It’s common for people’s idea of Greek life to be limited to what they see on their TV screens. Whether it be in movies, TV shows or from media coverage, sororities and fraternities are rarely perceived by the public as unproblematic organizations. However, with each passing year, universities all over the world — including Penn State — have tried to implement more policies that will keep their students out of dangerous situations.
In light of Greek life’s current standings, President Barron hosted “A Breakfast Conversation about our Greek Community” on Feb. 5 with 100 randomly selected members of Greek life in order to start a discussion and hear student perspective on the matter.
According to Barron’s invitation, the University sought “candid responses from you and other students about your experiences in the Greek system and your observations about the reform measures we have put in place.”
Before the conversations began, President Barron spoke about why the University wanted to continue the conversation regarding Penn State’s current Greek life. Touching on the pressures he felt to ban Greek life years ago at Penn State, President Barron wanted to hear how students felt about the organizations that they were a part of.
Hosted at the Nittany Lion Inn, students sat with other peers and two administrators who guided them in discussion. Each table had their own conversations about topics such as the University’s view on Greek life, Greek life culture, and whether or not they believed enough change within the community has occurred.
One of the breakfast administrators, Linda LaSalle, the Director of Health Promotion and Wellness, commented about how the university was “curious about the students’ experiences with Greek life” and how students felt like it impacted their personal growth and whether involvement felt like a rewarding experience.
“The service that chapters provide and the leadership skills are invaluable,” says LaSalle.
Emma McGuire, a student attendee, spoke on her personal growth within her own experiences with Greek life.
“Sororities and fraternities can help a person reflect on who they are as an individual,” says McGuire. “I specifically have been elected to an officer position, and it’s given me one of the first true opportunities I’ve ever had to lead others in something I’m passionate about.”
However, something that surprised LaSalle about student experiences with Greek life was the difference between “the older students’ experience compared to the younger students.”
“I’ve heard older member’s say things like ‘I miss the old Greek life.’ That can be disheartening to hear,” says Macie Plotkin, a member of Greek life.
Despite this, LaSalle says that she sees an “opportunity for growth” in the upcoming pledge classes in Greek life. She and others hope to keep the line of communication open between administration and student body so that students can gain the best possible experiences through their organizations.
“I was surprised at how open I felt through the whole thing,” says Katie Smith, a student attendee. “I think that was really because they were there to help us and not get us in trouble.”