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Table of Contents

Who Are We?

Pluralism and Unity

Being Greek

A Sense of Belonging

Voice from the Right

An Attitude of Accommodation

Bigger Questions

Chaplain Kathleen Buckley

"Larry Got Gay"

Speed Bumps

The Great Financial Aid Misconception

The Difference that Differnce Makes

Laurentian Reviews

Alumni Accomplishments

Magazine Cover

Being Greek
By Laurie Besanceney '02

 I pledged myself to a sorority, Kappa Delta Sigma, in the spring of my sophomore year. I didn"t pledge in the preceding fall semester because I thought Greeks were elitist, conforming, and, as I had always heard, a way to "buy friends." That was before I knew the system.

I took my fall semester to "feel around" the Greek system through friends who had joined houses, then I took the plunge. Against everything I had once believed, I pledged myself to the ideals, virtues and values of a Greek organization. And as I immersed myself more and more in the Greek system I came to appreciate it more than I will ever be able to express.

The Greek system at St. Lawrence is not what it used to be. In the 1960s, 75% of all students belonged to a Greek chapter. By the 1970s, that percentage had dropped to 50%, and the system has seen steady decline in the years since. In the 2001-2002 academic year, only 22% of eligible students elected to join a Greek house.

In being Greek I am a member of a minority group.Currently, the Greek system at St. Lawrence is under a microscope. In March 2002, the University introduced the "Greek Engagement Project" (GEP). This plan has been met with mixed (and strong) feelings by Greek students. I support it because, if the system is failing (and the numbers strongly back this assertion up), it needs something to jump-start it or it will continue spiraling downward.

I see the GEP not as a death sentence, but as a shove in the direction of improvement. Not everyone shares my opinion, though.

Generally, the men in the Greek system are more outspokenly against the GEP, because they feel especially marginalized. They have good reason to - overall, St. Lawrence"s sororities are much stronger than the fraternities. Their numbers are higher, their grades are higher, they are more involved in campus life and especially leadership roles and, frankly, they don"t get into as much trouble. As one illustration, the vast majority of Greek members of Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honorary, are women.

Fraternity men are more negatively stereotyped by opponents of the Greek system than are the women, but, to be blunt, they"ve earned those stereotypes. They need to believe genuinely in, and act upon, their founding principles (which are usually along the lines of scholarship, involvement, character and leadership) instead of justifying "Animal House" accusations.

Inside the Greek system, I feel supported and believe that Greek life has provided me with unparalleled leadership opportunities, strong interpersonal relationships, community service opportunities, social opportunities, and a wonderful living environment. I served on the executive board of my house for three semesters and learned about the inner workings of an organization. I developed many close friendships through late nights in the library, picking out a dress (and a date!) for an upcoming formal, hiking in the Adirondacks, deciding to watch a "girlie" movie instead of going to the Tick Tock on a Friday night, or debating the fate of the Greek system. We babysat for a village "Mom"s Club," raked leaves for elderly residents, ran can and bottle drives for local people, even dressed up as the Easter Bunny for a party in the village park. Plus, I got to live in a big, beautiful house with tremendous history (KD broke away from the national in 1969 because the national would not let them pledge a minority student; KDS is now the only local chapter on campus). Being Greek has provided me an extremely rich and full college experience, one that I would not have gotten if I had never pledged. I rarely think about how I am a minority.

But clearly I have a more positive view of the Greek system and its place in the University than do some others. Some students, reinforced by anti-Greek faculty, assert that Greeks would rather party than perform service or study, but the examples I cite above should dispel the "no service" myth, while data available on the St. Lawrence Web site and gathered as part of the GEP indicate that Greeks" overall GPAs are not significantly different from independents". Those who do not bother to learn about the system misunderstand it, as I did before I joined.

The Greek system has a long and deep history nationwide, at St. Law-rence, and through each of the individual houses. But we must return to our founding principles if we expect to change our minority status. For we will stagnate at best until we accept the challenge put before us by the Greek Engagement Project, and respond wisely and rationally.

A member of The Hill News editorial board and an intern in University communications, government and English (writing) major Laurie Besanceney began a job with the Adirondack Explorer, a Saranac Lake-based newsmagazine, soon after graduating.