The Pros and Cons of Greek Life, According To SJU Students

Greek life is a significant part of the social scene at many universities – is “going Greek” really worth it?

Photo Courtesy / Unsplash Jakayla Toney

For decades, fraternities and sororities have controlled many social aspects of universities nationwide. The first fraternal organization was founded as a secret society in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, named Phi Beta Kappa. The group banded together through shared religious beliefs; however Greek life today is formed around social strata and community. 

St. John’s University has 16 fraternal organizations that have been around for 60 years, yet many St. John’s students choose not to participate. When asked, St. John’s students conveyed to the Torch the many reasons for joining or not joining Greek life.

There were various reasons why students would not join these organizations — mainly about cost and reputation. One student, senior Jalen Best, reported in the survey that he “does not want to be associated with the negative connotations of some Greek life organizations.” 

Statistics show that one in five women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted during their time at college. With statistics like these, it is not shocking that sophomore Madison Coombs wrote a frightening story about the “juice” that is handed out at parties: “The fraternity was handing out juice, and the following day we were told there was a drug in it. It was scary to hear that, and now it affects me when I go to other parties where pre-made drinks are being served.” 

Joseph Kowalski, a junior at St. John’s, stated that, “In my opinion, students in Greek life are the most toxic group of people on campus.”

However, students who said they were in fraternal organizations had much more positive experiences to share. When asked what they believed to be the pros of Greek life, many students said it was all about the people they met and the connections they made. 

Declan O’Hara, a member of Phi Delta Theta, said, “I have met lifelong best friends that I would have never even spoken to if not for Greek life.” 

Peter O’Connor, a senior in Pi Lambda Phi, said Greek life is a “great way to network” and “gives students the opportunity to be involved on campus and help out different charities or causes.” However, the only cons expressed were how these organizations may be time-consuming and make it difficult to balance classes and schoolwork.

When speaking to other students involved in Greek life, they shared positive responses to the organizations. Brian Baney, a junior member in Phi Delta Theta, expressed that he “enjoys Greek life, but it really doesn’t matter if you’re in Greek life or not at St. John’s – you definitely don’t need to be.” As of 2021, only 22% of undergraduates at St. John’s are involved in fraternities or sororities. 

“Joining Greek life allows you to meet new people and be involved on campus. It has allowed me to participate in many charity events and give back to our community and school,” Julia Messina said of her experience as a sorority member of Gamma Phi Beta. “I joined GPhi because I liked their philanthropy, such as Girls on the Run, and everything they stand for by supporting young women.” 

“I joined Sigma Pi to become something bigger than myself,” said Sean Flynn Jr. of the fraternity Sigma Pi. “Joining a fraternity has given me brothers that I will have for the rest of my life. Sigma Pi taught me to become a better man, and has also given me the opportunities to give back to the St. John’s and New York City community,” Flynn said. “Sigma Pi is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Is Greek life at St. John’s worth it? Many students are hesitant to join, yet students who have joined expressed only positive remarks about their organizations. There are some notable risk factors to being a part of fraternal life — but the pros cannot be denied either. Joining Greek life is a personal choice — not necessarily a correct or wrong one. Greek life may offer social benefits, but there are plenty of alternate ways to be involved on campus through other clubs and organizations.