Not like the movies: Understanding Greek Life at USI


Members of USI’s Greek Life participate in a chalk mural competition Wednesday outside University Center West. The event was held as a part of Greek Week. (Photo courtesy of Molly Durchholz)

Tegan Ruhl, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

If you’ve been immersed in American culture for more than 10 minutes, then you’ve heard of Greek Life. For decades, it’s been portrayed as “party-central,” where college students do wild things all the time with no respect for their grades. In reality, Greek Life on USI’s campus looks a lot different than what’s portrayed in the movies. 

“Honestly, Greek Life is a group of people who have similar ideals and values and hold the same things to a higher standard, and they’re in a group of either fraternity or sorority,” said Pierce Howard, senior political science major and Interfraternity Council president. “They work on charity and work with each other to try and raise funds and really bring life to campus.”

Almost all members think the same way about Greek Life. 

“Greek Life is essentially a group of students who are brought together within their brotherhood and sisterhood with similar values and beliefs, and they form a connection that way,” said Kyleigh Blum, junior exercise science and pre-occupational therapy major and Panhellenic president.

“For me, it’s been a community of creating a good bond between people,” said Derrick Thompson, junior civil engineering major and IFC vice president of programming. “To create a relationship that you can’t make anywhere else in the world, or really at any other place on campus. It’s a unique opportunity to become part of something that’s going to make you better in the process of helping others. It’s good for teaching good life skills. Getting you to be part of a family more than just people trying to accomplish a single goal.”

Fraternities are Greek organizations for men, while sororities are Greek organizations for women. Chapters are localized organizations of a national fraternity or sorority. IFC overlooks all the fraternity chapters on campus, and the Panhellenic Council overlooks all the sororities on campus. 

Matthew Hanks, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, was a part of the Beta Omega chapter of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity when he went to school at Kentucky Wesleyan. 

“It’s not paying for friends,” Hanks said. “I wasn’t super into it even after I pledged until my first philanthropy event and community service event. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, these guys are actually doing something.’ That’s when it hit me that it wasn’t like what it was in the movies.” 

Hanks took the position of assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Nov. 29, 2022. Although he’s still new to the position, he plays a big role in helping chapters form ideas for events and how to improve the overall Greek Life. 

“What’s great about the leaders of the organizations now is they are building Greek Life for what it’s going to be from now on post-COVID,” he said. “I really think we can grow something new. I think we can grow something better than what it was.” 

Hanks said he is here to help students, not guide them. He wants students to form their own ideas and learn through trial and error. Although they will fail at times, Hanks said learning through mistakes is an important part of being in a Greek organization. 

“I had never run a committee,” Hanks said. “I had never done any of that. I learned all of that whenever I was in my chapter, and I failed miserably a lot of times. But I learned from that.” 

Students involved in Greek Life have multiple opportunities through philanthropy and event organization to exercise their leadership skills and play a role in the greater Evansville community. Many chapters require volunteer hours and dedicate a lot of time to planning events in the community. 

I can’t speak for all chapters, but I know my chapter, as soon as the semester starts, we’re focused on, ‘How are we going to do this? When are we going to do this? What events are we going to do?’ Stuff like that,” Howard said.

While Greek Life can be an important factor in shaping a person’s life skills, many students involved in Greek Life agree that having strong support from their brotherhood or sisterhood has been a major part of the experience. 

Howard said one of his concerns coming to USI was the expense of textbooks. He said he shares textbooks with one of his brothers in his fraternity who has the same major. His fraternity has also helped him make connections with different faculty members across campus. 

Chloe Smith, sophomore pre-dental hygiene major and Panhellenic vice president of programming. said she loves how many connections she has made on campus through her sorority. 

“I just went to Chick-fil-A, and it took me 10 minutes to get from the FSL office to get to Chick-fil-A because I stopped to talk to so many people,” she said. “For me, that’s super rewarding. I love knowing so many people, and I think Greek Life definitely pushed me to be super involved on campus.” 

“For me, a lot of the benefits of Greek Life were giving me good opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone while having the support of my brothers behind me,” Thompson said. “Who accept me as I am and how I am so I can be myself also encourage me to go beyond who I am today to do better tomorrow.” 

“Basically, anyone can fit into any of them,” Blum said. “It helps you get more connected on campus. And since we’re a smaller campus, when you do join one, you definitely get more of a sense of community.” 

Recruitment works differently for every chapter. Formal recruitment for fraternities and sororities happens at the beginning of the fall semester. About a week after classes start, chapters table for one to two weeks to promote the idea of Greek Life. After the two weeks are up, chapters contact potential members and invite them to recruiting events.

Howard said students should meet every organization before committing to one. 

“Greek Life at USI is super diverse,” he said. “There are so many different personalities. I feel like almost everyone is bound to meet someone that they do enjoy hanging out with or a chapter that they do enjoy hanging out with.” 

Thompson said students should fully consider joining a Greek organization before shrugging it off. 

“My thing is most people who join Greek Life later in their college career usually regret not joining earlier,” he said. “It’s all about really getting to know what Greek Life is before you make a decision, rather than just deciding not to do it at all.” 

USI also promotes safety in Greek organizations with a strict no-hazing policy. If a student experiences or knows about a hazing incident, they can report it to Student Development Programs, the Dean of Students Office, Public Safety or any other office that can relay the information to the proper personnel. 

“My chapter has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing,” Smith said. “Members have been removed before. We do not put up with it. I know that if Matt Hanks or Jenny Garrison were to get wind of anything, it would be shut down real quick.” 

Greek Week began March 25 with a Greek-wide cookout in the PAC. This will be the first Greek Week where members can come watch their organizations participate since 2019. 

“I know last year, one of the biggest complaints was that people felt like they couldn’t support their teams because they weren’t able to be in the REC to watch them or they weren’t able to be in the PAC to watch them,” Smith said. “This year, people can come and support their organizations, and you can already see the difference that it’s made.” 

Howard and Smith said an estimated 250-300 Greek Life members attended the cookout, which represented 80-85% of Greek members on campus. 

“Even people who aren’t in Greek Life can come to those events now,” Blum said. “Which I think is exciting because we’re able to get people to kind of see what Greek Life is and see all the connections that you can get within it. Everyone can come together, and we get more of a sense of Greek unity that way as well.” 

Greek Week Dance Comp opens to the public at 7 p.m. March 31 and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets will be $10 at the door, and organizations will be tabling all week and selling tickets for $7. 

“We’re not exclusionary,” Howard said. “We want to include everyone on campus.” 

“Philanthropy events are almost always open to the public,” Smith said. “You don’t have to be in Greek Life to come to stuff, and that’s something we really want people to understand because even if you don’t want to join Greek Life, we want you not to think that Greek Life is some clique that you can’t be a part of.” 

“I think it’s a good thing to really put your mind to it and not really get too caught up in the stigma or your preconceived notions of what Greek Life is,” Thompson said. “Make an opinion after you learn more about what Greek Life is, and really give a critical thought as to what Greek Life really is and what you could get from it. Aside from the things you may already have in your mind or know.”