Greek life traditionally serves as a pillar of college society, but as of this year there are only 179 Ripon College students reportedly affiliated with any of the eight houses.
With 840 current students, that estimates to only 20% of the population actively participating in a Greek group, showing a staggering drop from past years and nearly halving from thereported 288 active members in 2013. “There’s definitely been a decrease over the last few years,” states Elizabeth Thompson, president of Theta Sigma Tau . “Alumni from two or three years ago tell stories about being in 40-member houses, where if you didn’t get in early you didn’t get a chair. Now, we have 19 members.” Smaller and smaller houses could pose a problem for Tau, specifically with their philanthropy, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer. “Every year, we do a bake sale to raise money for our charity, but being so small makes it difficult to operate larger events throughout the year,” Thompson continues.
While the cupcakes go to charity, the group’s income is acquired from participant dues.
“The money we collect goes into a fund which we use to put on our Masquerade and other events to bring us closer as a family,” says Thompson.
Here at Ripon College, Greek pledges live in the same residence halls as independents instead of off-campus group homes.
Graduate Intern of Greek Life Tyler Volkert comments, “Having everyone live in a house with all of their siblings and independents allows students to bond in a unique way, instilling a sense of community.” This close-knit feeling, however could being fueling the issue.
As independent junior Elizabeth Abitz puts it, “Part of the problem is that Ripon is already such a small school that dividing the students up into even smaller groups causes unnecessary rivalry.”
Additionally, the family feeling helps to form relationships to help individuals later in their careers.
“I can make the lasting connections without their help because Ripon is a community that I have the opportunity to branch out in, and I don’t want to feel like I’m paying for these friends,” contends junior and independent Christine Nguyen.
Some freshmen share a similar belief.
“I think some girls join sororities to have a support system for themselves, a group of people they belong with,” explains Shelbi Buettner, a first-year.. “And because I’m on the soccer team, I feel that I have that support system and don’t need to join a sorority.”
Volkert argues that the goal is not to tear the community apart, but act as “a unifying factor or an opportunity to promote scholarship, leadership, service, character, and sister/brotherhood and a strong sense of community.”
According to Volkert, these are the principles upon which each of the houses base their goals and mottos.
“Going Greek doesn’t make me better than you, it makes me better than the way I was yesterday,” says Volkert.
It’s this sense of community that attracts first-year Mitchell Rectz.
“I’ve gotten to know some of the guys in these groups and I can see that there is a kind of brotherhood between them that I want to experience,” says Rectz.
Some members of the Greek community, however say that there is a stigma that comes with being in the group.
“There’s this image people have of typical Greek life being nothing but drinking and partying,” says Thompson. “But really, it’s a family you hang out with who has similar beliefs in general excellence.” To be in any of the organizations there is a minimum G.P.A. requirement, which varies by the group. “Maintaining Ripon standards, and fostering a level of understanding that inspires academic and social excellence so the individual can succeed is the goal of every group,” reports Volkert.