Editorial: Opportunity cost in Greek life

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White marble stairs lead you to the front door of an expansive house, making you feel insignificantly small against the massive columns. You look up to see the glimmering gold Greek letters positioned above the door staring back at you. You remember what you saw in this chapter’s recruitment video prior to arriving at school for sorority recruitment. In it, petite, platinum blonde women in bikinis blow glitter out of their hands.

It appeared to be a very certain look. A look you’re not so sure you fit. 

When the University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi sorority recruitment video was released, it depicted mostly white and blonde women. Many people expressed criticism regarding an apparent lack of diversity and cultural variety in the video, according to USA Today.

This isn’t the first time a Greek organization has been the center of dialogue surrounding diversity issues. The News Star reported that out of 1,500 first-year Louisiana State University students pledging a fraternity or sorority in 2013, only four were African-American, 73 were Latino and 49 were from a different ethnic or racial background.

The homogeneity that is prevalent among many Greek organizations begs the question of whether it’s intentional or accidental. It can be argued that the lack of Greek life diversity stems from the overall lack of diversity at the institution. However, the often purported purpose of recruitment is to find people with similar values. Can this search for sameness inadvertently result in too much homogeneity in a chapter?

When young men and women go through fraternity or sorority recruitment, they are faced with two options — find a place that feels comfortable to them or step out of their comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to join a group of people who have our values. If we’re seeking people who value integrity and a love for community service, then it’s perfectly acceptable to recruit people who share those passions.

However, we must recognize that our culture and life experiences may play a part in determining the values we have. For instance, international students going through recruitment may experience difficulty in finding people with similar life experiences, which may make them feel ostracized or excluded as a result. Though it is very possible for diverse students to find a place in Greek life, it may be harder for them to do so.

The very core of an organization’s recruitment is finding individuals who fit the overall values of the chapter, and that idea in itself isn’t negative. But when recruitment involves discrimination against inherent differences such as race and culture, the process becomes problematic.

The result of being with like-minded people is two-fold. While being with people who share similar interests, values or even personalities, allows us to appreciate the parts of ourselves that we’re passionate about. An ambitious person joining an organization full of individuals who aspire to greatness fosters a beneficial environment. On the contrary, if we only associate with people who think and act like us, we may be inhibiting personal growth in unexpected areas. By being around people who are different from us — whether in manner, experience or another factor entirely — we’re given the chance to learn new things, understand different ways of thought and be exposed to new experiences.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking to recruit people who are similar to us, but where is the limit when we must branch out and find people who are different than us? Recruiting people with similar values has its benefits, but poses the risk of losing out on other things as a result. We miss out on bringing something new into the dynamic of our organization.

The people we recruit and the chapter we decide to join puts us in a situation of opportunity cost. It all comes down to what we’re looking for in our experience. It is possible to have a well rounded experience in a homogeneous chapter, but we must recognize that we will miss out on certain aspects as a result.

Whether we’re seeking to stay comfortable in our values or step out of our comfort zone with our beliefs, it’s possible to have a fulfilling experience either way. Regardless of the path we chose, we will inevitably miss out on some experiences and gain others as a result, but the balance that brings may be exactly what we need.

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