We at ChapterTalk are always on the lookout for innovation and new trends in the Greek community. After hearing some incredible stories of Greek communities across the country, we composed our Top 10 Greek Communities. However, unlike those overdone top 10 lists that base their rankings on chapter numbers, Greek population, etc. we’ve changed things up a bit. We ranked Greek communities not only on population and percentage of the student body, but also on philanthropic involvement, organization of the Greek community, and public interaction with the student body, campus staff, faculty, etc. In a nut shell, here are our top 10 Greek communities, chosen because we believe they give Greeks a good name. We hope this top 10 will give you some ideas of ways to improve your Greek community, bring chapters together, and reach out to your university and surrounding community.
Number 10: University of Southern California
While known, and often loathed, for their outstanding football program, USC Greeks are just as amazing as the team they cheer for. Boasting philanthropic donations that exceed $300,000 per year, USCGreeks not only know how to plan and run successful philanthropies, but they also know how to generate the dough. USC philanthropies benefit local and national causes, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House, Case De La Rosa and the American Heart Association. And while it may seem that USC is all about the bills (after all, it has been called the “university of spoiled children”), USCGreeks are diminishing the stereotype by also donating their time. For example, as part of their Slam Dunk Scholars program that encourages inner city children to read, members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at USC are up at 8AM (yes, 8:00 in the morning), reading to children at Vermont Elementary School. Phi Psi has also partnered with USC Men’s Basketball; not only do players frequently visit the school and read with the kids, but kids can also win game tickets for doing well with their reading assignments. Phi Kappa Psi, along with the other 20 fraternities and 12 sororities of the USC Greek community prove that the football team isn’t the only one making money.
Number 9: University of Texas
“What starts here changes the world”. This is the motto of the Texas Longhorns, and it seems to resonate with the Texas Greek community. In partnership with the Dean of Students, Texas Greeks have created the Greek Spotlight, an award given each semester to one outstanding member of the Greek community. The award recognizes the individual’s academic achievement, community service, and involvement both within the Greek community and the student body of the university. Additionally, the spotlighted Greek is featured in the Daily Texan, the campus newspaper. Although a newspaper feature may seem overdone, never underestimate the power of good press. Featuring members of the Greek community in the university paper not only honors the achievements of the individual, but gives a recognizable and respectable face to the community as a whole. Past Greek Spotlight recipients include chapter presidents, honor society members, Dean’s List recipients, and countless volunteers of local and national causes like Habitat for Humanity, YMCA, the American Cancer Society, and Voices Against Violence. With the benefit of the Greek Spotlight feature, Greeks at the University of Texas are not only changing their community for the better, but also inspiring others to do the same.
Number 8: University of California, Berkeley
Cal Bears have prided themselves on the uniqueness of the Berkeley campus, student population, and faculty members. After all, how many universities boast Olympic caliber athletes, innovative research, and activists living in trees, all under the same roof (well, not literally)? If this isn’t enough to set Cal apart from the rest, Cal Greeks have one more thing to boast about: the Greek Resource Coalition. The coalition is a student and staff collaboration aimed at increasing awareness through the dissemination of information to the Greek community. The coalition was originally a project of the Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Task Force (SASH) and included students and staff from all over the university (including Health Services, Intercollegiate Athletics, and the Associated Students). While the coalition aims to present information of all types to Greek students, the primary focus is educating students about alcohol safety and sexual violence prevention. Programs and presentations funded by the coalition are hosted at the various IFC and Panhellenic houses, and fulfill the chapter’s risk management requirements stipulated by the university. As the issues of alcohol abuse and sexual violence become more mainstream on university campuses, its encouraging to see how the Greek community at Cal has become proactive in their education. By hosting presentations and advising their members to attend, Cal Greeks are not only protecting themselves, but the entire Cal Greek community as well.
To learn more, visit Cal’s Greek Resource Coalition website.
Number 7: University of Washington
In addition to the gorgeous campus of the University of Washington, and its close proximity to the attractions of downtown Seattle, the Huskies offer something else that sets them apart from the rest: Greek weekend. Greek weekend at Washington is much like other Greek weekends in which new students can meet fraternity and sorority chapters, find answers to their questions about Greek life, and sign up for recruitment. In short, Greek weekend is a formal introduction to the Greek community of the university. However, unlike other weekend events, the Huskies generously open their doors to new students, high school seniors, and new students of other universities. Yes, even if a student has no intention whatsoever to attend the University of Washington, they can still visit the campus, meet the Greeks, and learn about Greek life. Additionally, parents are welcome to attend and take part. There is even a special Parent Orientation in which parents can learn about fraternity and sorority costs, what it means to be Greek, and how Greek life works at Washington.
Finally, as Washington boasts 31 fraternity chapters and 16 sorority chapters, the Greek community has solved the problem of potential new members not knowing enough (well, about the Greek community that is). To ensure that students’ introduction to Greek life is personal and students feel comfortable asking questions, Washington sororities assign a host chapter to each student, and the fraternities host open houses in which students can stay as short or long as they want. Although it may seem unfair to keep students from seeing all houses, Greek weekend at Washington is done with the benefit of the entire community in mind. Rather than stealing potential new members from other chapters, the goal of the weekend is to teach students about Greek life, increase interest in Greek recruitment, and enhance the image of fraternities and sororities in general.
Visit Washington’s Greek Community website for more information about Greek Weekend for both sororities and fraternities.
Number 6: University of Georgia
Greeks at the University of Georgia know what philanthropy is all about. Over the course of the last 4 years, the Georgia Greek’s year-round, student-run philanthropy, ugaMIRACLE, has raised over $2.5 million for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and donated hundreds of hours to the cause. As a year-long campaign, ugaMIRACLE does more than just talk about children’s healthcare within the university’s student population. In addition to letter-writing campaigns and canning in downtown Athens, ugaMIRACLE hosts a 5K run/walk, a Tour of Homes in the historic Milledge Avenue District (Homes? Who are we kidding, these are mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth century mansions!), and MiracleFest, a weekend-long celebration of awareness and lives saved. Georgia’s ugaMIRACLE is made possible by the work of over 800 volunteer students as well as the donations of time and money by the surrounding community. And while a lot of hard work, time, and yes, sweat, goes into the preparation of ugaMIRACLE, students say its all worth it when they hear the stories of children who beat the odds. Georgia Greeks seem to have philanthropic planning down to an art, proving that when you find a worthy cause, there’s no limit to what Greeks can do.
Number 5: Florida State
Greeks at Florida State have found new and improved ways of showing off their chapters and are giving the Greek community a bit of a face lift in the process. In partnership with the Office of Greek Life at Florida State, the Greek community has put together the Tomahawk, an all-inclusive booklet about Greek life, active chapters on campus, and answers to literally every question a potential new member might have. While this may seem benign and you may be asking “why is this in the top 10?”, don’t be so quick to write these Greeks off. With a Greek community of over 4,600 members, 21 fraternity chapters, 24 sorority chapters, and 11 multi-cultural Greek organizations, recruitment at Florida State is more overwhelming for potential new members than finding their first class on campus. Fortunately for these Seminoles, the Greek community has made things much easier to understand.
Not only does the Tomahawk list every fraternity and sorority chapter with pictures, chapter information and contacts, it also lists university policies (i.e. hazing and alcohol consumption), as well as information about IFC and Panhellenic. But wait, things don’t end there: the Tomahawk also includes information about Greek honor societies, detailed explanations of the fraternity and sorority recruitment processes, pictures of suggested attire for sorority recruitment (probably the best idea we’ve seen yet for recruitment!), and a break down of costs by sorority chapter. And finally, as icing on the cake, the Tomahawk is available online, either through the downloadable PDF or the online version (done in Flash). By making recruitment information exciting, accessible, and easy to understand, the Greeks of Florida State show that they really know what they’re doing.
Number 4: University of Virginia
The state of Virginia, among other things, is a mecca for Greek life. The first fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, was founded in Lexington in 1865, as were four other fraternities that are now known as the Virginia Circle. The University of Virginia is no exception as two very successful fraternities, Pi Kappa Alpha and Kappa Sigma were both founded on the university’s Charlottesville campus. Today, the university maintains its dedication to Greek life by not only being host to 35 fraternity chapters, 19 sorority chapters, and six multi-cultural organizations, but also through its Fraternal Organization Agreement (FOA) between the university’s Dean of Students and Greek organizations. The FOA requires fraternities and sororities to provide educational programming for their members on a year-round basis. Chapters must host a minimum of one program each year in all six of the following categories: diversity and discrimination, illegal drugs and alcohol, hazing, liability, physical safety, and sexual assault. As part of the agreement, the Dean of Students at Virginia also provides resources for the chapters including local and national organizations who specialize in the various categories. The partnership between the university and the Greek community not only demonstrates the university’s eagerness to keep Greeks on campus, but also the Greek communities commitment to educating their members and respecting campus policies. With the FOA, Virginia Greeks continue their infamous tradition of being the birthplace of great ideas and innovative action for Greek organizations the world over.
Number 3: University of Michigan
Talk about a complete Greek system, the University of Michigan Greeks are more than organized; they’ve created organizations. In addition to the overseeing bodies of the Greek community at Michigan, the Greek community has also created student-run, Greek-specific organizations that focus on a wide variety of issues. Started in 2005, Green Greeks is an organization dedicated to encouraging environmentally responsible behavior among the Michigan Greek community. In partnership with Michigan’s Greek Week, Green Greeks host a recycling competition that saves cans and bottles, and raises money for Greek Week charities. In addition to Green Greeks, Michigan also has Healthy Houses, a branch of a student education organization that aims to promote wellness and healthy choices within the Greek community, and Greek 101, a multi-session leadership seminar focused on teaching Greeks how to be successful leaders (both on campus, within their chapter, and in the business world). Finally, as these Wolverines have realized that every fraternity brother and sorority sister can’t attend every session, program and seminar, each chapter has designated specific members for each organization. These members act as resources for the rest of the chapter, and distribute new information and educational literature as it becomes available. If taking the initiative, creating educational organizations and improving health, safety and lifestyle awareness could earn you a good grade in college, then the Greek community at the University of Michigan would deserve an A+.
Visit Michigan’s Greek Life website to learn about all the affiliated organizations and what they do.
Number 2: University of Illinois
Its often been said that the Greek community of the University of Illinois is the “best in the country”. While many other Greek communities disagree wholeheartedly (and, really, wouldn’t you do the same?), the Greeks of Illinois have many community features that are worth the acclaim. One of these such features is the Illini Greek, a weekly newsletter (during the academic school year) designed to provide students with fraternity and sorority information and events, campus and community events, Greek-related national news and resources. Since the beginning of 2004, the Illini Greek has graced the Urbana-Champaign campus with 20+ editions each year. Not only can Greeks keep up with community news by reading the Illini Greek, but they can also access archived editions online all the way back to 2004.
In addition to the Illini Greek, there are many other noteworthy aspects of the Greek community at Illinois that deserve attention, including the Greek community’s main website. Whereas other universities may hide their Greek life information or may fail to publish stats and useful information, University of Illinois has nothing but pride for its 61 fraternity chapters and 37 sorority chapters. Information on the website is not only geared towards potential new members, but active members and alumni as well. Need information about recruitment? Want to see how your chapter’s academics compared to the rest of the community? Looking for ways to connect with your fraternity or sorority chapter at Illinois? If you’re visiting the Greek life website, its literally all at your fingertips. Illinois Greeks may come off as somewhat vain and arrogant, but after seeing the community, visiting their website, and learning about what they do, its hard not to agree with them.
Number 1: Penn State
What are the Penn State Greeks roaring about? The university’s 30+ NCAA championships? Their constant ranking as one of the top 20 public universities in the U.S.? How about the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon? While a Greek dance marathon at other schools may be ignored or shrugged aside as a trivial event, this is hardly the case at Penn State. Nick-named “THON”, Penn State’s Dance Marathon claims to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, having raised over $59 million since it started in 1977. THON benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Children’s Hospital, established by Charles and Irma Millard to help offset costs not covered by insurance for children battling cancer. The Fund also benefits pediatric cancer research and supports the hospital’s medical team who care for the children. In 1978, THON designated the Four Diamonds Fund as the sole beneficiary of it’s philanthropic efforts, and since then, THON has donated over $52 million to the Fund.
Unlike other Greek philanthropies, THON is a year-round effort on the part of the 15,000 student volunteers and 700 dancers to raise awareness and money for the fight against pediatric cancer. Penetrating the student and faculty bodies at Penn State, support for THON ranges from the students (Greek and non-Greek) of Penn State and the population of Pennsylvania, to Penn State and THONalumni around the world. While the amount of money raised by THON is overwhelming (in 2009, THONraised over $7.4 million), what is even more amazing is the student involvement. The Greek community of Penn State, with the support of the non-Greek student body, exemplify philanthropic labor, and prove that when Greeks come together, we can achieve the impossible… and then some.
For more information about THON, please visit the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon website.