Greek Week leaders focus on image
While Greek events may incite precepts of infamous hazing practices or searing images of John Belushi in a toga, Washington University’s Greek members are using this year’s Greek Week to actively fight such stereotypical images that pervade college campuses.
Juniors Becca Craig and Mike Hsu, heads of this year’s Greek Week, stressed the emphasis they are putting on unifying all of the campus’ Greek chapters.
“We want the chapters to work with each other rather than against each other,” Hsu said.
“There is definitely a huge shift in the dynamics this year,” Hsu claimed. “I can’t even describe how much of a 180 we’ve taken from last year.”
According to the two students, a negative image of Greek life has developed on campus. “I think [the Greek community] can be seen as a destructive force, and because of that, Greeks aren’t proud to be Greek,” Craig said. “It’s hard to get people to understand us and not stereotype. This is exactly what we’re trying to address.”
Greek leaders are looking outward to improve their image, rather than focusing on reforms within individual chapters. Craig believes that if Greek members open up more events to the greater community, it will help improve others’ perceptions of Greek life.
Greek leaders also hope to minimize competition between chapters, as all of the chapters’ creeds are fundamentally the same, according to Craig. The Greek Week leaders pointed out that every fraternity and sorority values the same characteristics: intellectual curiosity, loyalty, service and respect.
“It’s easy for people to lose sight of [our similar values], especially during recruitment. But that’s why we’re really emphasizing Greek Week programs—to reignite that flame in the community,” she said.
“The frustration we feel as a Greek community is that we can do a hundred good things, but when one bad thing happens, it spreads faster than the good,” Craig said.
“You can’t let one bad incident tarnish your view of the system, Hsu added.”
“I think Wash. U. students can relate to our dilemma,” Craig said. “It’s similar to what’s going on in U. City. There are a few people who make a lot of noise in the off campus apartments, but the whole Wash. U. student body gets blamed.”
Craig and Hsu, however, have had very positive experiences as members of the Greek community.
“When you pledge a fraternity or sorority, you pledge to them and they pledge to you. It’s a bond that’s not quite like any other organization. The benefit is more what you can feel, not what you can express,” Craig said.
Lucy Morlan, Coordinator of Chapter Development for the Greek Life Office, believes that one of the biggest challenges Greek leaders will face this year will be maintaining the momentum that Greek Week has started.
“It’s easy to talk,” Morlan said. “It’s easy to start the semester with lofty goals and lots of motivation, but then people’s lives kick in and you forget the goals you started off with.”
Morlan hopes that Greek leaders will continue to promote action in the greater Wash. U. community even beyond Greek Week.
One of the Greek Week events that represented the newfound emphasis on cross-chapter unity was the Greek Olympics, which occurred on Sunday September 5th. Morlan explained that this year, the teams will be bigger to avoid pitting sororities against each other. In the past, teams consisted of two fraternities and one sorority, which caused tension between sorority chapters. This year’s Greek Olympics featured a tug-of-war, a volleyball tournament, a basketball tournament and an ultimate Frisbee game.
“It was amazing to see members of six different Greek organizations playing on the same Frisbee team.” Morlan said, “This year’s Olympics are all about building relationships and promoting teamwork within and between the chapters.”
Other Greek Week events, which run from Sept. 5 through Sept. 16, include a lecture by Dr. Corey Ciocchetti about the effects of stress on students, volunteering at the campus kitchen, Rock the Row, a town hall discussion on Greek values, and a fundraising competition.
“I think this year’s Greek Week really shows Wash. U. what Greek life is all about,” Craig said.
“I think the Greek leaders have definitely set great goals for themselves, and they’re off to a great start,” Morlan said. “These attitudes just need to be more natural so that they become something Greek members live by everyday. […] When you pledge a fraternity or sorority, you agree to be a particular kind of student—you stand for something. The Greek community needs to hold each other accountable. It might get uncomfortable at times, but that’s what needs to happen.”