Greek Life's exclusivity plagues Occidental


Bids from Greek Life came out Thursday night, and despite the claims by members of Greek Life to be “inclusive,” many students were turned away with no bid.

That is to be expected. Rush participants know that it is a possibility, but no one ever thinks it will be them that is turned away.

Those who rush are often looking for somewhere to fit in; many feel alone and want a group of friends to accept them. Getting turned away from a sorority or fraternity amplifies the feeling of loneliness that they already have.

Rush is a judgmental and excluding process, and at a big school that is fine because there is so much to fall back on. But as Riley Kimball wrote, fraternities and sororities have little place at a small, liberal arts college.

It is hypocritical to claim that Greek organizations are inclusive when the entire process of rushing, bidding and pledging is exclusive. Even the parties Greek Life throws are exclusive. Sure, not all the people that attend the parties are Greek, but a majority of them are, and the rest are the friends of Greeks. Rarely is that circle expanded.

To make matters worse: the sororities on Friday evening ran through the Quad yelling and cheering about the new pledges.

Words cannot even describe the selfishness behind that action. All the people who were rejected by these groups could have witnessed that and twice felt the rejection that was already doled out to them.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of places in L.A. that are great for yelling and cheering, probably the same number of great photo-ops. Since their money does not go toward alcohol (obviously because that’s illegal) or throwing awesome open parties, they could have instead spent the money on a bus to take the girls somewhere off-campus.

It is bad enough having to see the pictures on Facebook that constantly remind rejected rushers of the pain and loneliness they feel. But to have to witness it firsthand is incredibly more painful.

And of course, rather than considering the feelings of others, the sororities continued yelling, smiling and taking pictures.

They should celebrate; they all made new friends and became a part of a probably great group of people. No one can deny the bonds that Greek Life creates.

But how hard is it to think outside of that and consider other people’s feelings?

Apparently pretty difficult.

Furthermore, at a small school like Occidental, students are constantly reminded of their rejection; they are repeatedly confronted by the Greek t-shirts, their peers who got in and their peers who rejected them, which is yet another reason Greek Life does not belong on such a small campus.

Frankly, it is just mean to not let everyone into a Greek organization at a small school. There are probably reasons for it, but those reasons should not outweigh the feelings of those searching for a social home. Again, Occidental preaches acceptance and inclusiveness but doles out something different.

Juliet Suess is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at or on Twitter @WklyJSuess.



  1. Wait, what is the acceptance rate at Occidental College? About 40%? That means about 60% of students who apply, some of whom desperately wish to attend, get rejected. Isn’t it hypocritical for an Oxy student to be writing an article criticizing exclusivity? Oxy turns applicants away because they aren’t qualified and aren’t prepared for the academics at Oxy or are unlikely to make meaningful contributions in the classroom and to the school’s community. Perhaps some applicants are just not a good fit. As a former greek at Oxy, we gave out bids to far, far more interested young men than we rejected. Our admittance rate was certainly higher than 40%. We considered young men based on what they could contribute to the fraternity, whether we thought they were mature enough to handle the fraternity environment, whether we thought they would promote the fraternity well by contributing in the classroom, socially, and the school community, by say volunteering or being involved in student government or other associations, and whether they were a good fit with the current members. We considered ethics. We did so regardless of these men’s race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The simple fact of the matter is some students are just not able to handle it, and it is unlikely to benefit either them, the fraternity, or Oxy as a whole for them to be members of a fraternity. Would you want us to admit guys that act immorally towards their female classmates? That are intolerant of our current members based on prejudice? Whose grades or other pursuits would certainly suffer from being involved in the fraternity? I am not saying every guy that doesn’t get a bid fits one of those criteria (some are just not a good fit) but my point is you certainly wouldn’t advocate for us accepting everyone that applies. And you certainly wouldn’t want someone else dictating who you can be friends with. Also, once students get out of college and need to get a job, unfortunately some jobs will reject them. That’s life.

  2. The reason that we cap the organizations is for two main reasons. 1) We want everyone in the organization to truly get to know every single person in the org. Not just a select group. This is to ensure a lasting bond, and also true friendship, if there were too many people, this simply would not happen. 2) There is simply not enough space. If you have ever been to any of the official houses such as sae, alpha, or delta, you would see that there is not enough room for all 2000 students at this school to be at a party there, or for even anywhere near 300 people. The houses aren’t the size of the ones you’ll find on USC or ucla’s frat row. The house is an essential part to the brotherhood and sisterhoods. It is the place where we can all come together and have our traditions, meetings, service events, and more.

    Greek life takes as many people as possible. The process isn’t perfect yet. But we continually try to improve. People who don’t get in the first time have a better change getting in during fall rush, which all are encouraged to attend.

    Until you have full knowledge of what goes on in the system, perhaps it is not your place to pass judgement. It’s easy to be critical of something you haven’t tried to understand completely., as I am sure this insults your fellow staff members and about 15 of your teammates who just joined. Blanket statements aren’t the way to go.

  3. Hi Juliet,
    I graduated last year– the year that the Oxy sororities Alpha and Delta chose to go close-bid, rather than be open-bid as they had previously been. As a past member of Delta, I can honestly tell you that the reason for this choice was simply that so many students were rushing and pledging. These student-run, local sororities were overwhelmed by the responsibilities of bringing so many new members into the community. This was not a decision that was made lightly.
    There are certainly divisions within the Oxy community that need to be addressed, but the answer is not to criticize Greek Life, as seems to be the trend. The current rushing system has been put into place because Greek organizations have added so many new members in recent years, that this level of growth is unsustainable. It is not an attempt to exclude anyone. In fact, Greek Life’s values include engagement and service to Occidental. If you look around, you will see that Greeks have a very high level of participation across campus — from ASOC to OSAC, the Green Bean to the Admissions Office. This is because Oxy Greeks are active, dedicated individuals who care about improving the campus for all students. Most importantly, Oxy Greeks know that being a tiger is more important than the letters you do, or don’t wear. But I don’t have to tell you that.

  4. As a short response to most of these comments, I am really happy for those in Greek Life. The organizations do great things (including much community service and fundraising), and a lot of the people are great. I am merely pointing out an instance or two when they did a disservice to those who wanted to join them.

    As I told my teammates and coworkers, “If it makes you happy, it makes me happy for you.” I support their decision to join a Greek organization. But when what makes “you” happy, makes other people really sad, then maybe something should be altered.

    The bidding process makes sense. Rejection is a part of life, as many have said. It is the aftermath of that process with which I have issue. Consoling friends who wanted so badly to be a part of Greek Life is heartbreaking. I simply wanted to stand up for those who were hurting and were hurt again and again by the actions of Greek organizations, such as the event in the quad mentioned in the article.

  5. As the former president of Zeta, I want to respond to the response.

    I am inclined to agree, personally, that running through the quad screaming after getting pledges is over the top. That’s really all I agree with though.

    I want to say two things:

    1) Closed bidding allows orgs to maintain their “culture”. Closed bidding is by no means a perfect method, but open bidding means there’s no “culture,” which is problematic in a whole host of different ways. Even a pledge class that is perfectly compatible but too big can create problems with “culture.”

    2) This concept that orgs are disrespecting and hurting people who don’t get bids is backwards. If one doesn’t get a bid, it’s because the org doesn’t think the person is a good fit. It would be a disservice and disrespectful to the person and to the org itself to force a union and offer a bid simply to foster some momentary happiness.

    I respect that there are some people who are very disappointed that they don’t receive bids, but this article doesn’t address the problem in a productive way.

    On another note, greek life at Oxy is the furthest thing imaginable from the be all end all of social life at the college, so I think the title of the article is really sensationalized. To be honest I thought the content of the article would be completely different.

  6. You make a great point, but are guilty of over-generalization to a certain extent. Sometimes, for some people, getting rejected from a frat or sorority might be for the best. And Oxy’s small community still gives these students a chance to make great friendships with both greeks and non-greeks,whether it be in a res hall, on the sports field or in a student production. Still, greek life at Occidental definitely could be more sensitive to the community as a whole, and I suggest that the problems you note stem more from the nature of fraternities and sororities at a national level, rather than just at Oxy.

  7. Hi Juliet,

    I graduated from Occidental last year after 4 great years as an active member in Delta and the Greek system as a whole. I found your article to be emotional and one-sided, completely leaving out the logical explanations for why the Greek system has become more “exclusive.”

    I ran Women’s Recruitment from 2010-2011, and that year and every year since then, the number of students going through the Recruitment process has increased. Until the Spring of 2013, Recruitment for women was an open process, meaning that if you showed up to the required events, you were guaranteed to get at least 1 bid. If that isn’t inclusive, I don’t know what is. It’s certainly more inclusive than clubs that require applications, or sports teams that require tryouts, both of which also result in heartbreak for those who are not accepted.

    In Spring 2013, the entire Greek system was forced to go closed because the volume of interested students far exceeded the system’s capacity. I can only speak for Delta, but I know the decision to go closed bid was extremely tough and very upsetting for many members who wanted Delta to retain its tradition of openness and inclusivity. The reason that more and more people are upset by not receiving bids is because interest continues to increase while the capacity of the system remains stagnant. If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at the members of the administration who continue to delay and even block the addition of new social Greek organizations that would expand the system’s ability to take on even more new members.

    Finally, I find frustrating the predictability with which the Weekly continues to publish anti-Greek articles, especially when so many of its staff members are Greek. As other comments have pointed out, Greeks are extremely engaged throughout the Oxy community and dedicated to giving back. No Oxy student wants to be pigeonholed into a stereotyped identity—including athletes, academic societies, and other “exclusive” groups—so please give Greeks the balanced coverage they deserve.

  8. According to the new head of Greek Life on campus, our coverage has been something like 80 percent positive of Greek Life. Also, keep in mind that the two people in charge of running this article are both Greek. They obviously thought that there was something about it that warranted printing (granted only online). This has been the only negative Greek article published in the past two years and only the second that I can recall since my tenure at The Weekly. So, I really don’t understand this bias that you are talking about (esp. when I say how the people in Greek Life are great and the bonds you form are undeniable). And I can send you the links to plenty of positive articles we have written on Greek Life if you would like.

    I understand the reason for the exclusivity. I even mention that in the second graph that it makes sense that things are that way, that people should expect to be turned away. My point was rather that after turning people away, Greeks should be more concerned with their actions and try to not make others feel rejected time and time again.

    Furthermore, being rejected from a job based on principles like “not enough experience,” etc are a lot easier to understand than being rejected for social reasons. I am not saying “accept everyone” rather attempt to be nicer to people once they have been rejected.

  9. Hello Juliet,
    I’m sorry that some of your friends did not receive bids, and they are lucky to have a friend like you that cares about telling their story. However, I have to say that Katherine’s description of your article as “emotional and one-sided” is completely on point.

    I graduated from Occidental last year after spending 4 wonderful years in Delta, and your article really offends me. The main assertion of your article seems to be that Greek life has no place at a small school. Your reasoning is that the small school atmosphere makes rejection more hurtful. I spend these next paragraphs critiquing some of the claims in your article, but let me first say that your article would have been more compelling if it relied upon facts rather than feelings. I decided to briefly research the top 45 ranked small liberal arts schools (excluding the three military academies), and found that about half of schools around Oxy’s size have Greek life, and the vast majority of them have closed bidding processes. If you’re serious about wanting adjustments to the system, maybe you should research how they conduct Greek life at other schools, or how Greek life has evolved in modern times.

    Anyway, let’s take a careful look at how you defend your reasoning about Oxy Greek life being “mean” and “plaguing Occidental.” You say that Greek Life has exclusive parties, but did you know that the administration requires Greek organizations to provide a guest list for safety reasons? Additionally, I do not know the precise square footage of the few Greek houses associated with Oxy, but I do know that there is no way that they have the capacity to hold an unlimited number of guests.

    As for your disparagement of Greek life celebrating its new members on the quad, it is ridiculous to expect Greek life to pay thousands of dollars to transport all of its members to some off-site location for a picture. And seeing as how members of Greek life are part of the Oxy community, they should be able to utilize the Oxy campus for their gatherings. I also think it is entirely unreasonable to criticize Greek organizations for wearing their t-shirts on campus. Whether it be a sports team, a music group, a specialized club, or a Greek organization, people shouldn’t be discouraged from proudly representing their membership in organizations that matter to them. I do agree that rejection hurts, but the goal of Greek life is not to hurt other people’s feelings. Facebook posts and pictures can compound the hurt that people feel, but this applies to all facets of social life, and people who consume social media should know what they’re getting into.

    Setting all that aside, I can’t speak for the entire Greek community, but I know that the women of Delta were deeply saddened to not be able to offer bids to all of the girls that wanted to join. Perhaps your article could have been enhanced by interviewing members of Greek life about the recruitment system. Just as Amalia and Katherine have explained, making the decision last year to close bidding was heartbreaking for Delta. I do not have more to add on that subject than what they have already explained.

    I hope that any future articles will more fairly represent the realities of Greek life, whose members actively contribute to the Oxy community.

  10. Val,

    I appreciate your response. First, just because something is done at other schools (many upon many of schools even) does not mean that is the best way to do something. My point, as stated, is not that there is a closed bidding process. It is after the fact that becomes a problem when students feel berated by those who rejected them.

    Second “plaguing Occidental” is a headline written by editors, so I won’t comment on that. It is false that the administration requires that. I researched that for precisely that comeback. I have heard that from multiple Greek organizations, and I didn’t find that rule written anywhere. Furthermore, the administrators with which I spoke knew nothing of that rule. Also, ATO manages to squeeze open parties and there aren’t 2,000 students flocking there. Students will go where there is room and a vibe that fits their style.

    Also, if you read the Facebook comments toward me, I think it is hard to deny that there is some meanness in Greek life. Someone said I am “disappointed about not receiving a bid.” Despite the fact that said person is incorrect (more due to the fact that I have never rushed), that proves the callousness that Greek Life has for those who do not receive bids. And that was one of the nicest comments I read.

    To deny the meanness of the act in the quad, the one time I am stating Greek Life has done an extreme disservice to the school, is surprising. It costs far less than thousands of dollars to take photos off-campus. Furthermore, utilize Oxy’s campus on any other day. When the Oxy football team wins a game, do they run around the field yelling in the losers’ faces? Or the basketball team? Or swim team? No. They shake hands then go throw their own parties elsewhere because anything else would be bad sportsmanship. So I guess my point is that right after the game (bidding), be a good sport and not rub it in their face right now.

    We did write an article on that decision to go closed bid. We wrote it while I was an Editor; I even pitched the idea to the staff. Not to mention the other at least five articles that come to mind on Greek Life’s contributions to campus. Greek Life does a lot of good for that school, and “No one can deny the bonds that Greek Life creates.” I greatly respect many of the members of Greek Life, but that does not mean that I will not offer a critique to it in order to create a better experience for those who must be turned away.

  11. Hi Juliet,

    I’ll refer you back to my pervious post. The second point that I cited addresses the meanness claim that you’re making. It’s just not true. I’m not surprised that you’re receiving angry messages because your article is poorly written and reasoned, offers no solutions to the perceived problem and amounts to an ad hominem attack on greek life. Because the system is not perfectly equitable, greeks are mean. Also, if the title was an editor’s decision then I suggest that you send an angry e-mail to your editor telling him/her to make sure future titles are relevant to their stories


  12. It’s natural for someone who benefitted from Greek life not to think of it from the point of view of those who have been rejected.


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