It is no secret that most of SMU’s social life revolves around Greek life. Now, with rush just ending and pledgeship (or whatever the PC term for it is) beginning for the Greek organizations, it is a good time to discuss the impact that Greek life has on SMU’s culture, image and mission as an organization.
I’ll touch on the positives first, because there are good things that come out of the Greek system. For one, many of our campus leaders throughout Student Senate, Student Foundation and other organizations have Greek affiliations. Additionally, fraternities and sororities do have requirements for both scholarship and service. While these community service activities do occasionally go wrong, this seems to be somewhat of an outlier and the Greek system does lead for good on campus in several ways.
But, the Greek system does have its darker sides, attributed both fairly and unfairly. Maybe the Greek system has improved past its darkest days, but at times (and maybe even now) the whole system is an accident waiting to happen. Be it the racially insensitive accusations of last semester or the more serious incidents of pledge abuse and even death reported nationwide, the Greek system too often seems to have tragic events occur.
Members may object that one can’t stereotype the whole system from few events and that the Greek system is held under higher scrutiny, which may be true. But when looking back at all of the bans, suspensions and incidents that have happened with the Greek system on our campus alone, the accusation that these organizations are a risk management issue certainly holds some weight. Additionally, when you join a Greek organization, to my understanding, you are willingly accepting the identity of the group, both locally and nationally, which logically entails accepting the negative aspects of the Greek system’s history as well making these criticisms fair.
Outside of the one-off tragic incidences, Greek life influences campus culture on a day-to-day basis that may not be the most beneficial for our university climate as a whole as well. The focus of social interactions on campus, at least in my own experience, always seems to be on where you got blackout drunk last night, when the next party is, how much your Uber bill costs or when formal and other events are happening. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, and focus on parties and drinking is by no means exclusive to Greek life, I do think that it detracts from the academic nature of the university climate. This issue is likely not unique to SMU, but the Greek life “party culture” aspect certainly gets overemphasized at SMU, often times being a distracting force.
Greek life does contain its ups and downs, that much is clear. But is this really an issue that we should be worried about as a university, or is that just the way things are? To me, I think that Greek life is obviously too much a part of our tradition and brings enough good to prevent advocating getting rid of it altogether (that will never happen anyways). But I do think that Greek life tends to dominate our culture in a way that overall is negative. Foremost of my concerns are the negatives that come along with pledgeship and parties, with additional issues that have been raised recently about diversity and inclusion in the Greek system.
While I am sure that there are many who will quickly stand up to defend Greek life, and I am by no means saying that it is wholly bad, I think that this systems tends to dominate our university just a little too much — more than it should. Greek life is certainly part of a diverse campus experience, but I personally would like to see less emphasis on it in everyday life at SMU.