Photo Illustration by Tebben Gill Lopez
Over the past two weeks, Nick Ferry ‘17 and Matthew Peacock ‘17 have been working together to gather support from classmates and the administration to start Greek life at Fairfield.
After agreeing that Fairfield lacks in school spirit, Ferry and Peacock decided they would try to improve the university by giving Greek life a home at Fairfield.
Seeing the lack of school spirit and community “bothers us,” said Ferry.
STARTING A MOVEMENT
Ferry and Peacock became interested in starting Greek life at Fairfield after hearing about what it has to offer from their friends at other schools, mostly larger universities in the south. Both freshman business majors, they knew Fairfield didn’t have Greek life when they chose to attend and do not regret their decision.
On Thursday evening, they will be discussing implementing Greek life at Fairfield at FUSA’s Presidential Open Forum in the Lower Level Barone Campus Center. Karen Donoghue, dean of students, and Tom Pellegrino, vice president for student affairs, are scheduled to be in attendance.
“Hopefully we can pack the Lower Level BCC,” said Ferry.
According to Janice Herbert ‘15, chair of the Council Of Student Organizations, Greek life will not be the primary focus of the presidential forum, but rather a “heavier weighted conversation topic.”
“I think it’s going to spark some great conversation … it’s something that is very open to discussion and would obviously change Fairfield’s culture somehow,” Herbert added.
Recently, Ferry and Peacock have created a Facebook group (219 members as of Nov. 20) and hung flyers around campus, advertising their efforts. They also met with FUSA class presidents from the freshman, sophomore and senior classes. They have gained support from both FUSA and COSO.
“We need as much support as we can get,” said Peacock.
Both Ferry and Peacock agree that they are in the early stages of this process, but they are glad for the support. Ferry and Peacock will be speaking on the open floor at the presidential forum, according to Herbert, where anyone has the ability to speak.
The two have also been in contact with J.D. Ford, director of expansion and recruitment for Theta Chi, which is an international fraternity with more than 6,700 undergraduate members nationwide.
The two students agree that they will not have any trouble getting students to pledge. “That’s the easy part. The hard part will be turning people down,” said Ferry.
With a negative stigma surrounding Greek life and its effects on Fairfield, Ferry said, “Greek life here wouldn’t run the school … there are plenty of other clubs and organizations out there that don’t run the school.”
WHAT DO THE STUDENTS WANT?
One hundred eighty nine students were surveyed to gauge their interests in Greek life at Fairfield. 47.62 percent of the students surveyed said they support the idea of having fraternities and sororities at Fairfield. 40.21 percent of students said they did not support the idea, and 12.17 percent were impartial.
However, of the 189 students surveyed, a majority of 51.85 percent said they would consider pledging if Fairfield had fraternities and sororities. 35.45 percent said they would not consider pledging, and 12.70 percent were impartial.
Herbert said that for Greek life to be approved, it would not be an easy process. “Step one is basically showing that the students want it, and that’s with the open forum,” said Herbert. Fred Kuo, director of student involvement, Donoghue and Pellegrino would also need to provide support.
“To a certain degree, students either want it or don’t want it, and it will really come down to the numbers of students that are there in support and against it,” said Alex Long ‘14, FUSA president.
According to Joe Villarosa ‘16, Greek life “would only encourage further social segregation. Fairfield students tend to be clique-y, and fraternities and sororities would only make this problem worse,” stated Villarosa
Father Michael Doody, S.J., however, said that “friendship circles are always exclusive, whether they’re fraternities or sororities or not.”
“I just don’t see the point in not having fraternities or sororities,” stated Novy Thaib ‘16. “Why would you deny having the advantage of being able to collaborate with other campus organizations and putting on social events to help keep the student body feel like they’re connected to Fairfield University?”
Thaib stated: “It helps students coming into a brand new school feel like they are a part of something right off the bat, it builds their leadership interpersonal skills, and introduces them to people from different backgrounds which can lead to a more open minded and accepting community.”
Sophomore Molly Camp stated: “Greek life creates a divide in society. If you look at how people are placed into sororities, you see that they can tend to be materialistic. In order to grow as a society, we must break barriers and show that we are all equal and Greek life takes society back instead of forward.”
“This is one of the biggest opportunities for them to publicize the idea of having Greek life at Fairfield, and to really capitalize on getting students there in numbers to show the dean and the administration that students want to bring Greek life to this university,” said Long.
“I think that they have great intentions, and that everything they have done so far has been well thought-out, but it’s going to take a lot more than what they’ve done so far to get to where they want to go,” said Long. However, he thinks that “Dean Donoghue and Tom Pellegrino will be very receptive to the idea of Greek life.
“I told them, ‘You have to address the negatives, but you have to outweigh the negatives with the positives this will bring to the community,’” he said. According to Long, Ferry and Peacock are doing it for the right reasons.
Assuming they can receive proper approval, Ferry and Peacock want to have Greek life at Fairfield by fall of 2014. However, Herbert highly doubts that would be a possibility.
According to Herbert, policy in the Student Handbook forbids Fairfield from recognizing any Greek affiliations on campus. “It is beyond COSO’s power to approve or deny Greek organizations,” said Herbert.
However, there are unrecognized Greek organizations that exist on campus.
Herbert belongs to Epsilon Sigma Phi, a Greek sorority that has about 10 Fairfield students and is connected to the Epsilon Sigma Phi chapter at Stony Brook University. Another Greek organization at Fairfield is Omega Phi Kappa, Multi-Cultural Fraternity Inc.
Some students label these organizations as “underground Greek organizations,” but that label is rather incorrect, according to Herbert.
“They are not recognized by the university so everyone runs to the term ‘underground,’ and it’s not underground – it’s just not recognized by the university. It’s as simple as that – We’re not in a burrow hole doing witchcraft or anything,” said Herbert.
The Fairfield University Board of Trustees has the sole authority to amend that clause, Herbert explained.
Last year, FUSA President Robert Vogel ’13 presented to the Board all of the potential benefits of Greek life, and according to Herbert, “It was a way of bringing it up to the table … it was just the positives that were presented and discussed.”
Fr. Michael Doody, S.J., was keen to address and dispel some of the potential worries to having Greek life at Fairfield.
“People talk about Greek life and drinking – Well, I think there’d be less drinking on campus if we had Greek life,” said Doody. According to Doody, fraternity insurance costs are very high; therefore “they’re risk averse.”
“People who join Greek life look to join Greek life for fraternity, brotherhood, sisterhood, for real close personal relationships that will last a lifetime,” Doody said. “Greek life is unique in that way. You can’t get that from living on second-floor Gonzaga.”
Ferry said Greek life would have the ability put on events that students would “actually want to go to … like three-on-three basketball and flag football tournaments,” he said. “It would be a great way of meeting new people and making new friends, even if you’re not in the fraternity.”
According to Doody, residential colleges don’t even come close to comparing to Greek life. “The Greeks run their own community. They have traditions that are national, that are for each chapter on campus. It brings something unique and different to the table.”
Bringing Greek life to Fairfield would definitely enhance the university, according to Doody. “Service is a major component of every Greek organization I know,” said Doody.
According to Herbert, if the students can gather the necessary support from Donoghue and Pellegrino, then the issue is in the hands of the Board of Trustees.
According to Long, Ferry and Peacock “both have good heads on their shoulders and they have good intentions. They know what they want to accomplish by bringing Greek life to Fairfield.”
He continued, “They had a clear vision and goals that they want Greek life to accomplish on this campus that they currently don’t see as being prevalent on this campus – one being school spirit and I most definitely took that into consideration and it made me want to help them because you don’t want to shut the door on students who have so much drive in making a change … We’re here to open those doors and to give these opportunities to students.”