Greek life on campus
By NICK WALDEN / Rohnert Park Correspondent
“Greek life is a really good reason for staying at Sonoma State,” says Jose Franco, the president of the Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity. “I’ve had many people tell me that they would have left after their first year because SSU isn’t a real party school and there is a lack of connection to the city and community.”
While some residents of the community who have to deal with college parties in their neighborhoods might think that a frat or sorority is all about having fun and throwing keggers, those who experience Greek life at Sonoma State have a completely different perspective on what it means to be Greek.
Aaron Zavala, who is the president of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at SSU and is also the president of the Interfraternity Council feels that the perception of fraternities and sororities, at least locally, is not a reflection of what they currently stand for and the activities they do engage in.
The depictions of movies such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds or even Old School are not what the fraternal organizations are committed to at SSU.
“Basically what we do is to try and teach what is means to be Greek and about Greek life,” said Zavala. “Each group has their own specific motto, but the mottos are similar because they are founded on the same principles.”
The shared values that the organizations work towards are academics, service, leadership, integrity, personal growth, and community building. Each group has its’ own unique values and expectations for its’ members. Formed on the principle of philanthropy, the Greek community works hard to give back to the community and create a better campus experience for students.
At Alpha Sigma Phi they have a motto of “Being a better man” which involves leading by example, learning by doing and being humble. Part of their commitment to being humble involves doing community service. This semester their goal is to complete at least 1000 hours by doing projects such as park clean-ups at regional and city locations, beach clean-ups, working at the Grand Fondo or helping out at the food bank.
The Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity values community service as well. Club President Jose Franco thinks that, “Our fraternity is probably the most involved in regards to community service.”
The Latino-based fraternity co-hosted the Latino Family Summit on April 6 with the Lambda Theta Nu sorority. The event has the goal of providing information to the Latino community about higher education and how to attend a four-year university. On April 7 they hosted NAKland, a free carnival event that brings the local community onto the campus to showcase the benefits of a college experience. NAKland was a free event that included food, music, books for kids, raffles and games.
Nu Alpha Kappa earned Fraternity of the Year honors in 2012 during the Fraternity and Sorority Life Leadership Awards.
Other clubs have events like “Lip Jam” which raises money for diabetes research for children or the “Powerpuff” tournament that donates proceeds to Campfire America. The Alpha Xi Delta and Alpha Delta Pi sororities have helped with science night at Evergreen Elementary school the past few years. Another sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, has “adopted” M Park and regularly works to keep it clean.
“Our organizations work tirelessly to make a difference both on campus and in the local community,” said Rick Solomon, current president of the Tau Kapp Epsilon fraternity.
Larger fraternities, like Alpha Sigma Phi, offer students a chance to explore leadership opportunities that can then translate into the business world. “I can say that I have to work with 100 people within the fraternity for organizing and planning, 500 if you count the Interfraternity Council,” said Zavala. Other positions within the organizations such as secretary, treasurer or public relations all have duties that translate into the job market.
Rick Solomon wasn’t aware of the lasting effects that joining a fraternity would have when he initiated as a freshman. “(I) have gained countless skills that will carry with me throughout my life. The leadership opportunities within a fraternity are endless, helping to ensure that each member is prepared for their endeavors after college.”
Nationally, 71% of all fraternity and sorority members graduate from college, while only 50% of non-members do. There is an educational standard that must be met to maintain an active status within the organization. All but two U.S Presidents since 1825 have been a fraternity member.
“A lot of our members are in similar courses so we can study together,” said Franco. The Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity boasts the highest GPA within the Greek community. They are also a smaller fraternity which Franco feels works to their advantage.
“These guys are my family,” he said. “I spend holidays with them, know a lot about them as a person, and these are the same guys that I study with on Tuesday and then go out with on Saturday.”
One of the biggest differences between Greek life at Sonoma state versus other campuses seems to be diversity. “There are a wider range of students involved in Greek life here with a mix of all types of people,” said Zavala. “Right now about 19-20% of the campus is Greek, which is a slight increase over the past two years. In spring of 2011 it was 17-18%.
“This is the most Greeks we have had,” said Susan Kashack who is an AVP for Marketing and Communications at the college.
There are other differences as well such as the lack of fraternity or sorority houses. At Sonoma State the groups have to plan gatherings and meetings to work around the availability of usable space on campus such as halls.
“It can be a bit of a pain,” said Zavala. “It would be easier if there were houses on campus. Other chapters are able to do more and be more efficient because everyone is centrally located.
Currently there are nine chartered men’s fraternities on the SSU campus. Along with Alpha Sigma Phi there is Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Psi, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Nu Alpha Kappa, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Lambda Beta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Tau Kappa Epsilon.
There are eleven chartered sororities on campus which include Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Xi Delta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Delta Zeta, Lambda Theta Nu, Lambda Kappa Pi, Lambda Sigma Gamma Sorority, Inc., Phi Sigma Sigma and Sigma Pi Alpha Sorority, In.
The Interfraternity Council works towards educating students new to the Greek life and working towards better relationships between fraternities. They provide hazing and alcohol awareness, ice breaker events to break down barriers and create bonds along with having key note speakers discuss how fraternity life has benefited them. The Panhellenic Council works towards the same goals with the sororities.
Of course it is not all work. Along with socials, formals which are similar to prom events, and Greek Week, the fraternities and sororities get to compete in an annual event called the Greek Olympics.
The Greek Olympics is comprised of five sporting events, basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer and football, followed by a knowledge tournament. Last year’s event, in which Sigma Alpha Epsilon was crowned champions, drew over 1000 spectators.
The event is a three day affair and this year takes place on April 19, 20, and 21 on the SSU campus.
“This is probably the largest sporting event at our school,” said Aaron Zavala. “It is the one event that makes you feel like you are at a big college.”