Windsor (CUP) — Anyone who has ever seen the movies Sorority Boys, Legally Blonde, or Old School has an idea in their minds of what it is like to be part of a fraternity or sorority. Most people associate these groups with excessive alcohol consumption, elitist social groups, and lots of hazing.
Sororities and fraternities are known collectively as “Greek organizations.” What most people know about the Greek life is limited to the media’s often negative depictions.
There are plenty of news stories about the evils of Greek membership, and while no type of organization is perfect, these stories all have one commonality: they are reports of American organizations. Being Greek in Canada is often a different experience altogether.
Mohammed Almoayad, a University of Windsor political science and philosophy student, said that his perception of Greek life in Canada is not at all like what is depicted on television.
“[Sororities and fraternities] do seem different here,” says Almoayad. “They do a lot of activism and promotion of charities, so they seem a lot better here than how they’re portrayed in America, which is just partying.”
“Before joining Phi Sigma Sigma. I thought sororities were full of catty women and fraternities were full of men who only drank. My assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong,” says Kayla Goodison, outgoing president of Windsor’s Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. “I realized that members of [Phi Sigma Sigma], as well as Delta Zeta and Delta Alpha Theta, were actually lovely women who just wanted to make friends and a difference in the community.
“The same goes for the fraternities. The men in Greek Organizations on our campus are such gentlemen and are really grounded in their philanthropic work.”
The University of Windsor has three fraternities and three sororities. The frats are Delta Chi, Pi Lambda Phi, and Sigma Chi; the sororities are Delta Alpha Theta, Delta Zeta, and Phi Sigma Sigma. Collectively there are over two hundred active members on campus and thousands of alumni.
Five of the six organizations are known as “international” with chapters in more than one country. Delta Alpha Theta is the exception, as it was founded in Windsor in 2005 and has only one other chapter in British Columbia.
Internationally, Sigma Chi fraternity is the oldest and largest organization, founded in 1855 with more than 300,000 alumni. There are pros and cons of belonging to an international organization.
“We have some famous alumni like Luke Bryan, David Letterman, Brad Pitt, and Tom Selleck,” says Josh Harendorf, president of Sigma Chi at UWindsor.
Michael McDonnell, president of Delta Chi’s Windsor chapter, is proud of his organization’s ties to its international headquarters.
“We’re very academically inclined. Our international requires us to have a certain GPA, otherwise we’re not able to function as a regular chapter,” says McDonnell.
Delta Chi has been at UWindsor longer than any other Greek organization, having started in 1973.
A local Greek organization has fewer opportunities for networking, but much more freedom in terms of rules and traditions.
“As a whole, we’re set apart purely because when our founders started the sorority, they wanted it to be really inclusive…by making everyone feel welcome,” says Sarah Logan, president of Windsor’s Delta Alpha Theta sorority.
Inclusivity is at the centre of all fraternities and sororities, providing a sense of brotherly or sisterly community to students of all ethnicities and genders.
Nick Lambier was offered membership to Pi Lambda Phi fraternity during the rush period in 2010 and said that other members were accepting of his sexual orientation.
“The guys always made me feel comfortable. They were actually some of the most accepting people in my life at the time. [Pi Lambda Phi fraternity] was a place where a lot of fun was had, a lot of memories were made, and I met a lot of great people,” says Lambier.
Harendorf said that his fraternity embraces students who are interested in joining, no matter their lifestyle or background.
“We look for men of good character, and if you are somebody that we feel exemplifies what it means to be Sigma Chi, then you have every right to be a member of our organization. We do have many members throughout our organization who are homosexual [or] who are ethnic minorities, and we truly embrace them as our brothers,” adds Harendorf.
Local Greek organizations take immense pride in philanthropic involvement in the community.
Each fraternity and sorority can be seen around campus hosting fundraising events for local or national charities.
“Each fraternity has [its] own culture. As a fraternity…our philanthropy events actually apply to the student body,” says Brock Warren, president of UWindsor’s Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.
Warren’s organization hosted last year’s Tear Down the Hate event, which raised awareness about discrimination by asking people to share their personal experiences on a wall they built.
Sororities and fraternities on campus come together annually for Greek Week, five days of activities and friendly competition designed to enhance solidarity between the six groups. Activities differ each year, as each organization is expected to spearhead at least one project.
“I love Greek Week. It’s all about fun and friendly competition. It’s a nice way to spend time with other members of the Greek community,” says Goodison.
Members of Greek organizations on campus join for a multitude of reasons. Whether it’s to develop leadership skills, gain volunteer experience, make friends, or network with a large community of like-minded people, sororities and fraternities at the University of Windsor offer a very enriching experience.