June 6, 2003

U of C Greeks; no, not Plato

On campus, when the word "Greek" is used, most people think of the University's acclaimed Classics Program. But there's another meaning to the word "Greek" for a number of us students that I'd like to address in this column. That's the Greek life found in the University's fraternities and sororities. Joining a fraternity, in my case Delta Upsilon, is one of the most positive experiences I've had on campus.

When I was a first-year, Greek life seemed about the last thing I wanted to get involved with. I had a negative impression of the fraternity system, especially after O-week. I wasn't impressed with the parties that I went to or the people I met there. Then, through dumb luck, I met a couple of guys who all happened to be in the Delta Upsilon fraternity. We had a lot in common, so I reconsidered and joined.

Four years later, I can honestly say that joining a fraternity is one of the best decisions I made here. I won't give you all that shtick about "making friends for life" and networking. You've probably already heard it. And, in some case, it's just not true. Like any environment, there are some people who you are really close to, some people you hate, and some you just know. But, there are other pluses that make Greek Life worth considering.

The most obvious benefit of fraternity life is social. Like almost all first-years, I lived in a dorm. That was the center of my social life. All my friends and I lived on the same floor. On weekends, I partied with other people in my hall. I actually enjoyed the dorm-sponsored social activities. When I left, I assumed that I could always come back and hang out. Right? Wrong!

As I got more involved with my major, I found I had to spend more time in the library and less time around my old dorm. I had made some very good friends in my old dorm, and we still get together occasionally. But I quickly realized that most of the people in my old dorm weren't really my buddies, just my neighbors. People who I had known pretty well got more distant. Some who used to be friendly became cold. After a while, I got the distinct impression that I was unwelcome there.

With fraternities-unlike the dorms-when you're accepted, its members have seriously evaluated you and decided to accept you into their brotherhood. With my fraternity, I wasn't required to live in its house, but could come and go as I pleased and still felt welcome. Even better, I could just show up on weekends and know that something would be going on. It might be a trip to the movies, dinner somewhere in Hyde Park, or just playing pool and watching TV in our Moose Room for a few hours.

But the most important-and definitely the most underrated-part of a fraternity is its function as a support group. When I was having some trouble with classes, my DU brothers noticed and, without any prompting, they started making regular inquiries into how I was doing and if there was anything they could do. They kept bugging me about papers, and my grades eventually improved.

If you're a second- or third-year student and reading this, I'd recommend taking a serious look at what fraternities and sororities may have to offer you. There are a wide variety of chapters on this campus, and you'll almost certainly find one that you like. Even if you've looked at them before and decided not to join, you might want to reconsider. Since membership is constantly changing as brothers graduate, a fraternity or sorority that didn't appeal to you this year may be filled with totally different people next year. And, to my brothers in Delta Upsilon, I have just two things to say: It's been a great four years, and DUMF!