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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Secrets of Greek Life

By Adrianna Rada

The music was bumping through the ground and down the streets of this Costa Mesa home just minutes away from the 55 freeway. Only students affiliated in the Greek life, majority from Kappa Sigma, or currently pledging to a fraternity were guests at this party. My heart skipped a beat as I headed to the door and faced two big guys dressed in black using walkie-talkies.

“Can we help you?” The bouncer on the left holding a clipboard filled with names asked.

“Yes I am supposed to be on the list, Adrianna Rada?” I said as I wondered what I had gotten myself into? He opened the door and signaled it was ok for me to enter; it was surprising how organized the list of people to enter the party was. People really do get turned down if you are not on the list or a part of the Greek life.

It instantly became 15 degrees hotter inside and sweat was dripping down the walls. The party was packed with people, mostly UCI freshman, and the music was roaring through the place. My shoes stuck to the floor from so many spilled drinks. There were at least 5 kegs with buzzed students continually refilling their red Dixie cups. A counter filled with an assortment of hard liquor and mixers, that couldn’t be finished in one night. Pledges trying to join the fraternity were made into “beer bitches” and were continually serving the brothers of the fraternity their drink beverages all night, no questions asked. Girls danced on tables and drinking games were being played such as flip cup, beer pong and a few card games.

“Welcome to your first rush party!” Matt said to me. He was outside on the back patio talking and joking with some of his brothers from his fraternity the majority of the night. The brothers were happy with the turn out for their rush party it was one of the most successful ones they had ever attended. Matt lived at the house of the Frat party but didn’t seem to mind his place getting trashed, he was happier about the popularity of the rush party and the recognition from his brothers that went with it. By two ‘o’clock am the party dispersed because of freshman curfews and only a quarter of all the people remained, those who got lucky or those who were too drunk to drive home. In a recent survey conducted by students at the University of Alabama, first year male college students that are Greek affiliated have participated in a significantly greater number of drinking days in the past month the students who are not.

Matt has been a brother of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at UCI since freshman year and is currently a senior. Kappa Sigma is focused upon the four pillars of fellowship, leadership, scholarship and service. The lessons taught from his fraternity rituals include; acting like a gentlemen at all times, having the highest standards of personal conduct, and should instill a sense of responsibility and integrity. I wouldn’t say that was a theme of the rush party but I guess they teach that after the pledges have been accepted. Matt already knows that his affiliation with Kappa Sigma has given him lifelong friendships and allowed him to experience things in college that he wouldn’t have normally without joining a fraternity.

Andrew, also attended the rush party in Costa Mesa, and is a brother of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Andrew only stayed for an hour because he had to study for a test in one of his upper-division social science classes. However, he doesn’t have to study too often because he is given old tests and assignments passed down from generation to generation through his frat. It is one of the many secret benefits in belonging to the Greek life. Depending on how many brothers or sisters you have taking your major, everyone is willing to share notes and previous quizzes or exams. Andrew said there was an office that had a filing cabinet filled with work from previous students for a lot of UC classes and GE requirement classes. The Greek life promotes good grades because it is a reflection on their fraternity or sorority, most require its members to maintain a certain GPA. So, in order to help the students participate in all the activities, fundraisers and parties that are planned they share cheat-sheets through school to keep their grades up. Students get a lot of extra help with school work that isn’t available to students not affiliated in the Greek life.

Jennifer was a student at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona and is a sister of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Jennifer shared some personal stories on cheat-sheets, “One time I helped my big sister cheat on an exam because she didn’t study and was having an anxiety attack, so while she was taking the exam she texted me questions from her phone and I was in the library googling all the answers. I also know a few brothers that stole tests from teachers after they had already taken them. The teacher would end up giving the whole class A’s and the teacher wouldn’t say anything because it would reflect poorly on them for losing a whole class of tests, and no teacher can require a whole class to take a test again, either.”

Alpha Xi.jpg

It was a sunny afternoon in April when I joined Jennifer in decorating Easter eggs to share gossip about her sorority life as a sister of Alpha Xi Delta. We sat on her patio in Newport Beach with a few mixed cocktails and some music playing in the background. It seemed alcohol is an apparent trend in Greek fraternity/sorority affiliation. Alpha Xi Delta is a sorority that works towards inspiring women to realize their potential. They nurture unity and cooperation, foster intellectual, professional, and personal growth, and exemplify the highest ethical conduct. You could consider the cheating experience part of “personal growth”? “Well it definitely helped out A LOT!” Jennifer stated. Jennifer unlike most Greek members joined her sorority senior year of college. She went to Australia on a semester abroad her junior year and when she returned a lot of her friends had already graduated and so she thought joining a sorority would introduce her to some new people. Before she was accepted into Alpha Xi Delta she was a part of the pledging process. She shared some of her hazing experiences, “I did rushing events from the end of August till September, I got pinned in October and took my oath in November, the hazing was very strict at my school, but they do try to embarrass you. My big sister printed hundreds of pictures of me from face-book and posted them all over my school. Everywhere I turned there was a picture of me. It was hard to rip them all down I was severely outnumbered, I bet there are still a few around campus. Another time my big sister got four guys in the middle of my class to bring me flowers and sing ‘My Girl’ I was so embarrassed they must have talked to my teacher because he didn’t stop them and he didn’t seem to mind.” But it was worth the embarrassing experiences because once Jennifer was initiated she gained so much from her sorority.

Jennifer was very patient and skilled in decorating her Easter egg she took her time, I wondered if that trickled down to her real life. “I loved my sorority. All the benefits were just a bonus that came with it. I made great girlfriends, the kind you can call at two in the morning because your car broke down and they WILL rescue you. When applying for a job if someone is affiliated in your Greek fraternity or sorority you already have a much better chance than anyone else. It is an intricate system of networks that have been around for years. Secret codes and handshakes can get you into private functions and I will always get a discount at Betsey Johnson because the creator was a sister in my sorority. My only regret is not joining sooner in my college experience.” The Greek life offers several advantages to college students if they are lucky enough to be accepted including friendship, academic support, social activities, and even career networking. Wonder why so many students, including myself, never think to join?

Reporting Notes:

2 Sitdown interviews with Jennifer

Sitdown Interview with Matt

Sitdown Interview with Andrew

Observational Interview of Sigma Kappa Rush Party

Laura L. Talbott, Ryan J. Martin, Stuart L Usdan, James D. Leeper . "Drinking Likelihood, Alcohol Problems, and Peer Influence Among First-Year College Students ." The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 34 (2008): 433-440




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