Did you know that faculty at some schools believe Greek life can be life-threatening? At the Northeast Greek Leadership Association (NGLA) conference in Hartford, Connecticut, which I attended a few weeks ago, I heard a fellow Greek from another university talk about meeting with a student life administrator at his school. This administrator opened their conversations by citing stories about men and women on other campuses who were injured or died at fraternity events, and made very clear her mindset that Greek life was dangerous to students with her introductory anecdotes.
After hearing stories like this, I felt fortunate that the MIT Greek community has a fantastic Fraternity, Sorority, and Independent Living Group (FSILG) staff and a respectful and friendly relationship with the administration.
At the NGLA conference, I met Greek students from all over the Northeast and attended educational sessions where speakers shared their insights on being good leaders, presenters, and motivators for their Greek communities. There were also small group sessions where students shared the successes and challenges of being Greek leaders on our respective campuses, and I heard some very interesting perspectives on Greek life at other universities. There were students who cited issues with membership and retention rates in their organizations, housing disputes, and closure of fraternities and sororities. I realized that at MIT we are pretty well-off, since we don’t encounter many of these problems, at least not on as large a scale.
Despite learning about challenges that many Greek leaders face, I had some very enjoyable moments as well. My favorite experience of the entire weekend was the affiliation luncheon, where each affiliation sat and ate together. I met some lovely Pi Beta Phis and we were soon talking as if we had known each other for ages. We were one of the last groups to leave the banquet room, and we even attended a few seminars together!
The NGLA Conference taught me valuable lessons that I have been able to bring back to my chapter and my position in Panhel. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that the MIT Greek community is extremely fortunate in its successes, because we have the support of our administration, an astounding campus presence, and relatively high membership rates. Another discussion topic that struck me was that to unaffiliated people, Greek life can seem incredibly strange and confusing. As members of the Greek community, we have the responsibility to share not just who we are, but what we are about. We can prove negative stereotypes wrong by promoting our philanthropies, our values, and the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that we share.
For the Greek community, I would recommend going to a Greek conference if you have the chance. Meeting new people and gaining new perspectives is incredibly rewarding. For non-Greeks, I suggest that you talk to a Greek person at MIT and ask them this thought-provoking question: What is the purpose of your organization, and why are you a part of it?
Tech associate news editor Stephanie Holden ’14 is the Panhel Vice President of Recruitment.