Maribeth Flakes, Associate Director, Office of Student Involvement & Leadership
Fraternity and sorority life has been my major area of focus now for 14 years. Meeting new people and explaining student affairs to the general public is hard enough but further explaining that I work advising fraternities and sororities, well, sometimes I can’t finish my sentence before some stereotype comes rolling off their tongue. Listen, I get it, the stuff that makes the news is not our best showing, its often harmful, offensive, and downright embarrassing and I will be the first to call that out, but the truth is, if it was always like that, and If every student who is affiliated made those kinds of choices, none of us would stick around to work with them. For me, there is something really special and awesome about working with fraternities and sororities. I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work with communities who want to be leaders on their campus, who want to be known as scholars, who leave lasting contributions before they leave campus, and students who genuinely have found a passion for an organization that has values that naturally align with theirs or sometimes provide a pathway for learning what values are important to them and help them to be the person they wish and hope to be.
Let’s talk about BSU students and what we know, many of our students are first generation, most work a part time job, sometimes many jobs. Prospective candidates ask me how I would describe our students and I always say, appreciative. Our BSU students are grateful for the opportunity to be here and for the time many of us spend helping to make their experience great. I’m preaching to choir on this one, I know. You all see it in your role on campus every day. So I want to tell you a little secret… our fraternity and sorority members are… BSU students! I have found that sometimes it can be forgotten and the members of Greek letter organizations can be clumped together as a collective of students who are trouble makers or less serious about their education. The truth is, and naturally I am biased, but we have something really special here at BSU. Our members work really hard to prove to the campus and beyond that they are proud of their organization, their members, and our University. We know that nearly all, over 90% of our members, pay their own dues with no help from family. This experience is important to them, the same first generation students who work part time jobs to support their education are also saving their money to pay dues to an organization that is important to them. Fraternities and sororities, when done right and advised well, provide amazing opportunities for skill development that can prepare members for future employment. Chapter Presidents of our campus sororities oversee an organization with sometimes 75+ members, Treasurers of our chapters are truly chief financial officers to non profit organizations who collect dues and assign late fees to members who do not fulfill their membership responsibilities. Our chapter officers have tough conversations with members who are struggling academically to sometimes make the difficult choice to step back from involvement so they can take advantage of the resources on campus to help them succeed at their top priority, their academics. I’ll be honest, the close relationships created in fraternity and sorority life help me, as an administrator, know about students who may be struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse so I can reach out and see how I may direct those members to resources. I feel honored to have been able to help students at a time when they truly needed it throughout my career in higher education.
Here is how you can help be an advocate for our fraternity and sorority community, support their choice to be in a fraternity/sorority and seek to understand the ‘why’ for them. What you think of our fraternity and sorority members matters to them, they want this University to be proud of them. When you are engaging in conversations with members ask them why they joined, ask them to tell you about the values of their organization and how it positively contributes to BSU. I know many of them would welcome the opportunity to share with you why this experience is important to them.
Personally, I am hopeful the next time you speak with colleagues in the field or amongst our University you speak of “the Greeks” in a really positive and supportive way, they (and me) are always looking for allies to support their efforts to live their values every day and to challenge and support them along their collegiate journey.
BSU Fraternity & Sorority Fun Facts
- In the spring of 2016- 152 sorority women made Dean’s List and 22 of them earned a 4.0, 64 of our men’s fraternity members made Dean’s List and 5 of them earned a 4.0
- 5 out of 6 of the top fundraising teams for Relay for Life 2016 were fraternities and sororities!
- Delta Phi Epsilon sorority- $10,841.
- Gamma Phi Beta sorority- $8,698.
- Sigma Pi fraternity- $7,761.
- Phi Sigma Sigma sorority- $6,565.
- Alpha Sigma Tau sorority- $4,285.
- All Fraternity/Sorority Average GPA for spring 2016 was 3.19
- There are over 460 students affiliated in fraternities and sororities at BSU
- There are 10 recognized Greek letter organizations, 4 National Panhellenic Conference sororities, 5 North American Interfraternity Conference fraternities, and 1 local co-ed fraternity that only exist here at BSU