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Living the greek life at SLU

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Photo courtesy of Julia Gilbert

Fraternities, sororities offer students a variety of experiences

Alex Tepoorten was on the fence.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to join a sorority or not,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was all about, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure if it was for me.”

She had heard all the negative connotations.  She knew the stereotypes, those promulgated by movies and newscasts and state schools.  She felt she could make friends through other means.

But she also had noticed other sorority girls on campus.  She admired their drive, their involvement, their unified passion.  She recognized something in them.

“So the last night before recruitment began,” she said. “I decided I’d give it a shot.”

Active members of a fraternity or sorority on campus make up approximately 18% of Saint Louis University’s student body. One-thousand, four-hundred and sixty-one students are a part of what is known as the Greek system, a group of social organizations dedicated to the building of friendships and celebrating shared values.

SLU has nine fraternities and six sororities on campus, engaging 541 male members and 920 female members.  Each of them is a chapter of nationally and internationally recognized organizations, and all have Greek letters to their names.

For many, fraternities and sororities provide an outlet to meet friends and develop bonds based on mutual interests and common personal values.

“Right away I could feel the impact of being in a fraternity,” says sophomore Kevin Fitzsimmons, who rushed Sigma Phi Epsilon during his freshman year.  “All of a sudden, I really felt like I was a part of something.”

The first week of freshman year is, for many, a whirlwind of getting to know new people and adjusting to a new place.  Greek rush events try to help provide some structure to this process, especially for students who do not know many classmates coming in.

“I was far away from home, and I didn’t know a single person,” says sophomore Carlie Lavin of her freshman year experience.  “The recruitment process allowed me to really put myself out there and meet people.”

Lavin, now a member of Alpha Delta Pi, says her sorority friends are like the sisters she never had growing up.

Joe Orf, vice president of the Inter Fraternity Council and senior member of Phi Delta Theta, said that fraternities and sororities are so much more than just a social gathering.  The benefits, he said, go way beyond just making friends.

“My fraternity is built around the shared values of friendship, sound learning, and moral rectitude,” said Orf.  “Everything we do as a fraternity is meant to live out those values. And the older I get, the more I realize that these values really are what unites us.  And I believe that is true with each of the fraternities at SLU.”

Sororities and fraternities live out these values through social events, philanthropy, community service, and academic programs.  The Greek community at SLU raised nearly $20,000 last school year for causes ranging from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, to Ronald McDonald House, to Girl Scouts of America.

Greek students in all fifteen chapters participated in more than 1,100 hours of community service last academic year, a practice Orf said is meant to enhance each member’s connection to the Jesuit mission of Saint Louis University.

Academically, Greek students strive to excel in the classroom.  While the overall average Grade Point Average for SLU students is 3.17, the Greek average GPA is 3.24.  Many chapters require study hours, have scholarship committees and require achievement minimums for their members.  Beyond that, the network of friends also allows opportunities for tutoring, academic mentoring and other services.

“For the most part, Greek students really work hard to achieve the values set forth in their charters,” says Orf.  “It really is a way to improve the whole person.”

Greek Life has worked to improve campus as well.  Greek students hold leadership positions in some of SLU’s most influential student organizations, including SGA, Oriflamme and OneWorld Magazine. They participate as RAs, Micahs and Presidential Scholars.  They are involved in Student Activities Board, Great Issues Committee and Campus Ministry Mission Trips.  They are Ambassadors, SLU 101 leaders and intramural referees.

Despite the extensive involvement, the Greek system often gets a bad rap. Stereotypes of excessive alcohol use, hazing and exclusiveness seem to haunt Greek students everywhere they go.  Movies like Animal House, Old School and Legally Blonde have perpetuated the labels often placed on fraternities and sororities.

But Greeks at SLU are working hard to dispel those misgivings.

“Greek students do a lot for campus, and we want people to see that the positives far outweigh the negatives,” Orf said.

Alex Tepoorten agrees.  She is a sophomore now, but she remembers Bid Day like it was yesterday.

She cannot remember ever being more nervous than when she was holding that envelope.

Inside was a piece of paper that held the name of her new sorority and the Greek letters that would be attached to her name forever.

When she opened the envelope, she screamed with joy.

“The sisters of Kappa Delta cordially invite Alexandra Tepoorten to join in their sisterhood of a lifetime.”

Today, that small 6-by-8 inch note card sits next to Tepoorten’s bed.

She says those words, over and over.

“The sisterhood of a lifetime.”

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