Saturday, February 24, 2024

Realities of Greek life at Plattsburgh

By Bryn Fawn

Greek life is one of the staples of the “college experience,” or as so many believe to be the case. Highschoolers look forward to the day they get to pledge or rush and join their own little circle on campus. Yet, for SUNY Plattsburgh, Greek life could be leagues better.

Greek life pushes away poorer students. Applying to a fraternity or sorority may cost money, and most organizations charge dues which can cost $2,000 or more. That doesn’t account for rent if a member lives in the organization’s building. 

Thousands of students have taken out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of loans, burying them in debt, and adding on a few more thousands of dollars each year or even each semester may be impossible for poorer students. 

Greek life also has the issue of being overwhelmingly white, not just at SUNY Plattsburgh, but nationwide. On social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, fraternities and sororities share their rushes to the online public and most of the participants are white or at the very least white-passing. 

Alpha Epsilon Phi, SUNY Plattsburgh’s largest sorority and Greek life organization, has photos of their members on their national Instagram. A majority of members included in photos are white. 

Alpha Epsilon Phi members who were tabling at the Angell College Center Feb. 21 declined to be interviewed. 

While there are many Greek organizations on campus that are focused on diversity, those groups still make up the minority of all Greek life. At least three groups, Theta Nu Xi, Sigma Iota Alpha and Omega Phi Beta, have become dormant in recent years. Another group, Lambda Pi Upsilon, has a measly three members currently. This leads to questions about maintaining diversity within Greek life.

Greek life is also often divided along the gender binary. Fraternities are for men, while sororities are for women. There have been some cases of coed organizations across the country. Yet often, this leaves transgender and non-binary individuals at a loss, for fear of discrimination.

“Brotherhood” and “sisterhood” are large selling points of joining an organization, but what about those who don’t identify as a “brother” or “sister?” Of course, being off the binary does not entail that they cannot label themselves as a brother or sister, but the idea of uniformity can push out queer individuals. 

There are no queer-specific Greek life organizations on Plattsburgh’s campus, although many organizations don’t turn away queer members.

Uniformity is also a large problem, as it can create an echo-chamber or hive mentality. Members are encouraged to spend money to purchase shirts, pants, hats, blankets and more with their insignias of their specific organization on the item. 

SUNY Plattsburgh skews toward having more sororities and female Greek life members than men. 

From SUNY Plattsburgh’s GPA report of spring 2022: “16% of SUNY Plattsburgh full-time undergraduates are affiliated with a fraternity or sorority. 17% of women and 13% of men.”

Men in fraternities were statistically more likely to have their GPA drop, which is another draw-back from Greek life. Parties become a central point of Greek life, which fuels the stereotype. Disciplinary actions have been taken against organizations, as they are held responsible for breaking the terms they agree with SUNY Plattsburgh. 

Jordan Canaan, a senior and sister of Sigma Delta Tau, believes there is a great level of diversity with Greek life on campus, especially with the “multicultural” fraternities and sororities. 

Canaan shared that Sigma Delta Tau specifically offers a payment plan for those who cannot pay dues fully upfront. 

“[Sigma Delta Tau’s] dues are usually around $200 for our sorority, and you can break that up throughout weeks and months and just send them what you have until the end of the due date,” Canaan said. “We make it available to anyone and everyone because dues are our last priority. We just want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable when dealing with the money situation.”

Canaan also admitted Sigma Delta Tau is open to anyone who is interested in joining.

“[Sigma Delta Tau] honestly wants anyone that we can get,” Canaan stated. “We just love a personality that feels connected to our sorority, no matter who you are or who you identify as.”

ReGina Sutphen, a Black sophomore music and theatre major, is not a part of Greek life. 

“I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the concept,” Sutphen said. “ It feels very cliquey and exclusive, a lot of people treat it that way too. Maybe for some it adds to the college experience, but it does almost nothing for me.”

Sutphen feels they are not “cool enough” to partake in Greek life and their events. 

Sutphen also feels that on campus, Greek life isn’t diverse.

“Right now, I’m not seeing diversity,” Sutphen said. “I’m seeing giant groups of white men and white women in these organizations. I am aware of Black fraternities and Black sororities, and I know we have some on campus, but the overwhelming majority is cishet, able-bodied white men and women.”

Sutphen also identifies as queer, and feels that there is not enough of a push for inclusivity towards queer individuals for Greek life on campus. Sutphen does not feel that they could join an organization due to being queer.

“I’d consider it if they explicitly mentioned supporting queer voices, but using vague words in the mission statement, like just saying “diversity” is not enough for me.” Sutphen said. They also said they feel that they “wouldn’t belong.”

Sutphen shared how they believe Greek life is ignorant to its inherently discriminatory ways. 

“If the people in these organizations were to realize [Greek life pushes minorities away,] and devote themselves to making a change within this community, I would be more open to it,” Sutphen stated. “At the moment, all I see is a group of white people partying every weekend and doing community service that they don’t really want to do.”

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