Go greek or go home? Students often can’t predict whether they will join a sorrority or fraternity

The amphitheater houses many greek life events. Photo credit Trixie Szilagyi.

The amphitheater houses many greek life events. Photo credit Trixie Szilagyi.

Upon arriving at American University in the fall of 2011, freshman Zac Powell was excited about starting college. By the end of the year, however, he felt mostly disappointment.

“I didn’t feel a connection to the school my freshman year,” said Powell, a Chicago native.

Powell said he didn’t have any deep friendships with people he met from the school, and he began to regret choosing American. But instead of transferring, Powell decided to try something that 9 million other college students elect to do — join Greek life.

Although fraternities and sororities often get a bad reputation, they often cite their philanthropy and leadership building as positives. For instance, 85 percent of fortune 500 executives have belonged to a frat and the Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the United States.

Powell joined Delta Tau Delta and said he formed immediate connections.

“A lot of people think that being in a frat is just all drinking and partying, but really that’s just one or two days a week.” Powell said. “We have a lot of responsibilities during the year, even during the summer we are planning philanthropy events for the upcoming year.”

Last year, Powell’s fraternity planned a dodgeball philanthrophy event and raised $10,000, all going to charity, between his 60 frat members.

Curtis Burrill, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at AU, said Greek life helps people form social skills and have interactions that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

“If you can be the new-member educator for 30 women, I’m probably going to hire you to run a team,” Burrill told a USA Today College website.

Greek life at American isn’t as large as it is at other Washington, D.C. colleges such as George Washington University, where roughly one-fourth of students are in a fraternity or sorority and many live in their chapter hourses.

American University does not provide housing for its Greek life chapters, but the school does provide a room in the activities office for each chatper, Powell said.

Powell added that Greek life at AU is similar to life at a larger school. “We have themed parties, we have fundraisers and go on retreats with our brothers in our frat, it’s not different from other schools.”

AU isn’t known for its party scene, but the Greek system can help.”If you don’t join Greek life here at American then there just isn’t really much to do on a Friday night,” Powell said.

“Being in Greek life here at American has definitely kept me tied to the university, where I would never think about leaving this place,” Powell said.