Author: Claudia Chow
Greek life in many schools (and bad movies) is characterized by a frat row overflowing with alcohol and sororities branded with pearls and good manners. Occidental’s interpretation of Greek life, however, strays from this mold. Although it is small, with only four sororities, three fraternities and one co-ed fraternity, perhaps the most substantial difference stems from the presence of local chapters in additional to national ones. Local Greek chapters are sororities Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha (Alpha) and Delta Omicron Tau (Delta), and the co-ed fraternity Zeta Tau Zeta (Zeta). As local sororities and fraternities, Alpha, Delta and Zeta are not members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and are the only chapters of that sorority in the country.
From this independence results an often different culture from national sororities and fraternities. Because it does not have to uphold guidelines instructed by national board members, sororities at Occidental like Alpha can create its own rules.
“We are not mandated by anyone else; we run ourselves,” Alpha President Emma Chapman (senior) said. ”Any changes we make are private, and we do not have to run them through a national organization.”
Alpha, founded as Occidental’s first sorority in 1900, currently has more than 60 members. Like Alpha, Delta only exists at Occidental and is not controlled by a large national association. Founded in 1901, Delta currently has 70 members. Delta House Risk Manager Kelsey Work (senior) likes how she knows exactly where her dues go because Delta is a local sorority. Delta President Andrea Holland (senior) agreed, saying she likes that Delta’s members have so much say in what they do.
“We are the only chapter of Delta anywhere, so it is a lot on us,” Holland said. “We get to decide a lot for the sorority, because unlike nationals, we do not have a large national chapter dictating how we function or how we are organized, so it comes down a lot on the current members.”
Zeta President Caroline Bringenberg (junior) echoed the positive sentiments of the two sororities about how involved and direct managing a local organization can be. Zeta was founded in 1926 and is the only co-ed fraternity on campus.
“Especially as a smaller organization, we are able to mold around our current members’ interests academically and philanthropically each semester,” Bringenberg said. “We are able to create or eliminate positions as we see fit, and decide where to prioritize our philanthropy based on the interests of the group.”
Alpha Vice President Katie Moriarty (senior) also likes how Alpha is able to create their own name for themselves, and cannot be judged or compared to its other chapters since they do not exist.
“You are not known for anything,” Moriarty said. ”You get to make your own reputation. It is like the body of girls that represent the sorority rather than the sorority representing those people.”
Since they do not need to incorporate fees required by a national organization, these local sororities also tend to have less expensive dues compared to those of national sororities.
“We are significantly cheaper, so I think it gives a lot more girls access to Alpha, because girls that wouldn’t be able to afford a national sorority can afford to be in Alpha,” Moriarty said.
Co-social chair of Alpha Juliah Ma (junior) also enjoys the lack of formality and relaxed vibe that comes with Alpha.
“It is formal to some extent, but there is also the casualness that a national sorority does not have,” Ma said. ”If you want to participate in an outside activity or job, Alpha is really accommodating and willing to work with you, because it is not that big of a deal if you miss a meeting.”
Another resulting twist in Occidental’s Greek culture is that the Greek nightlife is controlled mainly by the sororities instead of fraternities. At many schools, fraternities throw most of the parties while sororities have very strict rules about having no boys or alcohol in their houses.
However, because Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), the two national fraternities at Occidental, are on probation, and Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) does not have a house, the fraternities cannot enjoy this luxury. On the other hand, both Alpha and Delta have houses close to Occidental’s campus and do not have to adhere to a national set of rules, which allows them to throw more parties regularly.
The two sororities are also changing the rush process for this upcoming Spring term. Discussion among Alpha, Delta and Assistant Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Devon Maclver has led to the decision to change the open-bid process for the upcoming Formal Greek Recruitment.
They both currently have open-bid rush processes, meaning that if someone attends the sorority’s preference night, they will automatically get a bid. But because Occidental has been increasing in size and the number of students who are rushing is rising, they have decided to make the rush process close-bid to manage the spike in membership.
“In order to uphold our tight-knit and cultivated relationships, it is really hard to have an increasing size,” Chapman said. “We realized that we need to discuss options for making a smaller pledge class. We do not have anything in stone yet; we are discussing options for the spring of how to make it a smaller group.”
Ma said that although she does not want to be selective, she believes that having some sort of restriction would be beneficial for Alpha.
“It is not because we want to be exclusive, but because we have so many girls already that we just can’t accommodate all these girls,” Ma said.
Holland wants to maintain the close relationships within Delta, so she is looking toward alternatives of a capping system as well.
“With[out[ adding more sororities, it is harder to accommodate more people,” said Holland. ”We are looking toward alternatives of a capping system, just limiting the amount of people we can have.”
According to Co-Social Chair of Delta Kristen Treat (junior), some ideas of a capping system have been some sort of an academic process or having girls turn in their preference to a sorority in a timely matter.
“We are trying to find a process that is fair, but will make sense for numbers,” said Treat.
Beyond rush, these local Greek organizations function very much like other sororities or fraternities with has ties to national networks. Alpha participates in community service, fundraising and philanthropy events throughout the year, such as Relay for Life and Walk for Hope. They also hold mixers and social events at Occidental, including Toga held earlier last month.
Alpha’s core philosophy focuses on sisterhood, with trust and support for all of its members. Chapman further expressed how Alpha supports its members in completing their scholarship and community service goals.
“We just uphold everything that Occidental upholds, so we support each other in all the things we want to do,” Chapman said.
When asked what makes Alpha unique, Ma said she appreciates the diversity of interests among the girls.
“Alpha is such an eclectic group of girls,” Ma said. ”You don’t get one specific type of girl; you get girls from different majors, different areas, just so many girls with different interests that it just works so well because you have these different pieces that fit so well together.”
Because Alpha only exists at Occidental, their alumni network is very private and only consists of past Occidental students. However, Chapman said Alpha has been working to uphold their network and to make it just as powerful as that of a national sorority.
Like Alpha, Delta participates in community service, fundraising and philanthropy, and also holds different events on campus, such as the Delta Dance-A-Thon happening this Saturday.
According to Treat, the sorority focuses on four different aspects: friendship and sisterhood, scholarship, service and philanthropy, and social.
“We are really big on community service, and about building relationships between members,” Holland said.
According to Work, Delta consists of many girls who are very involved with a wide variety of activities on campus.
“I am sure that there is a Delta in just about every club or organization on campus,” Work said. ”Every woman is very unique within Delta.”
By having many of its members involved all around campus, Work ultimately hopes to integrate Delta into the Occidental community and also reach out off campus.
“The goal of our sorority is to become more involved with the campus, with Occidental, and encourage our members to become more involved with the L.A. community,” Work said.
Bringenberg expressed that she already believes that these Greek organizations have made a significant impact on campus.
“I think that local organizations are a really important part of Oxy’s history as well.” Bringenberg said. ”Delta, Alpha and Zeta have all been around for decades, and are very ingrained in life on campus, which I think allows its’ members to feel closer to the campus community and history.”
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.