Is Greek Life at WLU like what we see in the movies?
Members of fraternities and sororities describe their experience as part of nation-wide ‘families’
The culture of Greek Life at Wilfrid Laurier University has made a positive influence on its members, contrary to stereotypes often seen in the media.
Eva Pham, president of the Greek Life Council and a member of Alpha Phi, said they are the opposite of the partying image of sororities and fraternities seen in movies.
“I feel like we’re very much on our toes and extremely strict about things that are let go in the States in the sororities and fraternities. There is a no-hazing policy for all of our sororities and fraternities,” she said.
The Greek Life Council looks after the two sororities, Alpha Phi and Alpha Omega, and three fraternities, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi and Alpha Epsilon Pi at Laurier.
“We hold a lot of morals and values for our ladies and gentlemen at our fraternities and sororities and really pride ourselves in our
athleticism, being studious, being leaders and overall having a really good, positive vibe for all our students to see our pride as … members.”
Hannah Taalman, president of Alpha Omega Laurier Chapter, is a fourth-year Laurier student and is in her third year as an executive for the sorority.
“It’s great to meet people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met unless it was for Greek Life. It’s been such a positive experience and I’ve grown so much as a person,” she said.
Taalman joined Alpha Omega in first year after wanting a bigger network of people to be included in.
She said being in the sorority has helped her establish leadership skills, which she believes is a benefit for future job opportunities.
“It makes it a more positive experience and makes Laurier more comfortable.”
Alpha Omega, as well as other Greek Life clubs at Laurier, works with other organizations on campus such as Not My Laurier and the Anselma House, a crisis centre for women and children in Kitchener. The sorority’s 21st anniversary at Laurier will be Oct. 27.
“Laurier has helped make us successful and helped us last for 21 years, and why not give back to that community and why not help out our community and make sure Laurier is as strong and as positive and influential as it can be and is actually making a lot of changes, not only in the Waterloo Region community but also in Canada,” said Taalman.
From her own experiences, Taalman also believes the image of Greek Life is different from the stereotypes seen in movies.
“It’s saddening to think that people still have that perception of what Greek Life is like, because we are a big group of people that have come together because they found their connections and we’re definitely not closed off,” she continued.
Pham also feels there can be controversy between Greek Life members and non-members because people have preconceived negative stereotypes about them.
“A lot of people may know our presence, but already have that judgment of us before even meeting any of members at all,” said Pham. “So I do feel that a lot of people may turn their noses up to us before they get to know us.”.
Ryan Brown, an executive of the Pi Kappa Alpha – commonly know as Pike – fraternity, believes the harsh stereotypes of fraternities only last as long as people don’t know the members. Once people have met members, their image of Greek Life usually changes, he said.
“Maybe [they will] consider the fact that there’s more to us than meets the eye,” he continued
Brown joined Pi Kappa Alpha in first year and had an instant connection with the members.
“At its root, fraternity means ‘brotherhood,’ so you join it and you have 30 brothers and some of them are big brothers, some of them have become little brothers – so it’s kind of like a family thing,” he explained.
Brown is in charge of pledges this year for Pike and said there has been a lot of interest in the fraternity. Pike pledges go through requirements to show them they can be both gentlemanly and scholarly.
Overall, Pike has over 220 chapters across North America, with over 1,400 undergraduates and over 200,000 people initiated. Members are able to network all over the continent through the fraternity.
“You got this family all over North America, which is pretty cool.”
David Rickards, the district manager for the chapters of Sigma Chi at Laurier, University of Windsor, University of Waterloo, Western University and University of Toronto, is also known as the Grand Praetor for the Ontario Province of Sigma Chi.
He was a member of Sigma Chi in 1994 and remained active with the fraternity throughout his undergraduate education, through law school at Western and reconnected as an alumnus in 2010.
According to Rickards, the fraternity was the one constant in his life as he moved between different universities and allowed him to meet other members on different campuses.
He also said he believes there is misinformation about Greek Life as a result of movies and rumours.
“I think that is one of the purposes of Greek Life in general is to help young undergraduates to learn how to build a peer network in a setting where you don’t have a homeroom and people come from different towns and backgrounds,” he said.
Rickards reiterated Pham’s intention about hazing, explaining that Sigma Chi also has a “zero tolerance” policy and he takes direct action against members suspected of engaging in such activities.
According to Pham, all members of Greek Life aim to promote the betterment of the community through leadership by encouraging members to be leaders of campus clubs.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking the amount of work and passion that we all have for the charities that we have, whether it’s doing something locally with the Anselma House like Alpha Omega does or doing something international like how Sigma Chi works with the Huntsman Cancer Institute, all of it honestly just warms my heart,” she said.
Brown and Pham agree that one of the main purposes of fraternities and sororities is making lifetime friends.
“It’s a way of getting these awesome university friendships, making them last for life and as an added benefit, you get all these other relationships of people that have come before you,” Brown concluded.