The problem with Wake Forest social life is not that it is too Greek, but that it is not non-Greek enough. That is, there are not strong enough alternatives to the predominantly Greek way of life at Wake Forest. This is a problem because many students feel compelled to join Greek life for no reason other than it presents an ostensibly-clear path to belonging on campus. There are other paths, of course, but they are undeniably and overwhelmingly overshadowed by the fraternities and sororities. We have long reached a point when one can justifiably ask, “What else is there to do on a Friday or Saturday night other than go out to a frat party?”
This is not only a regrettable state of affairs but an unhealthy and unbalanced one, too. For one thing, students should not have to feel like “going Greek” is the only way to go at Wake Forest. That is merely a fiction — an illusion allowed to hold sway in the glaring absence of a strong, healthy non-Greek life. Students come to campus as freshmen and very early fall under the popular but misleading impression that the “in” or “cool” thing to do is to be a part of Greek life. Inevitably, many students are hooked and take the bait offered by frat parties, not necessarily because they are good or fun, but because “everyone” seems to partake in them. Unchallenged by non-Greek life, fraternities and sororities have an airtight monopoly over the social scene. It is no wonder that so many believe that if they want to fit in at Wake Forest, they need to buy in to what the Greeks are selling. Again, the problem is not the Greeks, but that students feel obliged to join them out of a perceived social necessity.
Obviously, Greek life is not the only road to belonging at Wake Forest. Plenty of students, including Greeks themselves, find their sense of belonging in non-Greek organizations — sports teams, faith and identity groups, campus leadership and so on. I myself have found much of my belonging in Student Government and the Resident Student Association. The former is a prime example of how the Greek versus non-Greek dynamic is skewed against the non-Greeks. There has not been a non-Greek president of Student Government in something like a decade. In recent years, Greek candidates have been so favored that the outcome of elections has become virtually a foregone conclusion. Ours is no fair or democratic process. The Greeks, due to their superior cohesion, vote as a bloc, and Greek candidates need but activate their base to win every year. The question is not who best appeals to the students, but who best appeals to the fraternities and sororities, so naturally Greek candidates have the ultimate advantage year by year.
The non-Greeks, then, need to grow powerful enough to rival the Greeks. They need to cultivate a united sense of solidarity and show students what their options are beyond faux Hellenistic insignia. Without strong non-Greek alternatives, the Greeks will continue to reign supreme and students will continue to think that their way is the only way of finding one’s place. Again, we all know and recognize there are other ways, but they seemingly do not provide the same kind of clear and solid foundation for relationships and networking.
To that end, I think that non-Greek leaders and communities should band together in the same way that the Greeks do. I think non-Greeks need to find new, attractive ways to “sell” non-Greek life. For me, this starts with putting on display everything else there is to do on campus and reassuring everyone who does not fit the Greek mold that they can find their place elsewhere. Non-Greek life and alternatives need to be prominently and vigorously promoted, and non-Greeks need to be actively recruited. Once this picks up speed, I am hopeful that one day, non-Greeks will throw their own parties and stress diversity and inclusion in opposition to homogeneity and exclusion. I am hopeful that one day students will be just as proud to call themselves non-Greeks as much as Greeks.
The Romans were better, anyway.