The Greek system at Elon University is a social force to be reckoned with.
It occupies too much of a presence on campus, and the pressure to rush has never been more intense.
Many freshmen have fallen victim to the notion — whether it’s true or not — that they must pledge to a Greek organization or kiss their social life goodbye. The resulting demand for spots in these organizations is too much for Elon to accommodate.
We would expect recruitment numbers to increase proportionately along with Elon’s undergraduate enrollment.
But Greek Life growth is outpacing enrollment. While undergraduate enrollment is up 23 percent since 2005, the number of women registered for sorority recruitment has increased 55 percent in that time.
When sorority recruitment began Jan. 28, a record-high 638 people had signed up. At the end of the process, when bids had been given out, students involved in Greek Life accounted for 40 percent of Elon’s student body. That percentage is entirely too high.
Shana Plasters, the director of Greek Life, said in an email that a university-wide committee has begun discussing how to deal with the ballooning interest. She said the size of the individual organizations were a consideration in these discussions.
But certain parts of the Greek system are out of the control of Elon officials. Quotas determining how many people must join the organizations are governed by the National Panhellenic Conference, which doesn’t necessarily see the scope of Greek Life’s presence on campus.
The disproportionate number of people involved in Greek Life is a problem now but could easily work itself out as the university grows.
Allowing Elon to expand independently of the Greek system will reduce the impact of the institution as well as its relevance on campus. As the number of non-affiliated students grows in proportion to affiliated students Greek Life will become a less dominant social force.
Service, scholarship and sisterhood — three of the main pillars of sororities, for example — are central to scores of other organizations on campus. Values like these are common in organizations like InterVarsity, Campus Outreach, and I Am That Girl. But freshmen don’t flock to these organizations in the same numbers as sororities.
What stands between those alternative organizations and each new class of students is the overwhelming and deeply human need to feel a sense of belonging.
Students understandably want to make the most of their four years in college, and Greek Life seems like a one-stop-shop. But not all students who go through recruitment emerge with a bid.
The Office of Greek Life’s website explains that young women who do not receive a bid either chose to withdraw from the process at some point or were unwilling to consider membership in one of the sororities that was not within their top choices.
This explanation blames individuals who don’t make the cut for being too choosy. Granted, some people do choose to withdraw from recruitment, but the website severely understates the fact that people going through recruitment can be dropped from all potential organizations at any point before the final round, which is a much more common cause of heartbreak for those who don’t make the cut.
Plasters said the Office of Greek Life aims to maintain a high-quality experience for students in various Greek organizations. Of the 133 students who did not receive a bid during sorority recruitment this year, more than 68 percent of them had been invited back by at least one chapter, she pointed out.
But whether a pledge could truly have a high-quality experience after accepting a bid from her second or third choice is questionable. College students are told to make the most of their four years. It’s not surprising people choose to drop out of the process when their top choice is no longer an option.
Greek Life is undoubtedly beneficial for the women who are involved. It encourages philanthropy and provides a platform for networking. It occupies an important role on Elon’s campus.
But that role is too large. And although it’s a great way to make friends, it’s not the only way. The solution is to squash the idea that going Greek is the end-all be-all of having a good time in college.