Why the Greek Life System is Broken, pt. 1

By Ryan Durden on December 5, 2012

Full Disclosure: I am not a member of a Greek organization, nor have I ever been. My goal is not to attack the members of these organizations, but to expose the flaws of the system as a whole.


Bear with me for the duration of this article (and its sequel); I know I risk preaching to supporters while alienating members of the system I’m criticizing. However, I hope that Greeks will see this as a well-intentioned explanation of the often-negative perception of Greek life. My plan is to analyze the commonly cited benefits of the Greek system in this article and to address the detriments in next week’s article.

Future Success

One of the most common reasons for joining a fraternity is the career success that its members have. It cannot be denied that former Greeks have achieved a high level of success as a group. However, I hesitate to attribute that to the Greek system itself. What is often overlooked is the type of person who is attracted to collegiate social fraternities. Colleges are collections of students who likely have above-average intelligence, access to resources, wealth, more so than people outside the university system. Distilled out of this already blessed group of individuals are Greek members, who are predominantly Caucasian and wealthier than independent students. In addition, members of social organizations are inherently going to be more extroverted than their peers. These demographic factors are a recipe for success in the business world; they are not, however, a result of the Greek system. The Greek system simply concentrates on those people who, in our society, are already best suited for political and business careers and places them into fraternities. That provides an important networking tool, undoubtedly, but the success of Greeks cannot be attributed to membership in a fraternity any more than it could attributed to membership in a country club. Finally, considering the state of American politics, would you really want to claim so many members of congress as fellow brothers?


“No, it’s YOUR turn to irreparably damage our reputation.”

Image courtesy of Third Way via Flickr.com

Academic Achievement

Another benefit of Greek organizations is that their members tend to have higher GPAs than the independent student population, as is the case at my institution. These statistics are deceiving however, and fail to take into account a number of variables. For instance, wealthy students tend to have access to better personal resources and are less likely to be splitting time between work and school. However, wealth alone cannot account for such a marked discrepancy, and fails to consider other environmental effects. Numerous studies have shown that academic dishonesty is much more prevalent among members of fraternities and sororities than the independent student population. It’s not necessarily that these students are more dishonest than their non-Greek peers, but that the Greek system promotes cheating. Greek organizations are required to meet GPA minimum standards or face strict punishments. The pressure to perform for the organization, which is academically competing against other fraternities and independents, increases the enticement to cheat. That members share majors, have often taken the same classes in the past, and have access to old tests and materials further incentivizes dishonest behavior. While it’s the individual’s choice to cheat, the prevalence of academic dishonesty isn’t the fault of the member so much as the pressure the Greek system puts on its members.



I’m not about to support the adage “Greeks pay for their friends.” Brotherhood is one of the most important aspects of Greek life, and its function as a social organization cannot be disputed. Greeks display loyalty to their organization and its members, which allows them to organize over 850,000 hours of community service annually. Nevertheless, the system is damaged. Aside from the cliques that form within Greek organizations (they are inevitable within any large social group), the system encourages a negative type of competition. When organizations compete for the same resources (members, funding, service projects), “us vs. them” thoughts become the norm. Fraternities and sororities do push each other to improve, certainly. Conversely, this desire for advancement and unity can lead to a higher prevalence of eating disorders, academic dishonesty, and hazing. Brotherhood is being attained at the cost of integrity and personal health in many cases, and it would be faulty to presume that fraternal brotherhood is superior to the bonds found in other organizations or clubs that do not have inherently detrimental aspects to membership.




Ryan Durden is a Clemson student who enjoys satire, travel, and complaining about Columbia, South Carolina. He would cherish any constructive criticism and baked goods you send his way. His inspirations include Dave Barry, Daniel O'Brien, and his muse, Natalie Portman.

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