First impressions form relationships, set precedents and establish standards.
Your first year at UT holds no exception. Freshmen can feel everything from excitement to anxiety as they arrive on campus. Eager to fit in, freshmen have unmatched energy and drive when it comes to exploring campus organizations and clubs. UT’s more than 1,100 student organizations cater to various interests and passions, allowing most of these first-year students to find their niche. However, students in Greek life often neglect exploring these diverse opportunities.
The extreme time commitment of Greek life can lead freshmen to be relatively unengaged with the rest of the campus experience. While Greek life has its perks and deserves a place in campus life, its emphasis on total commitment may take away from everything else the University has to offer.
I joined Greek life during my second year as a way to stifle my fear of missing out. At the time, I was afraid I wasn’t getting the most out of campus life and wanted to branch out. While I am happy that I rushed and made new friends, watching freshmen fully invest their time and energy into a single organization made me wonder if their view of campus life was too narrow.
Some colleges, such as Baylor, require students to wait a semester before they rush in order to ensure a smooth and common experience for first-year students. UT rush, however, starts before the academic year and is often the first event incoming freshmen associate with college. Greek life stresses the upkeep of a tightly knit community, which can quickly isolate students from University life.
“I never looked into any clubs freshman year,” said Jack Karl, an undeclared business sophomore and a member of my pledge class last year. “I just figured that our fraternity would give me my friend group.”
Most of the incoming freshmen who recently joined our fraternity saw it as essential to their college experience. None of the incoming freshmen I talked to were planning on joining any organizations their first semester. Their schedules — saturated with Greek events — conflicted too often with on-campus events.
Over 5,400 University students are members of fraternities and sororities. While fraternities host parties and events, entry mostly remains confined to those within the Greek system. This exclusivity creates a type of insulated social bubble. Terms such as “god damn independent,” or GDI, are used in a derogatory way to describe non-Greeks, further separating students.
If Greek councils required students to wait a semester to rush, it would set a precedent for students to view themselves as a part of the collective UT community rather than belonging to an isolated group. Students could explore the hundreds of other UT organizations and clubs before joining Greek life the following semester. First impressions are everything — freshmen deserve the opportunity to explore what UT has to offer without jeopardizing their place in Greek life.
Martinez is a Plan II and government junior from Austin.