Before I came to the University of Missouri, my perception of “Greek life” was, I thought, typical. The word “Greek” brought to mind images of mythological lore (remember the Titans?); the archaeological remnants of ancient civilizations; and foods laced with feta cheese, olive oil and balsamic. However, after my first week at Mizzou, which happened to coincide with sorority recruitment, my previous ideas of “Greek culture” began to crumble like the Parthenon. Rather than worshipping Zeus and Athena, the “Greeks” I encountered—mainly sorority hopefuls clad in summery sundresses—seemed to bow at the altars of Marley Lilly and Vineyard Vines.
For me, “going Greek” was never a serious consideration. As I perused exhaustive lists of potential clubs and organizations to join, I knew that I would have ample opportunities to become involved on campus. With a diverse host of interests ranging from agriculture to journalism to politics, I did not want a sorority or Greek organization to become the Alpha and Omega of my college experience.
According to the University of Missouri Office of Greek Life, about 27 percent of Mizzou students have become involved in Greek organizations. Despite this percentage, I have found personal fulfillment through a broad variety of professional organizations, none of which are denoted by Greek letters. From the Associated Students of the University of Missouri to Collegiate Farm Bureau, I have found leadership, scholarship, friendship and service through my organizational involvement.
Many of my Greek friends initially questioned my decision not to rush. However, after the novelty of being a “new member” of a sorority or fraternity began to wear off, they began to appreciate the benefits of my independent, unaffiliated lifestyle. As the first semester progressed and Homecoming drew nearer, I saw my fraternity and sorority friends become “victims” of pomp and circumstance. Spending innumerable hours rolling, licking and sticking pomp papers to their houses’ Homecoming boards, an annual tradition, the pledge classes of 2014 endured this tedious rite of passage. Although they were never “decorated” for their efforts, Greek Town was gloriously bedecked with their Homecoming designs.
However, all of the hours they spent pomping, I spent: studying, joining campus clubs, working out (or just chilling out) at Mizzou’s award-winning recreational center, spending idyllic fall afternoons on the Quad and eating copious amounts of Shakespeare’s pizza. I might be biased, but I think I invested my time more wisely.
There are three letters that both Greeks and non-Greeks should take personal pride in: G-P-A. Greek houses strive to maintain above-average academic averages, and some impose mandatory study halls on new members to encourage scholarship. Although these study halls instill academic responsibility and allow students uninterrupted time to devote to their studies, non-Greek students learn the value of personal initiative and time management. Removing time from your schedule to study requires discipline, especially for first-year students. For a student committed to making the grade at Mizzou, personal initiative, not Greek affiliation, is the greatest determination of academic success.
Although Greek sororities and fraternities offer unique opportunities to their members, students can still have a fulfilling Mizzou experience without having a Greek experience. Being a non-Greek student has not inhibited Ely Anderson, a freshman agricultural education major from Plattsburg, Missouri from getting involved on campus.
“I’ve had more time just to focus on me and figure out what I want to gain personally from my college experience,” Anderson said. “I’ve been able to find other associations that provide the professional development and friendships a fraternity offers.”
Olivia Paggiarino, a freshman journalism major from San Diego, California, admits she struggled to find a niche as a non-Greek student during her first months at Mizzou.
“Being a bit more introverted, I did not think a sorority was the right fit for me,” Paggiarino said. “Not being involved in Greek life, I was a little less social at first.”
However, by exploring her interests, Paggiarino was able to find organizations that more closely matched her personal preferences and interests. Now a member of the campus newspaper staff and the Newman Center, she is finding the camaraderie and belonging many first-year students seek.
As “One Mizzou”—a university brimming with diverse ideas and individuals—students should bid farewell to stereotypes and misconceptions, whether or not they received a bid from a Greek sorority or fraternity. For beta or for worse, members of our college community should stop caring one iota about Greek affiliation or lack thereof and respect individuals’ choices to pursue their personal passions. After all, when it comes down to it, whether you’re a Zeta, a Theta, a Beta or a GDI, we all cheer the same three letters on game days—M-I-Z!