July 16, 2003

Going Greek?

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I am this way and that way about fraternities. They are ostensibly founded on brotherhood, but in practice they thrive on a gentle snobbery. In spite of that, they do seem to solve, in a curiously fortuitous way, the acute problem of sleeping and eating and talking. Mine, in addition to furnishing me with friends, satisfied my proprietary instincts: I had a lawn, a bed, a dining table, a library. I was always troubled, though, by the uneasy feeling that the “Independent” students, who did not conform to the arbitrary standards of dress and conversation dictated by the fraternities, were probably getting a whole lot better education; and I envied them their freedom of conscience, implicit in the word “Independent.”

— E.B. White ’21, Brother of Phi Gamma Delta, ‘I’d Send My Son to Cornell’

It is perhaps no coincidence that Cornell is located in the city of Ithaca; after all, about a third of its student body is Greek. Greek by choice that is. With 40 fraternities, 12 sororities and 15 multicultural fraternities, Cornell has one of the biggest Greek communities in the country.

Lingo

Like many other activities and organizations on campus, the Greek system has its own lingo. For example, a chapter is a branch of a national fraternity or sorority on campus.

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