Courtesy of Drew Lord '18

Fraternity members help clean up Cornell's campus at the 2016 Greeks Give Back event.

August 2, 2017

One Third of the Big Red: The Greek System

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With a third of Cornell students in one of nearly 70 Greek chapters on campus, the Greek system is a major part of Cornell’s social life.

From the very start of their Cornell careers, students encounter members of Cornell’s Greek society who help freshman move into their dorms, volunteering as “movers and shakers.”

To protect incoming freshmen from bias, Greeks cannot promote their houses to incoming freshmen. Unofficial rush for males, however, starts immediately as fraternity members, in particular, encourage the new students to come to parties at their Collegetown annexes — houses where many of the brothers of the same fraternity live — in order to recruit new members.

Based on Greeks’ participation in Orientation Week, freshmen may perceive them as a group of community volunteers who hold parties with free alcohol. This perception holds some truth — community service is a major aspect of Greek life. Many of Cornell’s Greek chapters participate in Ithaca-based projects, such as the Tompkins County Task Force for Battered Women.

Social events are also a large part of the Greek experience, with chapters planning their own parties, formals and football tailgates.

Cornell’s Greek system also allows students to emerge as leaders within their respective chapters. Elected officers must run meetings, organize events and handle finances. Chapter presidents must learn to motivate their members, treasurers must handle complex budgets and recruitment chairs must carry out strategic recruitment campaigns.

Despite the leadership skills that the Greek system fosters, some incoming freshmen may worry about how their academic performance will be affected if they decide to join a fraternity or sorority.

Many chapters hold study hours and give out awards or scholarships to members for outstanding academic achievement. Each spring, individual chapters are honored for academic excellence by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

In the past, freshmen traditionally had their first experience with the Greek system through open parties, but rules implemented in 2011 have reduced the ability of freshmen to attend these kinds of events. Freshmen are now banned from open parties, regulated at the door by the use of scanners that read student ID cards.

IFC rules prohibit the consumption of hard alcohol during registered events, so all alcohol served at fraternity parties should be in the form of beer or wine.

To get a true sense of Greek life, freshmen can choose to take part in Spring Rush 2018. All fraternities and sororities participate in spring recruitment, in which freshmen can talk with members about Greek life in a more relaxed and intimate setting.

Rush differs for men and women. Sorority rush follows a strict schedule in which potential new members visit every sorority. For men, rush is more casual, as freshmen can choose the houses they want to visit and interact with brothers in a much more relaxed setting.