Past and present Urban School students reflect on what it means to “Go Greek”


August Ackley, Staff Writer

Every year, we hear about seniors graduating from high school and “going Greek” in college. All of a sudden, when you log onto Facebook, you see pictures of your friend surrounded by thirty others dressed in formal attire in front of a house with bold Greek lettering across the front. But what does “going Greek” really mean? Is there a fundamental difference between those that decide to rush and those who don’t? And how much do graduated Urban students really interact with Greek life in college?

  According to, the first Greek fraternity began in 1776 when John Heath, a student at The College of William and Mary decided to start a Greek secret society for those studying Greek. However, studying Greek is definitely not the focal point of today’s fraternities nor sororities. Many Urban seniors expressed that when they think of Greek Life, they think of hazing, raging parties and substance abuse, which can be due to prevalent stereotypes and media depiction.

  According to a survey of 61 out of the Urban School’s 100 graduating seniors, 67 percent will be attending a college that does have a Greek life scene, and 37 percent expressed interest in “rushing” or joining a fraternity or sorority. Rushing is the process of joining a fraternity or sorority. The process differs from organization to organization but describes the period of time where prospective Greek life members are wooed by current members to join their organization. Then, the organization will place bids on perspective students who they would like to pledge to their fraternity or sorority.

  Phoebe Charmatz (‘18) is attending Tulane University next year, where students rush in the spring. “I think having rush in the spring is nice because you have a chance to meet people without a system, but once you get to the spring I probably will [rush] to be a part of something smaller,” said Charmatz.

  “I want to join a sorority in order to find a smaller group of people to get to know,” said Urban School senior Lydia Sears (‘18), who is attending the University of California, Los Angeles next year. Sears said she would probably not be interested in Greek life if she was going to a smaller school.

  Ian Shapiro, a freshman at the University of Southern California, a arge university, agreed with Sears.“Going Greek is a way to make the campus feel smaller, it’s a huge school,” said Shapiro. “There’s no way to narrow down friends through classes.”

  Olive Lopez, a student at the University of Chicago said, “I knew [the University of Chicago] was a very academically challenging place, and socially, and I feel like I needed some support system during my first year.” During her first two weeks of school, Lopez was shocked by the diversity and different types of girls involved with the organizations and said that “all of the girls that [she] met were motivated and driven and ambitious.”

  Although Lopez describes her sorority experience as “somewhat atypical,” Shapiro said that his experience is what you would expect. He describes his fraternity’s social life as “not being confined to weekends in college, you’re living with these people so you’re doing almost everything with them. It’s not just going to a party, it’s getting dinner, lunch, breakfast. It’s much more intimate.” He admits to the dangers of the constant flow of his fraternity’s social life. “Drugs and alcohol are a much bigger part of social life than they were in high school,” Shapiro said.

  Another Urban School senior, Dilli Dillingham (‘18), who is hesitant to engage with Greek life at her college next year said, “I definitely think those stereotypes are exactly what I’m afraid of. I understand that’s not the case everywhere but I want to be as far from that as possible.”

  “I do see a lot of issues with Greek Life… as well as a lot of power dynamics at play,” said Sears, referencing Greek life culture as she has observed it. She relates her awareness of power dynamics back to her education at Urban, saying that “Urban is what made me see that and be aware of that.”

  “I feel like kids really want to be a part of Greek life after Urban or really don’t,” said Charmatz. “People either want something similar to Urban or something that’s completely different.”