Patrick Yim, Staff Writer
“Greek Life” is something that is an apparent staple on most college campuses nationwide. Many people don’t realize that there are a few different categories of what we know as Greek Life. Jacksonville State University has roughly 40 different Greek lettered organizations on its campus that are separated into honor, professional, service, and social categories. However, the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) office at JSU only actively recognizes the sixteen social organizations in the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), National Pan-hellenic Council (NPHC), and North American Interfraternity Council (IFC). There are those who don’t believe that professional fraternities and Greek honor societies should be involved in the FSL because they are not strictly social organizations specifically set within their specific councils. However, many students, myself included, wonder why those social Greek organizations not under a specific council are not treated with the same standards or respect as the council members.
A primary example is the organization Sigma Alpha Omega. This organization is a social sorority that also has a Christian focus and background. However, while a recognized organization by the Student Government Association, they are not recognized or supported by the Fraternity and Sorority Life office.
In the past, comments discussing Sigma Alpha Omega have been deleted from the JSU Fraternity and Sorority Life social media, which has raised red flags for many students. A member from the JSU Panhellenic Conference said it was done because Sigma Alpha Omega was not on one of the social councils. However, at the time, the FSL social media and JSU website stated that the Fraternity and Sorority Life pages were for all social greek organizations. It has since been updated and changed.The professional fraternities and Greek honor societies are also facing a disadvantage when it comes to recognition and support on social media outside of their individual profiles.
“Our campus is very biased when it comes to the social organizations. We have no representation outside of our personal pages. It is only about their councils,” said Noelani Haberlin, who recently finished serving as president of the Tau Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. This fraternity is professional-based fraternity with a business focus.
“Marketing from inside our personal organizations is important, but when students come for things such as preview days or orientations, [social organizations] are the ones who get the resources from the school to look better, which gives them an upper hand when it comes to their recruitments. If they would help promote us, even in the slightest bit, it would help us so much. Incoming freshmen have no idea that we exist most times. They are told about IFC, Panhellenic, and NPHC, but they aren’t told about us.”
One of the more concerning issues regarding equal standards with all Greek organizations is in regards to hazing. While at anti-hazing events this fall semester, which are mandatory to attend for all organizations under the Fraternity and Sorority Life office, the administration acknowledged their awareness that some organizations outside of the FSL office have been known for hazing. They encouraged students to speak up if they hear about any incidents, but a big issue is that groups outside of the FSL office are not given the same prevention and awareness training. Some say it doesn’t even matter.
One student who has served with the JSU National Panhellenic Conference this past year said, “I think it is similar to how the D.A.R.E. [America] program works. We can tell people not to do it, but you know. For instance, after the hazing prevention video, I heard some of the fraternity guys saying how they thought that it was all just a bunch of crap.”
At the same time, FSL believes that all the organizations should be held to the same standards. “If one of our social organizations has an incident, we would be in serious and immediate trouble, would be put on probation and would be dealt with immediate consequences. It is mandatory for our organizations to go to these prevention and awareness events but not for professionals or honors. All of these groups, social and professional, are supposed to be brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and it is hard if you don’t feel safe in the organizations, or you aren’t properly trained.”
A prime example is the recent situation surrounding the organization Kappa Kappa Psi, which is a service fraternity. According to members and the administration, the organization has recently been dealt a blow with hazing allegations against the chapter. Due to the incident, JSU has suspended the chapter from campus until the year 2025. As stated previously, administration has acknowledged that hazing has actively occurred in other areas of campus.
If administration knew that this was happening outside of the social FSL organizations, why was nothing done beforehand to help curb this issue affecting outside organizations? FSL is always trying to improve themselves, even more so in the last few years. Due to this, why has no one in or outside the office looked into this sooner. With negativity towards “Greek Life” nationwide increasing due to hazing incidents, high prices of dues, sexual assault allegations and other factors, it has become extremely important to show incoming students, families, and the local communities that people in Greek lettered organizations are not just stereotypes.
This is something that JSU FSL has been trying to curve with the #knowgreek campaign started by Fraternity and Sorority Life Coordinator Josh Robinson. When the campaign began, some of the professional organization members and leaders also started using the hashtag to help raise awareness about their organizations and issues that are regularly overlooked. They were asked to stop by a member of the JSU National Panhellenic Conference and have since been mostly using #gogreekgoprofessional.
Many people don’t realize that professional fraternities and the Greek honor societies face most of the same issues as social organizations. Regardless of professional, social, honor, or service status, all of these organizations use the Greek letters the same.
“When I see [Greek] letters, I honestly just see them all as Greek life,” said JSU student Dejah Estes. When she first arrived at JSU as a freshman, Estes was heavily interested in rushing for a social sorority. Unfortunately, due to funds and time she was unable to rush.
“I think either social or professional would have been beneficial. They all have their own things that make them good choices. If I had the time and funds, I would even consider joining both a professional and social organization.”
At this point, there are many issues that Greek individuals face. Many students, especially those involved in professional organizations, have voiced their concerns, but they unfortunately have not been fully heard. One suggestion has been for the university to hire someone who is solely dedicated to supporting, promoting, working with, and tracking the progress of professional fraternities and Greek honor societies. Not only would this help give the non council and professional organizations the support that they have been asking for and need, but this would ensure the organizations have someone to report to who could make sure that all groups are following standards and are given proper training to prevent hazing.
Could this not be accomplished by the Student Government Association Vice President of Organizational Affairs (VPOA)? On one level, yes, but Haberlin explained why, overall, this doesn’t work.“The VPOA is an elected position. They are elected by the students, and they cycle out almost every year. It isn’t a permanent position like the Fraternity and Sorority Life coordinator. There isn’t that same type of accountability. It is always changing while the social organizations have a constant dedicated person from the university whose paid purpose is to work with them.”
Another flaw with the VPOA position being the only coordinator is they are also responsible for keeping up with all the other organizations on campus. If the non-council, professional and honor organizations were held under the same umbrella, or if they had someone to act in the same capacity, it could alleviate many of the issues. There is another reason to hire a person to act in the same capacity as the FSL coordinator or bring the outside organizations under the umbrella: looking at the membership numbers of the sixteen or so social Greek lettered organizations in FSL, there are roughly 1,200 members between the three councils. The remaining Greek lettered organizations have 1,459 members combined. Some of this is overlap but not as much as you would think. It is important to note that the numbers for ten of the professional/honor organizations have not been counted as there is no official record with the school containing the numbers. The missing ten organizations have not yet responded and were not able to be factored into the professional/honor organization count. This also does not include social organizations not on councils or the new organization Pi Kappa Alpha, also known as “PIKE”, as Pi Kappa Alpha is still in their colonization process.Taking into consideration the numbers so far, we can see that there are almost 300 more members than those registered under FSL and twenty-three unaccounted-for organizations compared to the sixteen organizations that the Fraternity and Sorority Life office recognizes.
With so many skill, networking, service, and development opportunities within the Greek community, it is a shame that not only the Fraternity and Sorority Life office but also Jacksonville State University do not acknowledge these organizations along with their social council counterparts. So, again, why treat them separately? Why not represent all sides of the Greek community on this campus? While I do not personally have membership in any of the social organizations, it cannot go without saying that these groups have merits that help students just as much as the professional groups. That is why they have lasted as long as they have. However, many feel that it is time for the rest of these organizations to get the due credit that they have been missing. Most the professional and honor organizations have start dates from the same years or earlier than those of some social groups. They are nothing new and should not be held at a lower standard or recognition than they deserve.