Many first-year and sophomore women arrived early on campus this week to begin sorority recruitment, and their male counterparts will soon begin official fraternity rush. More than 25% of Penn’s undergraduate body is involved in Greek life, with many seeing it as a close-knit peer group. But what does this mean for the other 75%?
At Penn, some students may feel Greek life provides one of the few opportunities to form a close social group without a pre-professional focus. This stands in contrast to non-Greek clubs, many of which focus on professional interests such as finance or consulting and require multiple rounds of interviews to be admitted. Other campus groups should learn from Greek life and work to strengthen their internal cultures to aid students with issues like loneliness, depression, and anxiety, provide more outlets for finding a community at Penn, and foster opportunities in forming professional connections.
Students at Penn encounter a lot of stress and are involved in many activities, ranging from classes to jobs to academic and professional clubs. In such a competitive environment, it is important to find time to relax in low-pressure settings, where students can be themselves. These relaxed groups can provide a much-needed break, combat loneliness, and support positive mental health.
While some students may find this outlet in Greek life, others choose not to join Greek life for various social or financial reasons. These students may have a harder time finding a relaxed social environment because of the pre-professional nature of many Penn student groups. But because social outlets are important for all Penn students, student groups should increase their focus on internal culture to better fill this need.
Focusing on activities that are not so pre-professional can help students form close friendships and learn more about different aspects of their peers. This is one of the reasons Greek life is so popular — people join to get to know their peers better. In some non-Greek groups, however, even if leadership may be tight-knit, general body members may not feel the same sense of community. Although these groups have the potential to create community, leaders might not devote as much time to the social aspects since they are busy with their clubs’ particular missions.
To remedy this, club leaders can work on improving internal social culture by involving general body members in major decisions, hosting more group-wide social events, owning a group house, or facilitating on- or off-campus retreats. Many of these measures do not require large financing, just the willingness to put in the extra time and effort into the community. These changes would give more people the chance to experience the close friendships and community often associated with Greek life.
Improving internal group culture could also facilitate professional growth in the long run. Many Penn students use connections from Greek organizations or other student groups to help when searching for jobs or internships. A close personal bond between group members can only help facilitate this process. Even if a club has a stated academic or professional mission, investing in internal culture is not a waste of time, but in fact complements the group’s activities.
Fraternities and sororities already do a good job providing a conduit to a close social community at Penn. Other student groups can learn from this, and create better environments for all their members.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.