Weekly staffers take sides on Greek expansion


Pro: Greek expansion will make the system more inclusive

When I decided to attend Occidental, I certainly was not planning on being part of Greek life. This was not because I was against the idea of joining a fraternity, but because I believed joining one at Occidental specifically would be futile.

My pre-college online reading lead me to believe that Occidental’s Greek community had little visibility on campus, waning membership totals and a lack of administrative support. As a result, I figured most Greek organizations would gradually disappear from campus as they slipped further into irrelevance.

I could not have been more wrong.

Since I have been at Occidental, the school’s Greek life has steadily grown. Today, it is safe to say that the Greek community is thriving. According to Greek Council President Christian Wolfgram (senior), 23 percent of Occidental students were part of Greek life last spring—a higher percentage than at both USC and UCLA.

I am a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), which has expanded from around 25 brothers five years ago to almost 70 brothers today. Many of the other organizations have shown a similar trend of increasing membership in recent years. Because of the popularity of Greek life, the school has approved the addition of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority to campus and are reviewing the addition of a new fraternity.

Greek expansion will undoubtedly have a positive influence on campus. One of the most common complaints about Occidental’s Greek organizations is that they are too exclusive, and I could not agree more. Over the past few years, far more people have rushed each semester than the organizations could possibly take in. As a result, too many students have been left without a bid atrecruitment week’s conclusion. The rejection of large numbers of students in this fashion intensifies negative feelings towards Greeks and divides the Occidental community as a whole.

Greek expansion offers a solution to this problem. By adding organizations to campus, more space is created for people hoping to become part of Greek life. Expansion will markedly decrease Greek exclusivity, thereby eliminating the unnecessary rejection of candidates and the hostile feelings that may result.

Furthermore, growing the Greek community will make Occidental a more active, vibrant place. Greeks are heavily involved in coordinating several prominent philanthropy events on campus, including Up Til’ Dawn, Relay for Life and the SAE Haunted House. In addition, Greeks play a large role in supporting the school’s social life. Most of the Greek organizations throw formals each semester and invite members of the Greek and non-Greek community alike. Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha hosts the Toga dance annually; traditionally one of Occidental’s most well-attended social events.

The addition of a new fraternity seems especially sensible. The two largest social fraternities on campus, SAE and Phi Kappa Psi, include the vast majority of males within Greek life. To some students, these organizations seem like polar opposites; their members have different personalities and different reputations on campus. For all the men who do not feel like they would fit in either organization, another fraternity could offer a happy medium.

Perhaps more than anything, Greek organizations provide valuable communities for Occidental students. Fraternities and sororities are more than just friendship clubs—they are stable support networks that offer help to their members in times of need. Adding organizations to campus means providing more students with emotional, academic and social assistance.

Greek life is a valuable component of Occidental’s campus. Expanding it will only give more students the option to go Greek if they choose, while at the same time improving the campus dynamic for all Occidental students.

—Jamie Stevenson

Con: Greek life needs to be reevaluated before it grows

This campus prides itself on values of community involvement and inclusiveness, but its Greek system has yet to live up to these ideals.

Before expansion happens, reform needs to take place and Occidental’s Greek culture needs to be reevaluated. Existing sororities and fraternities need to solidify their priorities and consolidate their actions before the college thinks about adding another organization to the mix.

The current image of Occidental’s Greek community is plagued by bad PR. In recent years, the college’s Greek organizations have been on and off probation for infractions ranging from hazing to disorderly conduct. Most recently, Sigma Alpha Epsilon embarked on a rocky transition away from the pledging process in response to national concerns about hazing. Phi Kappa Psi has had their own issues on campus after some members planned a party with a demeaning theme. These examples are not meant to vilify these organizations—chapters do not have complete control over mandates from their national organization or the decisions of members acting independently—but they are representative of Greek life’s PR problem. Both the college and the Greek organizations should work together to reel in control of their existing members before they consider adding any more.

Following the record number of students going through recruitment this year, the Office of Greek Life has spearheaded the project to bring a new fraternity and sorority to the campus. But we must consider whether those currently involved in our present Greek organizations are involved enough.

While the Greek community participates in commendable philanthropic events, not all members are completely dedicated to the actions of their house. At the moment, certain members are only on board for social events. If the Greek system wants to be more inclusive, it should be inclusive of those that would best represent their organizations. To allow another fraternity and sorority on campus now would just create more space for students who continue to be uninvolved with their community, but reap the social benefits of Greek membership nonetheless.

On a campus as small as ours, it is ultimately detrimental to our values to constrain students to these exclusive brotherhoods and sisterhoods. The students not associated with Greek life will further feel separated from the social world by Greek expansion, because yet another group of potential friends will be divided from them by an invisible wall of social selectiveness.

For a college that considers its small size a benefit to students by helping them find a place where they feel like they belong, this feels like a step backward. A few more students will get into these new Greek organizations, but a greater number of students will feel excluded when they do not get accepted into them or do not feel able to approach those who do.

—Stephen Nemeth