Boston College doesn’t have any Greek life on campus. Or so I was told. For some, this was the selling point of BC—for others, it was a disappointment still being dealt with. No matter how you felt about the lack of Greek life on campus upon arrival, you may have since realized that BC is not as Greek-less as it lets on. Whether you’ve been here for three months or three years, you’ve no doubt noticed just how important clubs and student organizations are to our campus culture. It's apparent that these associations fill the void of fraternities and sororities, for better or for worse.
Greek life is a huge part of college culture at other universities, and it has the potential to be a positive influence on student members. Many Greek life organizations pride themselves on encouraging leadership and building community. Some prioritize philanthropy. Fraternity and sorority organizations also have a reputation for hosting parties and social events that allow students to branch out and meet new people. According to an article from U.S. News, the main reasons students join Greek organizations is to meet like-minded people, find networking opportunities, and go to parties.
BC students crave the same social opportunities offered by Greek life, but with no fraternities or sororities to turn to, where do they go? The answer? Clubs. Boston College has over 300 student organizations on campus, and if you went to the activities fair in September, you know they’re well attended. Joining one of these organizations is a cut-throat operation. Most require an application or resume and, in some cases, several rounds of interviews.
Only a lucky few make it through the interview process, as many clubs are extremely selective when it comes to new members. Campus Activities Board is rumored to only accept 20 new freshmen every year. This is shockingly low as they’re one of the largest student organizations on campus. Many qualified candidates were struck from organizations they were passionate about and, in many instances, now find themselves on the outside of BC’s social scene.
For their members, student organizations assume the role of a fraternity or sorority in planning social events and more. Since most undergrads live on campus, there isn’t much of an open-invite party scene for new students. Most events that freshmen are invited to are put on by student organizations. This is a really great way to expand your social circle if you’re lucky enough to be in a club, but it can be incredibly isolating to the students who couldn’t join. They end up without a social group to call their own.
Clubs are also a huge part of the way that underclassmen meet older students. Sororities in particular are famous for their big-sis little-sis pair-off, and many of BC clubs, including The Gavel, have adopted this structure as well. Student organizations will create “families” or mentorship groups that include both under and upperclassmen. The upperclassmen typically offer advice and guidance to younger students—and in turn the underclassmen get to feel like they have older students in their corner. For the groups Ascend and Freshman League, this is all they do, and those are even separated by gender like Greek organizations. Both clubs also have extensive applications and interview processes.
Boston College is proud of it’s frat-free campus, but perhaps it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror. BC has just managed to keep the exclusivity of fraternities without the scrutiny they attract. I should clarify that I prefer a campus without Greek life. Fraternities on college campuses have been linked to the deaths of students in hazing incidents on many occasions, and members have faced criminal charges. Additionally, there is a long and horrifying history of sexual violence linked to faternities. Just this week, Boston University suspended one of its largest Greek organizations due to similar accusations.
However, it should be noted that the system we have at BC isn't without consequence. The way clubs and student organizations operate on campus is highly exclusive and ends up leaving students out. Nonetheless, I believe that BC student organizations have the potential to become an equalizing force on campus. Without the lofty fees of fraternities and sorority organizations, clubs are accessible to a wider portion of the student body. On the same note, most (but not all) student organizations are not separated by gender. This allows anyone to join, including students who do not identify within the traditional gender binary.
My hope for BC clubs and student organizations is that they find a way to keep the sense of community and belonging they build, while abolishing the highly exclusive nature they invoke. That way, BC will be a truly frat-free campus.