Greek Life houses pack campus, filled by a community over 3,000 strong. Over 50 Greek Life houses are home to all types of people at Cornell. However, there is one group that is surprisingly absent from these houses: athletes.
Many athletes are barred from participating in Greek Life. This exclusion is a major cause of frustration for both athletes and the Greek community. Generally, a team’s coach decides if an athlete can rush or not. In recent years, it seems like coaches are leaning more and more towards no participation.
Rushing should be an athlete’s decision. Don’t think that an athlete could handle the time commitment? Fine. But these student-athletes are adults who have already done the impressive feat of being accepted into Cornell. Most of them are lifelong athletes who know how to budget their time well.
By not allowing athletes to rush, coaches are also ignoring the many benefits that athletes can get out of participating in Greek Life.
One of the most important aspects of Greek Life is the social community that it builds. Although often ridiculed as “buying your friends,” most people I’ve met seem to agree that some of their closest college friends have come from their Greek organization. As a member of a fraternity and a sports team, I’ve become close to both.
I’ve learned that many benefits of Cornell can be found outside of the classroom. Let’s face it: Cornell’s social scene is dominated by Greek organizations. Not allowing student-athletes to rush effectively bans them from this community for no apparent reason.
Coaches might see the Greek community as a group of degenerates, focused on the next party and how to get the most drunk. That, however, is not the case. Members of my fraternity are leaders on campus, serving as presidents of prestigious organizations and going on to impressive jobs after graduation.
Greek Life organizations also do a lot more than party. They offer a place to live, eat and work. I doubt I would have been able to survive my academic experience at Cornell without my mentors within my fraternity.
Many coaches are concerned that the athletes would put their fraternity or sorority before the team, potentially threatening its success. However, most of these athletes have been devoted to their sports since they were children. They have sacrificed a lot to continue to play their sport in college, and most are unlikely to quit now. It’s unfair to question their loyalty to the team before they even have an opportunity to demonstrate it.
People frequently comment that being on a sports team is a lot like being in a Greek organization. As a member of Sprint Football, I can understand that sentiment. Other athletes can testify to the separate parties, houses and scenes that exist among the athlete community.
I am concerned about a potential sense of isolation due to this ban from Greek Life. As I mentioned before, an important part of the college experience comes from experiences outside of the classroom. Excluding athletes from this experience seems to be unfairly closing off their college social experience.
A good compromise that I know many coaches have reached with their athletes is a sophomore year rush requirement. Asking the athletes to wait until their sophomore year allows them to adjust to the Cornell academic requirements and the demands of being an athlete so they do not feel overwhelmed.
Although not a perfect solution, I still prefer this method over a total exclusion from the Greek system. I urge coaches to find a compromise and allow their athletes to make their own decisions. They are mature, capable people who know their limits. Excluding them from the Greek community is an unfair punishment.
Brendan Kempff is a junior in the School of Hotel Administration. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Wednesday this semester.