The decision to attend a public university is more than choosing a major, roommate or meal plan — for some, it can mean choosing a family. Greek Life is integral to ASU’s culture, and every year a new swarm of eager students rush to snag a spot in one of the University’s myriad Greek organizations. After all, there’s no other space on campus where words like “big” and “little” act as terms of endearment, and finding the brother or sister you never had is just a few thousand dollars away.
According to ASU’s Fraternity and Sorority Life webpage, the branches of the Greek Life family tree are always extending. In the 2020-21 school year, 6% of ASU’s undergraduate population — more than 5,300 students — pledged to various FSL organizations on campus.
These days, it’s customary for sororities and fraternities to promote their so-called families on social media. Heavily filtered Instagram accounts constantly rack up likes and comments — ASU Delta Gamma, for example, currently sits at over 11,000 followers. Early in the semester, posts commemorating “preference round,” which is the last day of recruitment, and “bid day,” when potential members are invited to join a chapter, clog the feeds of hundreds of ASU students.
The comment sections are always overwhelmed with excitement for incoming members. Users express gratitude “for my sissies” and profess how they “can’t wait to squeeze all my new sisters tomorrow” in comments littered with pink heart emojis and sparkles.
Fraternities like ASU Acacia, on the other hand, often fill their feeds with group photos depicting strong brotherhood ties. Sorority girls who have gone above and beyond for their chapters can be upgraded to “sweetheart” status. With a following of just over 1,500, Acacia uses its Instagram bio to make the men’s values loud and clear: virtue, knowledge and truth.
Along with togetherness, FSL prides itself on being a community dedicated to creating “values-based, impact-driven individuals” through philanthropic networking and community service events around Arizona. Over the years, the 70 active fraternities and sororities at ASU have accumulated a multitude of service and excellence awards from the FSL Honors program.
While FSL paints itself as a reputable institution where anyone can find a place to call home, instances of misconduct within fraternities and sororities continue to spread through multiple chapters at ASU, calling into question the supposed inclusivity of these organizations.
The rise and fall of Greek Row
In 2012, the last of the now-infamous Alpha Drive, also known as Greek Row, was demolished after years of financial struggle, maintenance and behavioral issues put ASU’s fraternities and sororities in a line of perpetual fire from media and University administration alike.
The development of the Greek Leadership Village was subject to heavy criticism by the Greek Life community when construction began in 2017. Many were concerned the new housing options for fraternities and sororities would be too expensive, force students into four year leasing contracts and have little to no privacy in the dorm rooms.
Deeply opposed to the new GLV complex, one student started a petition to halt ASU’s plans for the Greek Leadership Village, gathering support and plenty of comments that amplified the frustrations of other FSL members.
But despite the best efforts of FSL students, in February 2019, the GLV was officially opened. An extensive application process was offered to the chapters who wished to live in these new additions. Twelve sororities and 15 fraternities were chosen to be the first in a long line of many groups that would later inhabit the GLV.
Since the birth of the GLV, the percentage of students affiliated with FSL has slightly decreased. According to an annual report from the 2017-18 academic year, active members of fraternities and sororities at ASU made up 9% of the undergraduate population, indicating a decrease of three percentage points in three years.
On a national scale, an estimated 750,000 college students are a part of fraternities and sororities as of 2021, according to The Hechinger Report. While ASU may be strongly associated with the culture of Greek Life, today, it’s incomparable to some of the U.S. schools most prevalent in Greek Life. According to US News and World Report, at Texas Christian University, 43% of male undergraduates are in fraternities; at the University of Mississippi, 38%, and at the University of Alabama, it’s 28%.
‘They seem kind of cliquey’
With only 6% of all undergraduate students at ASU affiliated with FSL, there are a plethora of other opportunities for ASU students to be involved on campus and find a community that reflects their individual interests. Many ASU students discover that being involved in Greek Life on campus is not essential to experience ASU’s culture.
“Student clubs are more for students who want to bond over a shared interest, and Greek Life is for people who want to have lifelong friends,” said Jake Quenon, a junior studying biochemistry and current president of The Fashion Collective at ASU, an organization that supports students interested in pursuing fashion.
“I don’t necessarily feel excluded, but I know if I were to go to a frat party, they probably wouldn’t let me in, unless I was cool with one of the brothers or something.”
Fraternities, including those at ASU, have been known for excluding members who fail to meet certain standards related to social class. “Because of the financial barriers with fraternities, you’re going to end up networking with people that have a higher income bracket, and it’s probably going to get you more connections,” Quenon said.
When asked if joining a fraternity was ever on the table, Quenon elaborated on the extra cost of living at the GLV. “I considered it a little bit because I started during COVID, so it was difficult to meet people. I knew it would give me strong connections, but I didn’t do it because I believe it to be somewhat artificial and prohibitively expensive.”
“I won’t judge someone for being in (Greek Life), because to each their own, right? But it’s just not for me,” said Daniel Rosen, a senior studying digital culture and current board member of Hillel at ASU. “Maybe I don’t understand it, but they’ve always kind of rubbed me the wrong way.”
Rosen said Greek Life never piqued his interest. “They seem a little cliquey. You pay money to get into the club. You do social stuff for them. You have rivalries between fraternities and sororities. It just never made sense to me.”
Although Rosen isn’t a member of a traditional FSL chapter, he has found a strong community through Hillel. “For me, Hillel has been what I imagine Greek Life is for most people,” he said.
Like Quenon, Rosen believes being a member of a fraternity or sorority is not essential to getting involved in ASU’s culture. “The school is so big,” he said. “There’s so many students involved in Greek Life, but there’s an equally high number of students that aren’t involved. At least what I’ve seen is Greek people stick to their own groups and non-Greek people stick to their own, too.”
Meet the Greek
When Sarah Swanson, a member of ASU’s Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, started college during COVID, she saw joining a sorority as a good opportunity to connect with others around her. Despite getting rejected by multiple Greek organizations, Swanson persisted, believing that joining a sorority would offer her a sense of community.
“When you start, the sororities will drop you if they don’t like you,” Swanson said. “A lot of the top sororities dropped me just from my application, which is weird considering I had service hours and good grades.”
Although she enjoys being a part of Greek Life, Swanson acknowledges that inclusivity is still an ongoing issue. “If you just look at sororities, they’re very white. And there is a lot of conversation in Greek Life about that,” she said. “People know.”
Swanson, who is Hispanic, does wonder whether her rejection from previous sororities has something to do with her ethnicity. “That’s another thing me and my friends think about — is it because we’re not white? Or do we not fit the beauty standard they see for themselves in their sorority?”
Although being the right fit for a sorority can seem to boil down to physical appearance, meeting financial demands is also a necessity for those hoping to join the FSL. According to Swanson, the cost of being in a sorority includes your participation. “I pay about $1,000 extra a semester, which includes going to events and dances,” she said.
A passage from ASU’s Panhellenic Association Rush Booklet for the 2022-23 year says the first semester is typically the most financially straining for new pledges, but the contributions made throughout their time in a sorority gives them “organization membership for a lifetime.” The booklet also mentions scholarships and payment planning to make the rushing process more affordable and to “not be afraid to let financial considerations be your final deciding factor.” The costs for each student intending to rush covers everything from programming activities and national leadership opportunities to having the necessary merchandise.
When asked about the expectations of sorority girls in terms of attendance, Swanson said “if you don’t go to an event, they’ll usually fine you $50.” She added that you can’t get out of events by using work as an excuse and that requests to miss an event need to be made months in advance.
Despite paying extra for a space in the FSL, missing events can be enough to terminate your position. “If you miss too many, they can put you on probation,” Swanson said. “And if you miss more, they can take you out.”
In response to the exclusivity of Greek Life, students who would otherwise not fit in with FSL have created their own groups. While traditional frats and sororities have a long history of not accepting members who don’t fit a specific mold, a new space has emerged geared toward making Greek Life a more inclusive institution: Lambda Gamma Beta Tau, which has been operating since late October 2022, is centered around “spreading inclusivity, support and affirmations for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.”
“When I went through recruitment my freshman year, I was not ‘out,’” said Julia Rome, the current president and founder of Lambda Gamma Beta Tau. “It was really nerve-racking for me to come out to so many people at once, but my sorority was really supportive.” Rome, a Barrett senior, plans to do her honors thesis on the experience of LGBTQ+ individuals in Greek Life. “My second committee member for my thesis gave me a lot of resources about LGBTQ+ students in Greek Life, so she really inspired me to start the club,” Rome said.
Rome started by reaching out to every gay student she knew who was involved in Greek Life, and in the span of a few months, Rome held meetings, formed a constitution, placed eight executive officers and got Lambda Gamma Beta Tau approved on SunDevilSync.
When students think of ASU Greek Life, the more popular chapters tend to come to mind. ASU Pi Beta Phi, ASU Delta Gamma, ASU Acacia, are a few examples, all of which have accumulated thousands of Instagram followers and pledges throughout the years. But among these masses are a few FSL chapters specified to include underrepresented pledges.
“I never thought I would’ve joined a sorority just because of how the media portrayed it,” said Honey Palacios, a member of the multicultural sorority Gamma Alpha Omega. “My older cousin told me to do research and see if I liked it, so when I learned the values of Gamma Alpha Omega, I got more interested in it. They value the same things I do, like encouraging Hispanic women to pursue education throughout college.”
There are currently several chapters under the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, which has promoted the growth of interfraternal relationships among Latino students at ASU since 1998. Palacios has only been with Gamma Alpha Omega for one semester, but believes their decision to rush was the right one. “Going to the recruitment events for Gamma it felt natural being around them and I felt connected with them.”
Palacios, who hopes to pursue pharmacology, believes choosing Gamma Alpha Omega would keep them on track for the future. “I felt being with Gamma would encourage me more to be on my studies and maintain a good GPA so I can get accepted to a good grad school.”
“I think having more representation for LGBTQ+ students will raise awareness, especially with nonbinary people, because fraternities and sororities are considered ‘single-gendered’ organizations,” Rome said. “So I wanted this club to be somewhere everyone in ASU Greek Life can join.”
Edited by Sam Ellefson, Camila Pedrosa, Alexis Moulton and Greta Forslund.
This story is part of The Culture Issue, which was released on Feb. 8, 2023. See the entire publication here.