As soon as College junior Kat McKay became an upperclassmen, sorority life seemed less novel. Even though being a member of Sigma Kappa allowed her to meet some of her closest friends, she grew out of the greek social events and sorority bonding activities that compelled her to join as a freshman.
McKay remembers being a member of SK added significant value to her first two years. By the time she became a junior, however, greek life no longer seemed to be worth the energy or the price.
She noticed that disaffiliating was common among her friends and the other upperclassmen members of her sorority. By the time students reach their junior or senior years, their communities are often established. For this reason, the benefits of being in a sorority may no longer outweigh the personal and monetary costs for some.
For these reasons, after three years of paying tuition, seniors often view their greek life dues to be a disposable expense. Scholarship opportunities and financial aid are determined by and vary within each organization and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life provides no financial aid.
OFSL Director Eddie Banks-Crosson claims that he does not recognize a problem with retention, but rather disengagement. In comparison to the institutions he has worked for in the past, the amount of seniors dropping out of their organizations is not significantly higher, he said.
“The numbers [of seniors disaffiliating] are low, I’ll be honest,” Banks-Crosson said.
Banks-Crosson cites a shift in priorities amongst seniors to be the principal reason for their disengagement. After investing into their greek organizations during their first three years at Penn, by senior year, students begin to allocate more energy toward solidifying their post-graduation plans. The social community that greek organizations offer no longer align with the social and professional interests of seniors.
“The disengagement component, I will say, judging from what I hear from students ... when students hit the senior year their priorities look different,” he said.
Although there is no hard data to support this trend, Banks-Crosson claims that students have voiced the problem of senior disengagement to him. As students have less of a vested interest in their greek organizations, it begins to change the “organizational culture” of the chapter, he said. The mentoring and social planning responsibilities tend to be passed along to the juniors.
Banks-Crosson said that at Penn, unlike other institutions he has worked with in the past, there is no issue when it comes to convincing students to affiliate. He stresses the distinction between disengagement and disaffiliation.
As of now, the mission and activities of greek organizations align more closely with the interest and priorities of sophomores than seniors. To keep the seniors involved, Banks-Crosson encourages greek organizations to focus on engaging their alumni to facilitate networking.
“Arguably, a sophomore is going to need something completely different than a senior,” he said.
Banks-Crosson pointed out that the fraternity Sigma Chi has been particularly adept at keeping greek culture relevant to their senior members. They place a premium on career planning by inviting their alumni back to campus to interact with the current members, he noted.
Banks-Crosson added that less senior participation in greek organizations is a common trend that he also witnessed while working at Syracuse University.
“And second semester I would say you get ... senioritis really bad second semester ... now you are really ready to go,” Banks-Crosson said.
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