For background, I consciously chose not to rush and have never been involved in Greek life. This is merely the opinion of an outsider, but that's not to say that others don't feel the same.
Everyone's definition of family is different, a biological relation is not the only way a family can be formed. Personally, I wouldn't consider Greek life "family," but this isn't to say that others would.
Among these varying ideas, at a very basic level, there is family in the traditional sense, and there is a family that you pay financially and even physically and emotionally to be a part of. At NAU, and across the nation, the latter is called Greek life.
This begs the question: is Greek life a true definition of family considering it can be exceptionally taxing on a student to simply feel included? As of recently, hazing has gained a great deal of media coverage, which has created a mass discussion across social media platforms.
According to USA Today, "Four pledges have died in drinking-related incidents this year, again shedding light on the culture of drinking, and sometimes hazing, at American universities." Additionally, the University of Dayton's Center for Student Involvement stated a few hazing statistics: "82% of deaths from hazing involve alcohol." This proves that there is an underlying problem that needs more attention overall, and not just when a student passes due to hazing. Although NAU's Greek life council has mostly eliminated hazing, there is not a way to guarantee that it doesn't exist.
Provided this, would family indulge in hazing? It is fair to me to assume that morally a family wouldn't ever risk the life of another family member. Family wouldn't have to prove their worth to each other in any capacity.
I believe that family is founded upon a common love and appreciation for each and every family member whether they are biological or adopted. Family bonds last a lifetime.
Paying to be in a sorority or fraternity to be a part of a family gives a false sense of security when considering what true heritage and roots really are.
Paying to be part of a community does not make it a family. It just means people are forced into being associated with their “bigs and littles” on a more personal level. The concept of having bigs and littles is essentially a label for choosing friends based on similar interests, but being forced into paying significant amounts of money on baskets full of presents to buy the affection and friendship of the littles in the family.
Greek life scholarships are available to those who may be unable to afford the costliness of joining in Greek life, though. According to College Scholarships, sorority scholarships are available by the membership and can award a student with, from what is listed, anywhere between $200 to $5,000, or more. The same website also provides scholarships for fraternities, which state similar figures where a student can be awarded $400 to $3,000, or more.
This does undeniably help students afford their membership in a large capacity, as Greek life is not inexpensive.
According to NAU's website, on average it costs $425 per semester to be a member of Greek life. Some chapters offer payment plans, but nonetheless, people still have to pay tuition, rent, meal plans and on top of that their membership fee, clothing that is acceptable for parties and events and more
A Forbes article specifically points out how costly it can be to be part of Greek Life. The article called “Buying Into Greek Life: Is It Worth It?” states that a person is forced to pay anywhere between $45 to $11,316, depending on the university.
That being said, if a student doesn't qualify or isn't chosen for the scholarship, it is extremely financially draining.
Another pillar of what it means to be family is being accepting, inclusive and open-minded. Family should remain unbothered by how much a family member may or may not make in their paycheck.
Additionally, Greek life often requires chapter attendance and will issue fines after a certain number of absences. Does a family member get fined for not showing up to Thanksgiving?
Within Greek life, there is some concern one must have in order to keep up with the rest of their chapter. Financially, one must be willing to, quite literally, give it all they've got. The Columbia Spectator, an online news source, released an article in 2017 called "High Dues, Hidden Expenses: The Cost of Greek Life," which stated that "other universities have assembled task forces or conducted studies to address the wealth gap within Greek life, with varying degrees of success. A report published by the Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life at Princeton explored the demographics of students who participate in Greek life, 75% of whom had a family income of over $75,000 per year." This establishes a stratum of sorts within Greek life that may come off as unsettling to an outsider.
In my opinion, these bonds are more representative of friendship, at their core, as opposed to being family.
It's completely valid to join Greek life in search of friendship and as an extra-curricular in college if one can afford it and does not mind the possibility of being hazed. However, to call these friendships "family" personally upsets me as my idea of a family would never be so exclusive and give love and support based on specific conditions.
Friends hang out when school is in session. Similarly, sororities and fraternities only really gather during the school year. That’s not to say that the friendships made in Greek life aren’t valid or as strong as the next.
However, it is a jump to say that these friendships are similar in strength to a family’s bond. I mean when was the last time you had to compete with your siblings or cousins for the admiration of your parents or grandparents?
That being said, I have a very strong familial connection. My standards for considering someone a member of my family is extremely high. The definition of family to me may not be similar to others, which is OK. I stand firm with the belief that family isn't exclusive and that the love of a family knows no bounds. I do believe, though, that rock-solid friendships can be made through Greek life, but I would not consider those bonds to be structured similarly to a family.
I believe Greek life is an overrated part of college. With all the themed parties and cult-like lettered T-shirts, it simply isn’t my scene. This isn't to say others can't enjoy it.