Greek life needs to reassess its long-term goals


Since my graduation and subsequent departure from Union, I have had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences while I was a student. This process has led me to a conclusion, startling to some, but plainly and perhaps painfully obvious to others.

Greek life in its established and dominant form will not persist as the prevailing social institution on campus in the coming years without crucial and fundamental change.

For readers who don’t want to read a lengthy article, as is all too often the case with this great publication, my main point is this: the way that Union’s students associate with one another is shifting, as are the school’s social demographics, in addition to what I see as an administration determined to change the status quo. In short, the Greek life establishment has to adjust.

My conclusion rests on the following facts. Over the past several years, there have been a string of incidents, such as branding, students consistently being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, Union’s ranking as a top party school, efforts to shut down large parties during big weekends and changes imposed on how social events are conducted in on-campus spaces, all of which display the reasoning for, as well as evidence of, a consistent effort by the administration to fundamentally change the character of Union’s social life.

This trend has coincided with the publishing of pieces in this newspaper by those disaffected with or alienated by the Greek life establishment, as well as the emergence of competing and dynamic institutions. They may not yet be the majority, but they are a growing plurality.

While the Minerva system has failed to produce substantial competition to the Greek system as Roger Hull had intended, Theme Houses and alternative Greek life organizations have also emerged, and have acted as a magnet to those disaffected by the current Greek life establishment. It is also worth mentioning that Minervas continue to draw on independents that seek to make and establish alternative communities for themselves.

An increasing number of men and women alike are choosing to remain unbound by what they view as social privilege, rigid gender norms and potential alienation from their peers, by joining these new institutions or remaining independent altogether.

Defenders of the Greek life establishment will undoubtedly say that not all those involved in Greek life are homogenous and that their peer groups are diverse, mutually fulfilling and include Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

However, they fail to see what the view is like from the outside looking in, particularly when one is in line in front of a fraternity on Saturday night.

In the short-term future, that perception won’t stop most first years from frequenting their parties, but it also will not stop the long-term downward trend of mainstream Greek life should its members, present and future alike, ignore the changes that are currently in motion.

So what will the future look like? In short, the administration is going to keep pushing for change, little by little. Let me clarify that I do not think there is a covert conspiracy against the Greek life establishment, which is in a sense socially (and, for what it’s worth, politically) conservative; instead I believe that there is a robust desire for change and reform within the administration, whose values, along with those of most faculty members, are more fundamentally progressive.

In my opinion, the reason the administration has not and probably will not introduce policies like that of Trinity College in the immediate future is because the school, quite simply, needs donations from alumni, many of whom were involved in Greek life as undergraduates. Despite those impediments, I think that they want to maintain and enhance the school’s image and mitigate what they most likely perceive as factories of liability and bad publicity.

So as parties get harder and harder to throw on campus, they will increasingly occur off campus, where students will be at the mercy of local police, not just college deans and administrators.

At the same time, the college administration will continue to encourage the proliferation of Theme Houses, Minervas and alternative Greek life institutions, thereby depriving mainstream Greek life institutions of new members and pushing the remaining ones off campus. This has begun to happen in a subtle fashion. Keep in mind that a little more than a generation ago, the spaces that now are occupied by Minervas were Greek houses.

Can the Greek life establishment change or reform? Certainly, but such an adjustment will undoubtedly mean that the Greek life establishment will have to shape itself in a new design. And as I have said, I doubt they are compatible the way they are now.

Although Greek men can ‘walk a mile in her shoes,’ they cannot see the world through ‘her’ eyes, particularly during the fog of inebriation that engulfs the campus on most Friday and Saturday nights.

I also mean to convey that primarily drunk men can’t continue to seek social capital at women’s expense on an organizational and systemic level forever. Something’s got to give.

And something is giving. The phenomenal growth of certain MGC institutions is evidence enough of how Union is beginning to see the emergence of competing institutions that focus primarily on philanthropy, sustainable relationships and group dynamics, self-cultivation and self-improvement — and secondarily on throwing the next party.

The Greek life establishment already does the former, but it has to do them better and it has to really mean it.

In essence, the challenge that Greek life must meet is to think of the long term, not just the next round of beer pong —otherwise they risk being cast into the ash heap of history.

I’m certain of this just as I am certain there will be ad hominem attacks on me or this publication in the comments section of this article.


  1. You are very pretentious and I can’t even express my disbelief at your poorly worded comments towards Greek life. I would never in a million years join any sorority (for my own reasons) but you are quite ignorant about the whole system. It’s come a long way since the seriously crazy party days of Union (early to mid 2000s) but you fail to recognize that. I only hope that you can educate yourself on the Greek life here at Union.

  2. Look, Tom, I’m no psychologist but I am sensing something in the article deeper than your concern for Union’s well being. It’s interesting that you ended the article with: “I’m certain of this just as I am certain there will be ad hominem attacks on me or this publication in the comments section of this article.” Let us examine why you may have anticipated such attacks.

    I wish you had started the article with your own credentials. After all, we never see opinion columnists in reputable newspapers leave out their own expertise on an issue. You should have mentioned that you were a brother of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT). You did not join a respectable fraternity here. And that matters.

    Your fraternity was creepy and girls felt extraordinarily uncomfortable going there. The brother’s had dubious morals, terrible grades, and contributed very little to the school in any other way. That is why they are no longer an institution here.

    I would, though, like to compliment you on your skills as a writer. Had I not been aware of your motives for bashing on the Greek system then I might even have been convinced on some of your points. There have been and always will be faculty and administrators at this school, and every other school across the country with Greek life, who will be adamantly against Greek life. But most of these people will have had few conversations with students about social life at Union. A professor was incredibly surprised when I told him that I was a member of Greek life, a reputable fraternity by the way Tom. I don’t think this was an issue with fraternities on this campus, it was an issue with his poor awareness of his own students.

    The Dean’s office faces similar issues. They simply do not make an effort to interact with or get to know the students they are responsible for. I’m not sure how, or if, they believe that they are effective at their jobs. How can you be Dean of Students and not understand the students you are supposed to be creating policies for?

    Tom, I hope you reflect some more. I have many criticisms of Greek life at this school which I formed throughout my time in a fraternity, but I am the type of person who will find faults with whatever institution I am a part of. I would have liked you to use some sort of quantitative data to back your claims about the growth of themehouses and MGC. I also would like you to consider that not everyone enjoys community service in the form that many organizations on campus practice. There are many other ways to benefit the communities around us. I would like to thank you very much for writing this opinion piece. While I think you are misguided and searching for something deeper than your article reveals, you have at least provoked discussion among the Union College community, and that alone is admirable. Have a great year ahead and please do come back and visit!

    • What you’ve said here barely touches the issues that were addressed in the article. It’s nothing but a bunch of thinly veiled insults and unsubstantiated claims.

      “Look, Tom, I’m no psychologist but I am sensing something in the article deeper than your concern for Union’s well being.”

      What is it? You don’t explain this.

      “You should have mentioned that you were a brother of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT). You did not join a respectable fraternity here. And that matters.”

      Why does it matter? You don’t explain this.

      Maybe you mean that only people inside *legitimate* frats have a right to criticize greek life. That’s obviously ridiculous. You don’t have to be a part of an organization to think that it’s bad.

      “Had I not been aware of your motives for bashing on the Greek system then I might even have been convinced on some of your points.”

      What motives? You say these things, but you don’t explain them!

      In fact, you didn’t say a single thing to defend greek life from *any* of the criticisms in the article. I’ve reread it a couple times, because I keep thinking I’ve missed something. But no, you didn’t make even one point in defense of greek life. It is no defense of greek life to claim that professors don’t like greek life only because they haven’t talked to greek students. You’d have to at least say something positive about the people in greek life.

    • “Let me attack you and call you a creep while saying nothing at all about what you’re saying except that I vaguely agree and my fraternity is better.” – Union College Fraternity Brother (a reputable fraternity by the way Tom)

  3. Union College is a great school dragged down by inferior students.

    The career fair is pretty indicative of this.

    Where is google? Where is Facebook? Where is LInkedin? Where is Boeing? Where is Lockheed Martin? Where is McKinsey? Where is Goldman Sachs? Where is Deustche? Where is Ernst and Young? Where is Bains and Company? Where is Deloitte? Where is Morgan Stanley?

    The top tier companies DO NOT recruit here because students here suck ass.

    You know what we are stuck with though, Fidelity Investments, some crappy Elevator company, teaching English in China LMAO, hahahah you’re gonna laugh at this one – Liberty Mutual Insurance.

    Really, I get charged 60,000 dollars to freaking sell insurance. This has to be a joke right.

    You know what we are stuck with though, Fidelity Investments, some crappy Elevator company, teaching English in China LMAO, hahahah you’re gonna laugh at this one – Liberty Mutual Insurance.

    While my friends are interning in Silicon Valley, I’m helping an elevator company build elevators. Honestly, do you even need a Bachelor’s degree to do that?

    You are in a level 300 economics course and you still can’t calculate consumer surplus? Is that a joke? Yeah, good luck trying to get that Wall Street internship you keep talking about. If you are gonna talk big, at least make it believable. Some of these Union College students are honestly laughably deluded.

    Why am I pissed off? Because most my peers are inferior, dumb, and honestly, do not deserve to attend a school with such historical prestige. The fact that there is so many kids that can’t even pull a 3.7 gpa is pretty mind blowing considering most of the course material being easier than high school work. It just happens that most of these retards are Greeks. But I will preface my comments by saying that there are some very talented and smart Greeks that I respect tremendously. For the rest of the 95 percent however, you guys should just drop out to help this school regain its deserving reputation as a top 4 institution as it was in the 1800’s.

    So freaking sad. Union College has to boast about achievements two hundred years ago. This is a pure embarrassment

      • LOL.

        You’re such a retard. The reason why some of these companies are listed here is only because of alumni privileges. You think these companies recruit at Union based off of the student’s own merits? What a fucking joke.

        Tell me the next time Union puts someone into McKinsey or Google. I will probably be waiting another one hundred years when that happens.

        The kids that actually got Wall Street job offers, probably two from the last graduating class, got in because they deserved it. Almost all these sub 3.0 GPA econ majors still expect to get Wall Street gigs; it’s actually pretty freaking hilarious how delusional they are.

        By the way, it is easy to intern for a company. I’m more so referring to being offered a job from a prestigious firm – that doesn’t happen around here unless daddy can pull some strings.

    • Networking can’t salvage your ass from working a secretary job. You actually think they will let a retard sub 3.5 GPA help run a multi-billion dollar fund? You think a globally renowned firm will sacrifice its reputation and allow an inferior minded student do case work with ultra high net worth clients just because they can network? Networking might get your ass in the door, but then your ass is gonna get slapped around so hard after you get in, you’ll be out right before you know it.

  4. Typical Union kids ripping into one another. Union has some really smart kids… in LIM…. I’ve seen plenty of true jackasses pull high gpas because it is what it is- professors don’t stick you with bad grades because tuition checks would stop rolling in etc. so I agree kids with sub 3.0s who are frat stars definitely screwing up Union’s rankings. But it is what it is… Union will never be a doorway to Goldman and neither will an Amherst College. Elevatoring and selling insurance is a tough hit for anyone who rips a 3.7- maybe the career center just had some ass hats working there and in charge?

    Greek, non Greek, Aplha Male, or transvestite- I met some really cool and intelligent people here. Much love- stop drinking the TDX punch and all of your gpas are guaranteed to soar!!!

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