So much of the stereotypical college experience—the one depicted in popular culture and on social media—centers around Greek life. In these portrayals, students meet their lifelong best friends in their fraternity or sorority, nightlife is centered around having fun at frat parties, and involvement in Greek life acts as a catapult to the top of the undergraduate social ladder.
These characterizations may not fully reflect reality, but the presence of Greek life on a college campus can certainly provide benefits for the student body. Frats and sororities often serve as hubs of social life, help students meet each other, and provide opportunities for members to get involved on campus.
On the other hand, the culture of collegiate Greek life has faced growing backlash in recent years, as dangerous behaviors like hazing have become increasingly exposed. A number of schools with well-established Greek systems have begun to question the presence of these organizations on their campuses. A recent proposal at Harvard would prohibit single-gender clubs at the school, including frats and sororities. Last year, Greek life at Tufts was suspended as reports of hazing and discrimination surfaced. A group of Penn State fraternity brothers are currently being prosecuted for their role in the death of a potential member, following a night of hazing and binge drinking. While these cases may not represent Greek life as a whole, they have raised legitimate concern about what role frats and sororities should play on college campuses.
There are valid arguments both in favor of and against the existence of frats and sororities, but Boston College—for better or worse—does not have a Greek system. While high school friends who attend other colleges are debating whether to rush and selecting which frat or sorority they hope to join, the newest Eagles are faced with a different dynamic on campus. For some people, BC’s lack of Greek life makes the school more attractive. For others, this fact was a negative they decided to overlook when they chose BC. Either way, the absence of sororities and fraternities means that BC freshmen must take a different approach in order to find their niche on campus. To shed some light on this aspect of the BC experience, here are The Gavel’s tips on how to navigate student life at a school without Greek life.
Join clubs and organizations.
While a variety of student groups and activities undoubtedly exist at schools with Greek life, they arguably play a more pivotal role at BC. Getting involved on campus can help freshmen make friends with similar passions, develop their identity, and find that sought-after sense of belonging that can be difficult to establish in a school of 9,000. Attend the Student Involvement Fair and see what piques your interest!
Consider service organizations or trips.
Greek life places significant emphasis on philanthropy. This is definitely beneficial, as it encourages students to look beyond themselves, give back, and serve their communities. Luckily, a similar perspective is central to BC’s Jesuit identity. Whether it be through 4Boston, PULSE, or Appa, there are countless ways for those interested to participate in service and find a group of like-minded “men and women for others,” even without the presence of a Greek system.
The prospect of rushing a frat or sorority and finding an instant group of friends is an enticing one. At some schools, students are able to rush before classes even begin, ostensibly eliminating the stress of searching for a “group.” While this isn’t an option at BC, consider the upside. It may take a few weeks, months, or even longer to find your place on campus, and that’s perfectly okay. Instead of rushing into things, meet people, try out a variety of opportunities, and consider who and what makes you the happiest.
Keep an open mind.
On a similar note, welcome the more inclusive culture that can result from a lack of Greek life. It’s never too late to make new friends or discover a new passion. Without the temptation to be complacent and restrict your social circle to your “sisters” or “brothers,” be ready and willing to broaden your horizons throughout all four years at BC.
Embrace a more diversified social scene.
Frat parties tend to be the centerpiece of weekend activity at colleges with Greek life. Without them, searching for something to do on the weekends can potentially feel daunting. Explore a variety of events and opportunities—from parties to a capella shows or quick trips into Boston—and determine what you like best. You might feel an initial pang of jealousy as you open Snapchats from friends at big state schools, but keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all for how to have a fun Friday night.
Seek out mentors on campus.
One of the appealing aspects of a fraternity or sorority is the guidance of a “big” assigned to its new members. Even without this kind of formal relationship, don’t shy away from turning to older peers for support. Upperclassmen you meet through activities, classes, or mutual friends will likely be happy to provide advice and insight in a similar way that “bigs” are intended to.
Welcome community wherever you find it.
It may take more time to develop, but the absence of Greek life on campus does not lessen your chances of experiencing a sense of community and belonging. Whether it be with your classmates, your hallmates, or peers you meet on a retreat or service trip, the opportunity to bond with a group of people will be readily available. It may be unconventional or unexpected, but you will surely benefit if you embrace it nonetheless.
Educate your whole person.
While involvement in Greek life is an important facet of many students’ time in college, there exists a risk that a person’s identity on campus could be reduced to which fraternity or sorority he or she is a part of. As cliché as it may sound, welcome BC’s commitment to “educating the whole person” and use your college years to discover who you are and what you’re interested in, without some of the restrictions that could develop on a campus with Greek life.