Taekman: CWRU’s Greek Life doesn’t overwhelm

Heralding prospective students, while rewarding, is also an exercise in patience. It’s a long two days of shuffling through meal vouchers, guiding the gawking guests around campus, answering the questions—dear lord, the questions. They ask the same ones over and over.

Most of the repeat questions for this admitted students weekend took on a common theme. I don’t blame them for asking—it was hard to not notice the abundance of flags, the lettered jackets and the Seuss-themed shirts. Greek Week was in full force, and the questions I got reflected it.

“Is Greek life a major part of student life here?”

“Can you have a social life outside of Greek life at Case Western Reserve University?”

“Are people defined by their fraternity or sorority?”

They’re all valid questions that I had myself when I was looking at this school. The percentage of  students involved in Greek Life is relatively high at 30 percent. Every person I knew here prior to my arrival was in a fraternity. Most of the first-years I talked to in those first few weeks had at least a moderate interest in rushing.

I was nervous that I’d be an outsider if I didn’t don any letters. I didn’t know much about the whole rushing process and I’d never really considered joining a sorority—I figured I didn’t match the sorority “type.”

Well, here I am: two semesters later. Still not in any Greek life—but not because I don’t fit the “type.” In fact, all I’ve encountered here points to there not really being a “type” that suits Greek life best.

People don’t live and breathe their houses. I’ve gone weeks without knowing someone is in a fraternity or sorority. Folks have interests outside of their Greek affiliation: academics, research, service, clubs, etc. Here, Greek life is as immersive or informal as you make it. Being Greek isn’t your whole personality—it’s merely a facet of it. And the Greek aspects of personality at CWRU don’t really stick to stereotypes, either.

You hear more about the fundraisers houses are hosting than the parties they’re throwing. Their events help students relax or give back on campus or raise awareness of issues in the world outside of campus. I still remember being shocked on freshmen move-in day that these people moved back on campus a whole week early just to help us lug our stuff up some stairs. These folks take their philanthropy seriously.

Not to sound cliché, but Greek life here strikes me as something different. And not just because it doesn’t abide by “Animal House” standards.

Here’s the thing. Greek Life has been branded as a gathering of socialites. We know the stereotypes, at least for state and party schools: the carbon-copied girls with matching pastel outfits gossiping on sofas, the party-crazed guys with backwards baseball caps and their never-ending lawn games. It’s community, but it’s contained—it’s a world of its own.

But CWRU Greek Life takes the meaning of being Greek back to the roots. Service for the school and city communities. Coalitions of people with different backgrounds but similar mindsets looking for family on a college campus. No sacrificed self-identity, no lost interactions with those that are unaffiliated.

The difference is in the outreach. I might not be part of Greek life myself, but I’ve never felt alienated by those that are. Greeks are still involved on campus—whether it be through their house, or individually.

So who knows. I said it earlier: I never really envisioned myself being interested in Greek life, let alone joining a sorority.

But CWRU Greek life seems like something worth considering.
Sarah Taekman is a first-year student majoring in biology.