When you hear the word “fraternity”, what do you think of? Many think of movies like Animal House or the show Greek. The image of a fraternity member is one of a binge-drinking, popped-collar, chauvinistic pig. The image of a sorority girl is a stereotypical Valley girl, or worse, a woman of questionable morals.
These images of students are perpetuated by misunderstandings and misinformation.
The fact is that fraternities and sororities (Greek Letter Societies, or GLS) stand for more than they’re given credit for. In the past 20 years, many societies have learned to change. In many cases they imposed rules on themselves. However, these rules require an enforcement mechanism.
Currently at UTM there are about eight fraternities and six sororities that actively recruit. There are roughly 120 UTM Greeks in these sororities and fraternities, representing 1% of our student population.
This number is well under the international average of 10% (which I’ll explain later). Many of them recruit not only from U of T, but also from other Toronto universities, such as OCAD, Ryerson, York, and George Brown. This allows members to meet other students from across the GTA and see what they’re doing.
I joined Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) when I saw the huge amount of support, scholarships, and opportunities for leadership and networking. Now I’m a member of an even larger community. There are millions of GLS graduates, who give back to the community in various ways.
However, this culture is in danger of dying out. U of T refuses to recognize that GLS exist and operate on their campuses. Other Canadian universities welcome them, but not in Toronto. So, what’s in it for the university? Well, all the GLS in Toronto are part of national or international organizations, which expect that the local chapters adhere to a strict set of rules. The rules sometimes restrict drinking or hold a GPA requirement. If the university supported GLS, these rules could be better upheld. The official reason that GLS are excluded from U of T is that in 1959 a black student was excluded from joining one. But that wouldn’t happen at UTM today—a lot has changed in 51 years.
Another issue is the risky behaviour associated with GLS life. But that kind of behaviour will always happen at university and has no particular connection to GLS. If they want to reduce it, they should better inform students in general about it, not blame GLS.
If the university supported GLS it would integrate a culture of leadership into its campus, and even become a selling point. There are tons of GLS graduates who would invest back into U of T. GLS Houses, like at other universities, could be used as cheap housing alternatives. A change from an outright ban to an inclusion would allow the community to grow and legitimize what already currently occurs. It would certainly increase campus life on our commuter campuses, something that is direly needed.
We could start small—consult the GLS to see if they’d be interested, then have a pilot program to test the idea. If handled properly it could be the first step into a new age of campus life at U of T.