Greek Life’s State of Nature

IFCAt the University of Michigan, 17% of the student body is an active member in Greek life, meaning that there are 4,200 students that are in either a fraternity or a sorority. Greek life as a whole is a contorted view of reality in that active members are required to adhere to numerous rules in order to prevent expulsion from said individual’s sorority or fraternity.

Kappa Kappa Gamma GreekYearbook Sorority Composites, Fraternity Composites, Sorority bid day and Fraternity and Sorority party pictures and products
picture of sorority bid day

Being that I am in a sorority, I have to follow my chapter’s guidelines of how to act as a “leading woman” in my school – basically, my whole life is created for me. More specifically, my social life, who I hang out with, how I present myself to the world, where I live, etc. is all decided within the first few weeks of my freshman year when I pick which sorority I want to be in which is a very weird concept to grasp.

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fraternity party

Every Monday, our social chairs send out an email containing that week’s social schedule. If I do not attend every single one of these events on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I risk getting yelled at by these social chairs. If we, as a sorority, do not collectively show up to one our planned parties with another fraternity, the boys of that fraternity get very frustrated because it is rude to them and then our sorority suffers the consequences.

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governing body of fraternities

In addition, many sororities and fraternities are put on social probation whereby Panhellenic and IFC (the governing bodies) decide to punish certain fraternities and sororities for various reasons. One of my best friend’s sororities is on social probation for going to an off campus fraternity and they are not allowed to have any social events for the rest of the semester. This seems like a ludicrous punishment. Why can a group of elected officials decide what I do in my free time? Why is it considered acceptable to attend certain fraternities and not others?

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I think that Greek life is run similarly to the states of nature of Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 5.39.22 PMboth Locke and Rousseau. Although they are not completely the same, there are many connections between both concepts. Locke’s state of nature centers primarily around war. In Greek life, the state of nature is a war of competing for being a top tier fraternity or sorority. Each fraternity and sorority wants to be part of the top tier, which is comprised of the ‘coolest’ students. To become a top tier fraternity, you have to prove that you are better than the rest and thus a social war is started in which each fraternity throws parties and competes in order to see which one is the most successful. For sororities to become top tier, they have to look at their return rate during sorority recruitment and see how many of the potential new members wanted said sorority. This idea also comprises some of Rousseau’s opinions on the state of nature in war in which we care so incredibly much about what others think about us which drives us to battle.

christianity-symbol-17355339In addition, Locke’s state of nature revolves around the concept of religion and God. Because my sorority is nationally a Catholic sorority, there are certain rituals that I have to perform that coincide with Christianity – regardless of my own personal religion. It is sometimes hard for members of my sorority to practice these rituals because it goes against their own personal religion. My sorority has hymns and prayers all over the walls of the kitchen. Locke’s state of nature believes in the “duty of self preservation” whereby each individual has to align his beliefs with that of God because God knows what’s best for him.

It is very interesting to compare that of Greek life to the states of nature of Locke and Rousseau. Both attempt to classify and control individual’s sense of human nature. Do you think Greek life is an adequate example of these states of nature?

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3 thoughts on “Greek Life’s State of Nature

  1. Hi!! I completely agree with you that Greek Life can be compared to the states of nature of both Locke and Rousseau. Being a part of greek life, there is always a feeling of preparation for battle. You always have to make sure you’re not posting certain photos (with illegal substances/ at illegitimate frats) and you’re always competing against other sororities with everything. You want to mix with the top tier fraternities (which further enhances your own sororities status) and have the best everything. It’s always a little war against other sororities. Frequently at sorority meetings, the president or such will mention that we have to be careful at doing many things because other sororities will do anything to get us in trouble. It always feels like a war and every little obstacle is a battle in it. I also agree with your comparison of Locke’s religiosity aspect. Being in a sorority, it doesn’t matter what your personal beliefs or how your sorority is as a whole. What matters more is how it is viewed nationally, so at times we have to adhere to standards which would be normally different than our own.

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  2. While I am not part of the Greek Life here, I completely agree with the idea that fraternities/sororities are in constant battle for status and legitimacy. My best friend is a pledge for a fraternity right now and comes back every night with another story about how much he hates another fraternity. He is constantly in debates with other kids about who parties the most, who hangs out with the top sororities, and who has the best reputation. I completely agree with your comparison of Locke’s religiosity aspect as well. Great job on this post!

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  3. I completely agree with what you are saying. With constant discussions and websites such as greekrank.com. There is always that competition to be either a Top Tier Frat or sorority. However, while your points are completely valid. I think that there are also positives to Greek life’s relationship to the philosophers we have studied in class. I think, there is a positive relationship to Rousseau’s theory in the fact that there are weekly Panhel meetings where all of the sororities get together to discuss what is best for them in relation to the rest of greek life. While in many cases, the sororities are “pitted against each other” Each week they come together and discuss the things they can do that would be best for their mutual interest in order to improve the overall image of the Panhel Sororities around the University and to other members of Greek Life.

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