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Hearing the Many Voices of Greek Life Divide at Ole Miss

Can letters on your shirt determine your future at a college campus? At Ole Miss, one of the longest standing traditional greek life communities, the divide between greek aND non-greek members brings many positive aspects to campus, but with it, several issues as well.

There are three different councils involved in the greek life forum on the Ole Miss campus. These include the College Panhellenic Council (CPH), Interfraternity Council (IFC), and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).

According to the Dean of students, Brent Marsh, “with respect to Panhellenic Council specifically, there were 3,968 women involved across the 10 chapters during the Spring 2019 semester, with an average 3.27 g.p.a. compared to the unaffiliated women's semester average of 2.93. With a high emphasis placed on academics from recruitment through graduation, women involved in these 10 chapters are encouraged to place a heavy focus on academic success. During the same semester, chapter members completed nearly 25,000 hours of service and raised over $385,000 toward philanthropic goals.”

Focusing on the College Panhellenic Council, does involvement in greek life really create divide among students? Different persepectives from independents (non-greek students), recently dropped greek women, and council presidents weigh in.

The main divide, for independent junior Rachel Long, came from the social status associated with one’s letters. Long went through recruitment her freshman year and ultimately dropped after she was released from chapters her best friends were in. “At first I had a negative view of the greek system mainly because of the rejection I felt. Girls I knew and looked up to and a system that markets equality and acceptance did not see me as valuable or equal. This really tainted my view of the Greek System,” Long said.

Long has since come to peace with her place on campus.

“Now, I hold no hard feelings to the Greek System, but I do see it for what it is. Greek life can be beautiful and can be an oasis for girls and guys in the crazy four years of college, but it can also bring a lot of negativity with it” Long said. “Freshman year it really impacted my quality of life. I put far too much of my identity going into college on what letters I would get. I hate that the Greek life of my college affected the way I saw myself and my four years.”

While being an independent has its own path on campus, some women decide to join sororities and then ultimately drop later for a collection of reasons. For Junior Leah MacFarland, money was the main reason she stepped away. MacFarland went through recruitment freshman year and joined the ADPi chapter at the University. This August, she decided to leave her sorority.

“I came to the realization that I was paying way too much money to be only eating meals at the house every once in a while.” MacFarland said. “I was paying $2,000 of my own money to stay in a club.” According to the Panhellinic FAQ section for the University, Fees to be in a sorority, known as “dues” average between $1,610-$3,000 a semester. Double that if a woman chooses to live within her sorority house for the year. This brings a separation to students who cannot afford these prices.

When it comes to division on campus, students within sororities still feel the effect of separations. “I remember when Kappa Alpha Theta’s charter was removed. I remember thinking ‘Man, they just got bullied off campus.’” MacFarland said. “There are definitely tiers within sororities. You are considered ‘cool’ if you are a certain sorority, and ‘uncool’ if any other. I remember feeling less than as an ADPi. I do not like that aspect of greek life one bit.”

Through finnancial and social perception, further divides threaten to pull apart greek life systems within the Panhellenic community. The College Panhellenic Council president, Shelby D’amico addresses this issue with fervor.

“At times, such as personality elections, the direct benefit to the Greek community can be seen by those who are non-Greek students. As a member of the great community and an advocate for it I and my team have been working to combat this issue and to bridge this divide between Greek and non-Greek students. It is not fair and we seek to heal it,” D’amico said.

Greek life brings with it many positives, as well. “As a member of the Greek community, I am able to see its benefits in my experience on this campus. I believe that my best friendships, volunteer opportunities, and leadership opportunities have come from my involvement in the Panhellenic community,” D’amico added. “We will find our way to equality among students.