It’s all Greek to me…

Opinion by Nikola Milanovic
April 13, 2010, 12:35 a.m.

It’s all Greek to me…The first couple weeks of spring have arrived, and with them has come a time many love and fear, popularly known as Rush. These coming weeks will provide students with the opportunity to bromance, speed-date, judge and be judged. And at the end of the process, there will be “winners” and “losers” and an opportunity to consider who one’s real friends are. Awesome.

Stanford offers a diverse selection of Greek organizations, with 16 fraternities and 12 sororities (seven and three housed, respectively). Many represent specific interests or cultures, such as the Jewish AEPi or the traditionally athletic Kappa Alpha. For all those interested, the next few weeks will give students the opportunity to learn about the houses they can join and what kind of scene they cater to.

I remember rushing and joining my fraternity two years ago, and in retrospect, that side of the process was daunting. A word of advice going into it: be honest with yourself about why you are rushing. There are many good reasons to look into joining the Greek scene, and there are also many bad ones.

Put simply, joining a fraternity or sorority will allow you some opportunities. It will allow you to guarantee living with some of your friends. It will introduce you to an entirely new social scene and culture. It will let you make new friends you would never have made otherwise.

Joining the Greek scene will not make you more interesting. It will not make you thinner or more muscular. It will not boost your GPA, clear up your acne, make you inherently more fun to be around or compensate for any of the above. It may attract people to you, but it will not necessarily make you a more attractive person.

Joining a fraternity or sorority is a way to boost your social status – a pretty good way. It will give you the competitive edge in the cutthroat world of social hierarchies. Much like college and job applications, the Rush process is a contest of selling oneself effectively in order to be granted entrance into an elite organization. Brotherhood and sisterhood come with the privilege of leveraging that social resume bullet point against others in the ongoing popularity contest known affectionately as “life.”

This sounds jaded. Sorry. Unfortunately, it’s an accurate concern for the Stanford Greek scene, just as it is at most other schools. This critique does not apply to all the fraternal and sororal organizations at Stanford, but it does apply to many. The simple truth is that these social groups tend to engender shallowness. Luckily, this effect can be easily sidestepped by adhering to one rule: don’t let your fraternity or sorority become your identity.

I forgot that rule for a while. My guess is that many people, enamored with the social accreditation that comes from joining a house, indulge in their new status by defining themselves according to their fraternity or sorority. It’s the hazard of becoming comfortable with this mentality that produces “fake” people in the Greek scene.

The benefit of an amazing school like Stanford is the diversity of experiences, backgrounds, interests and qualifications that make us as students so interesting. Nobody needs to join a sorority or fraternity to be interesting, but people occasionally forget this and make their defining feature their Greek affiliation. “Hi, I’m Nik – I’m in X-Fraternity.”

Aside from the cynical commentary and minor self-deprecation (I’m actually a pretty ebullient, optimistic person), the one point I want to stress is to take your newfound social categorization with a grain of salt. We are all fascinating people for a multitude of reasons and for the various facets that make up our personalities – don’t invest too much of your social stake in joining a fraternity or sorority. It will give you an automatic icebreaker at a party (on par with “I’m captain of this athletic team” or “I’m president of this club”), but it won’t contribute to who you are.

That being said, I want to encourage everyone who is thinking of doing so to rush. The process is entertaining and exciting, and gives students a fantastic opportunity to evaluate what kind of living and social situation they want to find themselves in for the coming year. But of all the reasons you have for rushing a Greek organization, please don’t prioritize the opportunity to boost your social status. In some cases this admittedly condescending advice will fall on deaf ears, but hopefully people have the introspective capacity to understand that they don’t need to be Greek to feel secure about their social merits.

For all the eager and curious people out there looking to join a fraternity, I hope to see you at Rush. And for all you social statisticians and intrepid scalers of the popularity pyramid, I’ll see you there too.

Take all this with a grain of salt, or else it’s only gonna break, break your break, break your heart. Nikola is the Inter-Fraternity Council President. Contact him at [email protected].

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