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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Greek Life expands on campus

Published: April 29, 2011
Section: News

Since its founding in 1948, Brandeis has undergone many changes. The university has grown, its programs have expanded and it has begun to accept widely diverse students into the ever-changing population. One of these changes is the noticeable rise in the presence of Greek life.

While the founders of Brandeis opposed recognized Greek life, today, both off-campus fraternities and sororities have seen dramatic increases in enrollment. The presence of Greek life at Brandeis has grown in areas of social life but also in philanthropy and community service. At a university that does not recognize fraternities and sororities, many wonder how the image and role of Greek life will impact Brandeis in the future.

Marc Eder, the President of Phi Kappa Psi, described significant growth in enrollment numbers during the past decade.

“In the early 2000s we had seven guys. Now we’re the largest on campus. With this pledge class I think we have 69 brothers currently. We’re graduating 12 or 13…we plan to start next semester with 53 brothers,” he said.

Eder, however, does not see this as isolated to his fraternity, but rather a pattern with all Greek organizations and a change in the overall Brandeis student body.

“I think part of it is the expansion of admissions here draws a new crowd…I feel like that has to have something to do with it,” he said.

Marisa Tashman, president of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, presented a different view. Her sorority has grown from about 50 sisters a few years ago to 65 today.

She attributes the increased popularity of Greek life to awareness.

“I think this increase is due to a greater awareness of Greek life amongst the overall student population on campus. I think that the Greek organizations have done a great job getting the word out about who we are and what we do over the past few years.”

However, when asked about how Greek life fits into the overall social scene at Brandeis and how this might change in the future, Eder did not hold any assumptions that fraternities and sororities are the end-all and be-all of socializing.

“I think currently Greek life is a great option but it’s not the overwhelming [option]…[Other people] might say ‘oh Greek life is the only place where people go have parties and it’s the only social life really at Brandeis’, and that’s not really true, as much as we like to think it is,” Eder said.

He does not see it as a dichotomy of a Brandeis social scene and a distant Greek life like some other schools’ experiences. “The fraternities here are very uniquely Brandeis,” he said.

Eder also said that the role of fraternities extends beyond simply trying to “provide [a] pretty ample opportunity for students to go out and party.”

Like other Greek organizations, Phi Psi tries to engage in community building at retreats as well as emphasize the importance of philanthropy.

Eder described various philanthropic activities Greek life engages in, such as helping to get the group Invisible Children—an organization dedicated to bringing about an end to civil conflict in Uganda—to visit Brandeis.

Tashman explained, in addition to similar philanthropic efforts, that the sisters of Delta Phi Epsilon are deeply involved with the overall campus life of Brandeis.

“In terms of campus life, we have sisters involved in Waltham Group, the Student Union, sisters who hold jobs on campus, many who are involved in the pre-law and pre-health societies, a ton of sisters are orientation leaders every year, and we always have a few involved in student events.”

Referring to the Invisible Children visit, Eder said, “We can’t take credit for it all. We just said, ‘all right, we’ll do all the planning, Waltham Group, can you just reserve us a room, and now it’s ‘Waltham Group is hosting Invisible Children’ and they haven’t done anything for it. While it’s great that we get to get it done, [also] we [would] appreciate the recognition,” he said.

However, despite this desire to gain more recognition, when asked about whether or not he wanted to have fraternities recognized officially on campus, Eder responded that they do not want to be officially recognized.

When asked if he was concerned about university regulation, he explained that while that is true, “it’s not so much ‘oh, well now you guys can’t have parties.’ That’s not so much what Greek life’s worried about. They’re worried [that with] recognition they’re [going] to try and change organizations,” he said.

Presidents of the Greek organizations and the presidents of the Greek Awareness Council, a recognized club, have met with the deans in recent months. Eder also met with President Fred Lawrence and is hopeful that Greek-university relations will change.

Tashman expressed similar sentiments. “We aren’t necessarily seeking to be fully recognized by the university…We want communication lines to remain open between Greeks, the student body and administrators, so we can all work together to provide the campus with positive opportunities and experiences.”

Daniel Goulden ’14 said that the increased enrollment numbers have a snowball effect. “I think it’s a combination of a lot of factors. I think Brandeis has grown a lot more and I think obviously if you have a bigger frat then more people are going to be inclined to join the frat,” Goulden said. “Also, the idea of a frat is just extremely seductive to a scared little college freshman who has no really close friends.” According to Goulden, the idea of being a brother is a “sense of security.”