Over and over again, I have been told that Greek life is not really a “thing” at Princeton. Before I even applied to Princeton, my Orange Key Tour guide empathetically told me that he did not know anyone who was involved in Greek life on campus. During the entirety of my first semester of freshman year, I did not see anything that suggested the contrary, and I believed that eating clubs were such an integral part of social life at Princeton that most people simply did not choose to join Greek life. Yet, beginning in the second semester of my freshman year, many of my friends expressed the desire to rush. Numbers suggest that they were not among the minority, and that Greek life is a big enough presence that I don’t quite understand how my Orange Key Tour guide never knew anyone in one.
According to a recent article in The Daily Princetonian that quoted president of the Panhellenic Council Caroline Snowden ’17, 246 girls registered to rush this fall. (This means they were rushing for Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta or Kappa Kappa Gamma. It does not include anyone who might have been rushing for any other societies, such as the semi-secret, literary St. A’s). Most of these rushees are sophomores, although they can be juniors or seniors, and since an average class has about 650 girls, about 37.8 percent of them showed up to rush this semester. The number has been consistently high, too, with 283 girls showing up to rush last year. In the end, 148 of them pledged. If we assume that all of them are sophomores (since the majority of those who rush are sophomores), it would indicate that 22.8 percent of the sophomore girls have decided to join one of the three sororities. Membership in fraternities is harder to determine, because fraternities are not centralized under an umbrella organization like the Panhellenic Council.
Fraternities are smaller in size than sororities, but they are also more numerous. Sororities and fraternities may lack a visible presence due to the absence of a chapter house, but the numbers show that the Greek system exists and thrives at the University.
There also seems to be a correlation between Greek life membership and getting into eating clubs. We’ve all heard certain fraternities or sororities described as “feeders” for certain eating clubs. The Bicker process is definitely considered an important aspect of campus social life; by extension, we should also consciously think about the role that Greek life plays in our social lives, even if it is much less ostentatious in its campus dealings than the eating clubs.
I’m not writing this article to argue that the status quo on Greek life should change at Princeton. As someone who is not in a sorority, I do not feel that it is my place to comment on Greek life’s culture or relevance. My roommate, my boyfriend and many of my friends are all involved in Greek life, and they tell me that they enjoyed rushing as well as the culture. I am not about to argue with that.
I do, however, believe that it is important for us to think about the fact that Greek life is definitely present in the campus social scene, yet is all too often brushed aside or quietly buried away. Prospective students on Orange Key Tours are misled to believe that Greek life is virtually nonexistent on campus, and even many current students do not realize the extent to which Greek life is prevalent. The University should not leave Greek life on campus unaddressed; the University can remain officially unaffiliated with sororities and fraternities but still work with existing organizations such as the Panhellenic Council to talk about criticisms by some that Greek life membership is disproportionately white and wealthy.
The existence of Greek life is not a problem, so we should work to correct the thriving misconceptions that surround it.
Erica Choi is a sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.