Students question Greek elitism
By Michael Riordan And Ashley Ulrich, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a three-part series exploring diversity in College Greek organizations.
Each fall, about 400 female and 400 male students choose to rush Panhellenic sororities and Inter-Fraternity Council fraternities, including about 75 percent of the sophomore class. Of those who rushed in the fall, about 70 percent of female students and 85 percent of male students accepted bids.
According to the Class of 2015 profile released by the Admissions Office, approximately 55 percent of the sophomore class attended public high schools. On average, more new members of Panhell and IFC organizations attended private high schools than public, according to publicly available data obtained by The Dartmouth.
This term, private school graduates comprise 65 percent of the pledge classes of Kappa Delta Epsilon and Kappa Kappa Gamma sororities; nearly 60 percent of Delta Delta Delta and Sigma Delta sororities’ pledge classes; and approximately 50 percent of Alpha Phi and Alpha Xi Delta sororities’ new members. About 40 percent of Kappa Delta sorority’s new members attended private high schools, making Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority the only organization with a pledge class consisting of fewer than 40 percent private school graduates.
Approximately 70 percent of pledge class members at Alpha Delta and Theta Delta Chi fraternities are private high school graduates, according to the available data. At least 50 percent of the pledge classes at Chi Gamma Epsilon, Gamma Delta Chi, Phi Delta Alpha, Psi Upsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Chi Heorot and Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternities attended private high schools.
The Dartmouth was unable to access data regarding the racial composition of pledge classes or the number of financial aid recipients who rushed Greek houses, and Director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies Wes Schaub could not provide statistics about racial or socioeconomic composition.
About 48 percent of the student body self-reports as white, 17 percent as Asian, 9 percent as black, 8 percent as Hispanic and 5 percent as Native American, according to the College’s website. Approximately half of the student body receives some form of financial aid.
Many students said they felt that the rush process advantages students who attended private high schools and those who do not identify as racial minorities. The cost of dues, which varies by house, may also limit which houses students consider when rushing.
“Sororities carry a sense of elitism,” Monica Stretten ’15, an unaffiliated student who identifies as Native American and black, said. “There’s an established hierarchy within the sorority system.”
In addition, affiliated students receive preferential treatment during corporate recruiting and gain access to specific alumni networks and career opportunities, some students said.
The Greek system’s racial composition can startle students who lived in minority communities prior to attending Dartmouth, according to Marian Gutierrez ’13, a Latina member of Sigma Delt and an intern at the Center for Women and Gender.
“If you come from a homogenous minority community, it’s a huge culture shock, and then when you throw in class, then that adds a lot more to it,” she said.
The cost of dues can pose a significant financial obstacle to low-income students and dissuade them from joining Greek organizations, according to Gutierrez. If a student has an on-campus job to offset the cost of tuition, paying dues can seem like an added burden.
During the rush process, Gutierrez said she was highly attentive to the cost of dues as she went from house to house.
“The implications of class are huge,” she said. “We can’t continue to talk about having a more diverse Greek system and not talk about the money behind that.”
Mariah Claw ’15, a member of A Phi, said that dues are a personal sacrifice that house members do not mind paying. In her experience, the benefits of being in a house outweigh the cost of dues, she said.
According to information distributed to potential new members of Panhell sororities, termly wet dues — dues for members who choose to drink alcohol — for full members range from KD’s $250 per term to AZD’s $355. Fees for new members of Panhell houses who choose to drink range from KDE’s $370 to Kappa’s $712.
Data regarding fraternity dues is not centrally available.
While dues at coed houses are significantly lower than those of Panhell sororities and IFC fraternities, some students still struggle to pay the termly fees, according to Alpha Theta coed fraternity member Greg Buzzard ’13.
“Alpha Theta is a cheap house, and we still pay over $100 per term,” he said. “When I heard about dues that were $600 a term, I was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’”
Greek houses provide students who cannot afford dues with financial assistance, but only some offer to cover a considerable portion of the payments, Gutierrez said.
“There’s a difference between assistance and significant assistance,” Guttierez said. “So if you can provide me with $50 dollars, but I have to pay $300 — well, I don’t know if that’s really going to help me out.”
Greek organization members’ public displays of wealth can also overwhelm other students, Buzzard said.
“You look at a frat parking lot, and you’ll see Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and maybe the occasional Honda,” Buzzard said.
VARIATION BETWEEN HOUSES
Gordon Reed ’15, a black member of Bones Gate fraternity, said he thinks that minority students tend to prefer certain Greek houses over others because of the racial composition of their membership.
“All frats probably have had black fraternity members, but I have had discussions about which are least likely to have black members,” Reed said.
While such a decision may be perceived as self-segregation, Reed said that non-minority students also choose to self-segregate by joining houses where they may have friends or teammates. Reed said the diversity of the brothers at BG convinced him to rush the house.
Sororities that are less diverse are pressured to diversify their pledge classes and may deliberately accept more minority members, according to an affiliated female member of the Class of 2014 who wished to remain anonymous due to the topic’s controversial nature.
The College’s social atmosphere is segregated by race, class and gender, Stretten said.
The establishment of sororities aimed to increase the number of female-dominated spaces on campus, while multicultural Greek organizations were founded in response to white domination of social environments, according to Stretten.
“Everything is a response to another thing,” she said. “Nobody really defies the system, and segregation becomes an institution itself.”
The lack of diversity at many houses should not surprise students, according to Buzzard.
“[Members] are bringing in their friends, those who are like them,” Buzzard said. “This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s self-perpetuating in nature.”
Many students expressed skepticism about improving racial and class dynamics in the Greek system. Many did not view abolishing the Greek system as a viable solution, since relevant problems exist within the College as a whole, they said.
Students uncomfortable at Panhell and IFC organizations could find a more welcome atmosphere among multicultural Greek houses, according to Lambda Upsilon Lambda member Geovanni Cuevas ’14, who cited shared values among the members of LUL as a factor in his positive experience.
“LUL provides a smaller, more focused community,” he said. “I never felt left out or ostracized by my brothers.”
Alpha Phi Alpha member Aaron Limonthas ’12 said he was thankful to join a group like Alpha Phi Alpha, which he said provided a community that advocates for minorities and other groups.
“I do not think I would have stayed at Dartmouth as an undergrad if it were not for Alpha,” Limonthas said.
Gutierrez said Greek organizations should cover the cost of dues for some members to be inclusive to all students, providing the example of a friend who could not accept a bid from a Panhell sorority due to her inability to pay dues.
Students should also look to become involved in cultural organizations and alliances — such as La Alianza Latina and the Afro-American Society — beyond the Greek system, according to students.
Organizations outside Greek letter organizations often provide networking and community-building opportunities. The CWG, for example, collaborates with Link Up, Women’s Forum and other female-oriented groups to plan dinners and discussions about women’s issues, CWG programming intern Hannah Giorgis ’13 said.
“The CWG tries to focus on a more inclusive approach to thinking about the Dartmouth experience, which is not a monolithic thing,” Giorgis said. “We’re consciously getting feedback from students and trying to make our programming more inclusive.”
Naldine Isaac ’15, an unaffiliated black student, said the College’s minority communities should co-sponsor more social events and continue to pursue greater dialogue between minority groups.
According to Buzzard, individuals with more “radical” opinions favor abolishing the Greek system — which he opposes — rather than working within the system to improve racial and class divisions. Transforming all sororities and fraternities to coed organizations could improve divisions, Buzzard said, but he added that he believes many alumni would object to such a change.