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The double-edged sword: To Greek or Not to Greek

Emil Nirkis, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, says that his experience with the organization has been more about brotherhood rather than partying. PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL
Emil Nirkis, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, says that his experience with the organization has been more about brotherhood rather than partying.
PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL

To those in Patton Hall who catch a glimpse of the sunset, Greek Housing rests below; and if it’s late enough, it hides the sunlight. From the right angle, the collection of townhomes become a silhouette, their outlines emphasized and their Greek letters hidden.

Spectacle and reality

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Members of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, who were recruited back in September, have had an amazing experience creating an unforgettable sisterhood.
PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL

To outsiders of Greek life at Georgia State, fraternities and sororities may seem mysterious. Media portrayals like ‘American Pie’ mislead some to believe that a Greek lifestyle is limited to sex, alcohol, sports and fun.

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Who would pretend that sex, alcohol, sports and fun are not in Greek life at Georgia State? They emphatically are, as they are in the rest of campus and many colleges nationwide. However, members of fraternities and sororities at Georgia State would like Greek life to be seen for what it is, despite keeping certain secrets.

Michael Chong, a sophomore marketing major, spent time as a pledge for the Eta Gamma chapter of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He describes how social events and individual brothers helped him become more social.

“At first, it’s really all about the parties,” Chong explained. “But as you go through the pledging process, you learn a lot. There are a couple brothers that really helped me out.”

Many who have been involved in Greek life attribute some of their closest friendships to the Greek community. Chong is grateful for the friends he made within Sigma Nu, but says it took time to build those relationships.

“At first I was kind of uncomfortable around them, but as I got to talk to them more and more, we had good conversations,” Chung explained. “At the end of the day, I liked it. I made a lot of friends there.”

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Greek life at Georgia State has obvious differences from Greek life at The University of Georgia and elsewhere. With fraternity chapters older than Georgia State itself and nearly 40,000 acres of suburban campus, UGA offers a Greek environment with vast differences.

This is the Alpha Xi Delta sign of the sorority. PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL
This is the Alpha Xi Delta sign of the sorority.
PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL

Perhaps more relevant are the student body differences—Georgia State is an icon of diversity, whereas the student body at UGA is comparably homogenous. This has broad implications. With a more diverse student body, Georgia State offers a multicultural experience that is extended to its Greek organizations, helping students develop an open mind and an acceptance of others.

Emil Nirkis, a sophomore chemistry major, has been a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi since his freshman year and says his chapter is more about the brothers themselves than the activities they participate in.

“When I was in high school, I thought it was going to be like the one at UGA where they’re just partying all the time,” Nirkis said. “The [chapter] at Georgia State is more about brotherhood.”

From the Inside

PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL
PHOTO BY JADE JOHNSON | THE SIGNAL

On Tuesday evenings, troops of suited men emerge from the miscellaneous majority, often sharing a laugh with one another. Women in solid dresses surround each other in close groups as they stroll. Rarely is there a lone wolf among the Greeks—a sole brother or sister. Their familial titles alone imply this phenomenon, giving members identity only in the context of the collective. A brother without brothers is simply a man—a sister-less sister a woman.

For relatively small groups, Greek organizations have complex governing bodies that often include committees and board positions of varying power. As a Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi offers the position of Jewish Identity Chair. Nirkis holds this position currently.

“Currently I’m only Jewish Identity Chair, but I serve on every single committee. I don’t have any voting power, but I have a lot of people that come to me for input,” he said.

In the future, Nirkis hopes to be his chapter’s Brotherhood Chair, an executive board position in which he would oversee the effort to improve relationships between brothers.

“I’d like to be Brotherhood Chair because that’s been a position that’s been lacking in recent times and it’s important to me to get brotherhood stronger, more so than anything else, really,” he said.

Relationships among Greek members are challenged by the their broad responsibilities. As students learn to manage the money of their peers as well as the logistics of sizable philanthropy events, a massive margin for error makes shortcomings inevitable. Additionally many fraternities and sororities have a minimum GPA requirement, forcing members to stay on top of coursework. When problems eventually surface, they affect internal relationships. Chong observes these effects, which elude the public eye.

“The majority of the time Greek has the most drama,” Chong said. “People outside looking in that aren’t in Greek, I don’t know what their perspective is.”

Critics of Greek organizations occasionally refer to the system as a “pay-for-friends” model wherein members pay dues to avoid solitude. The mere existence of the idea puts Greeks on the defensive and elicits justification.

Ansley Anchors is the president of the Gamma Sigma chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, traditionally referred to as a women’s fraternity. She resents the notion of buying friendship in the Greek community.

“You’re not paying for your friends. You’re paying for the food and the venues and everything else,” she said.

Nirkis also defends Greek organizations from these accusations, explaining that members of Alpha Epsilon Pi who pay dues see most of their money return in some way.

“There’s only one section of the money you pay that you don’t see and that’s dues you pay to nationals for insurance,” Nirkis explains. “If someone were to fall off the roof at a party or something, we wouldn’t have to pay medical bills for them.”

Natalia Hernandez, a 19-year-old sophomore, notes some common misconceptions about joining a Greek organization.

“Granted, there are some people whose lives just revolve around their friends in the Greek society at their school, but that’s not true for everyone,” Hernandez said. “It’s an easy way to meet people, but that’s not the only reason why people do it.”

The benefits of involvement are extensive. Even so, demands cannot be ignored and for the dedicated athlete or the devoted musician, the requirements often preclude involvement. Collectivism seems inherent in Greek life, making it unattractive to freethinkers and collegiate bohemians. Those that do get involved wield a double-edged sword—finding the sharper edge takes time and may draw blood.

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