I am an independent, meaning I'm not affiliated with any of Penn State's fine greek organizations. Anyone who has met me can attest.
But, I never formally rushed because, frankly, I came to the university with all the wrong stereotypes about fraternity men.
They graduated in seven years, hazed relentlessly, paid for their friends and objectified women, right? How wrong I was.
Penn State's more than 50 fraternities and more than 25 sororities with thousands of members continue to impress me everyday. Omit the Chi Omega fiasco for a moment, and remember the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, Annual Holiday Lights Tour and Derby Days. It's near-impossible to list the service opportunities the greek community offers, and they comprise only one reason to go greek.
Now, as a senior, I ask: Why did I pigeonhole myself into being an independent?
Consider the pros of joining a fraternity or sorority: a great social life, a robust academic and personal support network, a wide array of leadership and service opportunities, and more. Greek men and women are among the most well-rounded students here.
Interfraternity Council Vice President for Communications Jordan Rolon is quick to point out that the all-men's greek GPA consistently exceeds the average all-men's independent GPA at University Park.
“We always tell guys who are pledging, 'We're not going to let you get behind because it makes all of us look bad,' ” Rolon (junior-recreation, park and tourism management) said.
As a freshman, Rolon founded the “Be Easy” Paraplegic Fund to offset huge medical bills for his friend Ben Alessi, a college student who became paralyzed after a car accident in Philadelphia.
He said he couldn't have raised thousands of dollars for Alessi without the support of his Alpha Gamma Rho brothers.
Stories like Rolon's abound in the Penn State greek community. In 1973, former IFC President Bill Lear proposed a 30-hour dance marathon for the Butler County Association for Retarded Children.
It evolved from 78 dancers in the HUB to one of the world's largest student-run philanthropies, THON.
Besides THON, chapter members also work with their national partner philanthropies from the Sigma Kappa Foundation to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“You have a good time, you do what you do, but you give back,” Pat Adams, IFC vice president of recruitment, said.
Greeks are far from focused only on their brothers and sisters. At Penn State, many are required to join at least one other group to enrich their chapters and foster leadership, Adams (junior-supply chain and information systems) said.
For those still unconvinced, keep this in mind: hazing is prohibited at all greek chapters. While instances have come up during my time at Penn State, hazing is a police matter. University-affiliated chapters want their pledges to have fun, to feel like a part of something without breaking the law.
Freshmen and sophomores, you are lucky enough to attend a university where rushing is allowed for underclassmen. At some schools, this is not the case. It isn't for some, and that's OK, but just see what it's like.
The IFC's last information session will be at 9 p.m. tonight in 102 Forum. I highly encourage anyone remotely interested to attend. While formal zone day events concluded last week, informal dry recruitment sessions will be held throughout the week.
More information about Panhellenic Council recruitment, which extends a little later than the IFC, is available here. Also check out the websites for Penn State's Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org.