Justice reached out to every fraternity and sorority at Brandeis. Zeta Beta Tau, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Mu and Sigma Delta Tau failed to comment by our deadline. This article is designed to shed light on an element of campus life incoming students may still have questions about. This is not an official Justice endorsement of campus Greek life.
The Middlesex Chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, often abbreviated to ADPhi, was founded at Brandeis in 2006 and currently has 33 brothers. Known for their academic focus and “professional vibe,” recent ADPhi alumni have gone on to prestigious graduate programs in physics at Harvard and economics at Stanford while others are pursuing exciting careers. Chapter President Thom D’Angelo ’19 shared in an interview with the Justice that ADPhi’s small size and “collective driven character” contribute to their tight-knit and non-cliquey attitude.
ADPhi is no stranger to philanthropy either, raising money over the years for Literacy Incorporated, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Stop Soldier Suicide and the Veteran Transition Network. They have also volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank and Plympton Elementary.
One of their favorite fundraisers, Rent-a-Gent, involves the brothers dressing up in suits and offering various favors for donations. “Guys are pretty creative with this event,” said D’Angelo. “I remember my pledge class even offered to help play April Fool’s jokes on people’s friends.” In another fundraising favorite, they deliver breakfast sandwiches around campus –– “with or without real bacon.”
Asked what he enjoys most about ADPhi, D’Angelo immediately recognized his brothers –– “If that’s not every single fraternity president’s answer, I’m going to be shocked.” He explained that while many factors contribute to making the ADPhi experience enjoyable, he would not want any part of it without his brothers. “The color green also looks good on me, if I’m being 100 percent real,” he added with a laugh. He also dispelled the misconception that ADPhi is a literary fraternity, explaining that the focus has shifted since the establishment of the first chapter in 1832. Officially termed a social fraternity, they maintain their literary tradition through a “semi-annual, semi-formal event” where the brothers recite literary presentations. D’Angelo chose Allen Iverson’s practice rant at the 2001 MVP press conference for his first recital. “I’m not sure if it resonated with everyone in the room,” he admitted, “but basketball fans got a good laugh that night.”
D’Angelo believes the relationship fraternities and sororities have with Brandeis is improving but acknowledged that “the administration is cautious about Greek life, which is understandable given its negative reputation. That being said, I think the campus could benefit greatly from the social currency that Greek life holds.”
He is excited for the new semester because ADPhi recently signed a lease for a new house, putting them closer to campus than they have ever been –– “The house is really the hub of every good fraternity.” He also shared his eagerness to double down on charity fundraising this semester since a chapter alumnus recently committed to match however much ADPhi raise.
The Sigma Zeta Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, abbreviated to SAEPi, was founded in the fall of 2017 and has 25 sisters. Although it shares three Greek letters with AEPi, SAEPi is not actually affiliated with the fraternity (at Brandeis) and only hopes to offer similar opportunities that AEPi offers to men along with its non-discriminatory view of sisters of other faiths.
President Leah Scher ’20 shared in an interview with the Justice that although new sisters do not need to identify with the Jewish faith, “Everything we do is through a Jewish lens. We hold socials and philanthropy and community service events just like every other Greek letter organization, but we have Jewish events and rituals worked into our structure so that Jewish students who want the Greek experience but don’t want to sacrifice their Jewish identity have a place they’ll feel like they can do both.”
Since its inception last year, SAEPi has nearly tripled in size and looks forward to being chartered this semester.
Like other Greek organizations, SAEPi does many philanthropic events, raising over $900 in their first year. During one such a cappella fundraiser, SAEPi raised over $500 for Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Scher expressed frustration with the lack of official recognition of Greek life on campus, saying, “The University sees Greek life as doing more harm than good. They make functioning on campus quite difficult. If I could choose any one thing for Brandeis to change about the way they interact with Greek life, I’d ask them to please make booking rooms on campus easier for us. All we do is hold meetings and events just like any other club!”
The Beta Psi Chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon, abbreviated to DPhiE, was founded at Brandeis in 1996 and currently has 60 sisters. Like AEPi, their large size contributes to their wide reach across campus clubs. But there is no epigrammatic phrase to describe the sisters of DPhiE because “there is no typical Deepher,” shared Abby Berkower ’20 the sorority’s Vice President of Academic Affairs. in an interview with the Justice.
Rather, DPhiE sisters “come from all walks of life, and have all different interests,” she said. They are writers, scientists, actors, entrepreneurs, artists and more. Berkower confessed, “It’s super cliché, but I know that I’ve found a community on campus that I can truly be my weirdo self around.” She added, “we have our ‘srat’ moments, but overall I’d say that we’re all chill in our own ways.”
Their individuality extends to their philanthropic work as well. DPhiE sisters support Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the DPhiE Education Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
Berkower went on to dispel the misconception that DPhiE, and Greek life in general, consists of cliquey individuals who judge others based on how they look, professing that DPhiE has been “one of my greatest support systems on campus,” and that she can always turn to her sisters to cheer her up or offer advice if she is having a bad day, and cheer her on if she is having a good day.
She believes the lack of official recognition of fraternities and sororities on campus “admittedly has its pros and cons.” But she described the stigma Greek life holds as “unfortunate,” emphasizing that it is more than just partying.
She is excited for what the new semester holds, revealing that their first event will be a “women’s weekend that will culminate with [them] participating in the Making Strides walk in Boston.”
The sisters of DPhiE are ultimately united, according to Berkower, by their desire to make meaningful connections and join a mutually supportive community, “and [she] wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Lambda Beta Chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, AEPi, was founded at Brandeis in 2012 and currently has 48 brothers. Known for their involvement in many different clubs and majors, fraternity President Matthew Patton shared in an interview with the Justice that AEPi has been actively working with “Campus Activities Board, WBRS, Chabad, Hillel, and more” to create unique events on campus. This was embodied both in the annual Purim party that AEPi co-sponsored last year with Kappa Beta Gamma, Delta Phi Epsilon and Sigma Delta Tau and in Springfest, where one of their brother’s bands was chosen to open the event.
Coupled with their affiliation with clubs on campus, AEPi recently reached a new level of philanthropic achievement on campus, raising $3,291 last spring. To achieve this level of fundraising, AEPi hosted several events including, “a chipotle fundraiser, an online outreach fundraiser, and of course our semesterly ‘Pie a Pi’ where people at Brandeis can donate money to throw pies at members of the chapter,” said Patton.
Patton called his brothers the most enjoyable part of AEPi, commenting, “I love the idea of brotherhood because it promotes values of mutual respect and trust among members, which makes people very open with one another. It’s something that’s hard to come by but has given me a family in college like no other.” He also dispelled the misconception that all AEPi brothers are Jewish, clarifying that although nationally recognized as a Jewish fraternity, AEPi accepts brothers of all faiths.
Patton looks forward to the many events AEPi has planned, and moving toward his ultimate goal for AEPi, “To be a dynamic and positive force on campus, whether that be through parties, fundraising and volunteering, or just being positive members of the Brandeis community overall.”
The Theta Chapter of the Alpha Pi Phi Sorority, often abbreviated to APiPhi, was founded at Brandeis in 2015 and currently has 17 sisters. Distinctive for their small size and strong sisterhood, the sisters of APiPhi share close bonds with each of their fellow sisters. From studying for finals in the library to dealing with drama to “order[ing] Chinese food and watch[ing] the Winter Olympics” on a Friday night, President Haley Director ’20 expressed in an interview with the Justice that to be a sister of APiPhi is to “have a group of people who are there for you and have your back no matter what.”
Since their founding, APiPhi has been raising money to support the Alzheimer Society of Canada, their official philanthropy. In fall 2017, for example, they participated in Boston’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which they plan to repeat this year. They have also participated in Relay for Life, and partner with Brandeis Students to End Alzheimer’s Disease for various charity events.
Director’s favorite part of APiPhi is spending time with her sisters. “I’m in the library all the time. We get a table in the morning, and everyone just rotates in and out, and it’s just really fun seeing who’s in the library,” she said. She has come to realize that she won’t remember every sisterhood or philanthropy event, but rather the smaller moments with her sisters, such as getting meals with her “little” or being in a dance with her “big.”
She also dispelled the misconceptions that APiPhi simply takes sisters rejected from other sororities –– “We love getting to know people, but we don’t take someone just because they didn’t get into Sorority X or Sorority Y. We take them because we think they’d be a good fit for our sisterhood and what we do on campus.” –– and that their founding outside the United States less than 10 years ago makes them a ‘fake’ sorority. Since the first chapter was founded in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 2009, APiPhi has expanded to 10 chapters, the Theta Chapter giving APiPhi an international presence in the United States for the first time.
Director believes the relationship fraternities and sororities have with Brandeis is improving. For example, the fraternities and sororities partnered with the Campus Activities Board last February for their Sherman Function Ball, and planned and participated in networking events with the Hiatt Career Center last March. She believes this has put them on the right track, commenting, “I think the more that the Brandeis administration sees that we are involved for good things will lead to a better relationship with the administration at Brandeis.”
But she acknowledged the long trek that remains toward official recognition, adding, “We’re never going to be a big state school with eighteen frats and sixteen sororities that the whole social life revolves around them, but I think what we’re doing now, by partnering with different clubs on campus and increasing our visibility as a united Greek life –– as a unified force –– is definitely helping the inter-Brandeis community.”
She is excited for the new semester because of the prospect of getting a larger pledge class –– their theme for Rush this semester is “Super Sisters” –– and developing closer bonds with her sisters, confessing, “I could not have asked for a better group of women to surround myself with throughout my college career.”
The Chi Chapter of Kappa Beta Gamma, often abbreviated to KBG, holds a reputation as one of the most secretive sororities on campus. The chapter was founded in 2011 and currently has 35 sisters. KBG president Hannah Glock ’19 says the small size of the sorority makes the relationships between the sisters that much more special.
On their website, KBG claims to value scholarship, although there is no specific GPA requirement mentioned. The website also brags that KBG is the most diverse sorority at Brandeis, with sisters and alumni from Mexico, Columbia, Norway, India, Turkey and Nigeria. The organization’s main philanthropic endeavor is an annual fundraiser for the largest sporting event for persons with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics.
KBG Vice President Natalya Wozab ’20 spoke to the Justice about the organization’s struggle to be recognized. She lamented, “It’s hard not being officially recognized by Brandeis because it makes it harder to accomplish our goals of reaching out and getting our message to the rest of the campus population. On the other hand, without any help or recognition from Brandeis, we are forced to work that much more to stay organized, advertise Greek life, and support other organizations so that we all have successful processes.”