【明報專訊】The first question my friends ask me when they find out that I'm studying in the US is ''what the fraternities and sororities like?'' If you didn't know, fraternities and sororities (frats) are student organisations found at many American universities. Most frats have their own houses and dining rooms where their members eat and live together. To join them, you have to first participate in a round of social events where you and the frat get to know each other, a process known as ''rushing''. Then, if the frat decides to accept the student, they offer them a ''bid'' and the student can then ''pledge'' to accept the offer. Greek life, as frats are collectively known, is seen by many as a cornerstone of American college life, where you forge lifelong friendships in a tight-knit community, have fun, volunteer for the community, build leadership skills and make connections that are useful for the future. Others are vehemently against it for the toxic values it promotes and the tragic accidents that have become all too frequent. Many frats have dangerous rituals or initiation processes (known as ''hazing'' or ''dirty rushing''), which involve an obscene amount of alcohol and violence. In November 2019 alone, four died from causes related to Greek life. To add to that, Greek life has been accused of being elitist (made for the wealthy), misogynistic and racist.
At my university around a quarter of students participate in Greek life, and I have heard some good things from people who are in them, such as living with your best friends and having a strong sense of community. That said, Greek life has been in the centre of COVID outbreaks on campus. During normal times, frats throw the biggest parties, and they haven't stopped doing that in a pandemic. For all its detriments to the community and beyond, one thing is sure: Greek life isn't going away anytime soon.
Alice is a freshman at Cornell University intending to major in Economics and Computer Science, having previously studied in the UK for six years. A lover of languages, she studies French, Italian, Japanese and picks up bits of other languages when she can.