September 7, 2020

KEMPFF | Put Down Greekrank, Pick Up Your FWS Book

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As Svedka gets taken down like water in the halls of Donlon, there is a word being whispered: Any enterprising social climber knows the website like the back of their hand. It’s a veritable crash course on how to backstab your friends in the name of brotherhood and sisterhood. The well-loved website is also a magnet for the major problems plaguing Greek life.

During a normal school year, the first week of school would have been marked by wild and untamed freshmen beginning their annual migration to sweaty, orientation week fraternity basements and annexes. They would have relished in scorching environments, coyly meeting upperclassmen for rush (and other unprintable) purposes.

COVID-19, however, has thrown a wrench in this annual rite of passage (luckily, that’s the first thing the virus has messed up). These new students are unable to meet upperclassmen themselves, and they now have to resort to one of their only methods to gauge the Greek system: Greekrank.

Greekrank is a national website that allows users to compare, rate and discuss fraternities and sororities by campus. While conducting extremely scientific research (I’m just a hotelie, so you should give me a break) about the website with friends ranging from the BIG 10 to the SEC, I was met with a unifying groan.

The part of the website that we’re all too familiar with is the discussion section. A reader will witness their classmates, suitemates and teammates tearing into one another for the sake of anonymous online clout. The most common format of posts is a ranking, where undergraduates with all knowing authority decide which Greek organization comes out on top.

Surprisingly, the users’ organization often ends up on top.

Greekrank is an interesting problem in the Greek system, and one that is particularly hard to root out. One of the major issues with the website is the anonymity enjoyed by users, free to cook-up whatever nonsense they choose without repercussions.

Beyond the blatantly racist, homophobic and discriminatory posts which frequently make their way on to the website, much of the content appears to be harmless. As a friend much smarter than myself put it: Who cares what some loser thinks is the new “core four” sorority on a random website?

The problem with that mentality is that many people do. Greekrank is a taboo subject – nothing that any self-respecting, beer guzzling frat star would admit to reading.

Yet, a recent look at the website shows 14 active threads on a single day. Some of the posts lead with arbitrary titles (think COVID-19 fall frat rankings), some target specific Greek organizations, while others simply complain about the state of the Greek community.

Rarely is any of the content positive. However, I have yet to meet someone who will admit that they post on the website; so if you find somebody, there’s a columnist in dire need of a source.

In a system that has major issues, from systematic racism and classism to a sexual assault crisis, Greekrank does nothing but fuel the flame. Instead of putting the Greek system together as a community, Greekrank pits houses against one another.

Greekrank does this by increasing the competition felt by Cornellians. Cornell students love competition – just ask anybody who thought about joining a business club at Cornell. Greekrank flames the idea that fraternities and sororities need to one up each other to gain social clout. This can be achieved through the quality of a pledge class, through a mixing schedule and by trashing other houses in public.

This diversion of social chasing creates tension across the Greek system. Why should certain houses feel obliged to help others, or the Greek system in general, when they’re locked into a battle for supremacy?

I argue that the Greek system should take an active stance against Let’s face it; who really cares if you are ranked one tier above another house on a sinking ship anyways

Houses often seem to be on a path to self-destruction, carefully skirting the line while houses get kicked off year after year. Maybe it’s time for a rethink. We can encourage those freshmen not yet introduced to the Greek system at Cornell to not waste their time memorizing online rankings.

Instead, Greek houses can use their many appeals to become campus leaders. And I’m not even being cliché. But it all must start when fraternities and sororities stop seeing their longtime friends as enemies in the fight for popularity.

And to those Donlon freshmen: You’re probably going to find much higher quality reading in that FWS book you were going to SparkNotes than on Greekrank.


Brendan Kempff is a sophomore in the School of Hotel Administration. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Monday this semester.