Beach. Townhouses. Apartments.
These are three things that come to your head when one thinks of campus life here at Fairfield University. But one thing that would never come to mind is Greek life.
For most Fairfield University students Greek life is a system they are neither familiar with nor knowledgeable about.
Many students believe that Fairfield University doesn’t have fraternities and sororities because of Jesuit beliefs and ideals.
However 46% of Jesuit universities have Greek systems. Among these are universities such as Georgetown and Marquette.
Others still believe that Fairfield lacks a Greek system because it is simply too small.
However Collegeprowler.com, a college search website “by students, for students” which receives more than 1 million hits a month by high school and college students, list 12 of their top 15 Greek system universities as having an enrollment of 5,000 or fewer.
So what’s the deal with Greek life at Fairfield University?
Greek Life at Fairfield University
Fairfield University was founded in 1942. Since its founding, the University has neither had nor allowed Greek life.
Traditionally Greek life was not allowed at Jesuit universities because it was seen as counter-productive to Jesuit ideals.
In an interview with the Fairfield Mirror in 2004 President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J. stated, “It wasn’t just the Jesuits; it was the Catholic Church that opposed fraternities at Catholic universities.”
But that’s not the reason for the lack of a Greek system at Fairfield University.
In an interview with the Dean of Students, Karen Donoghue specifically explained that being a Jesuit University is not why there is not Greek life at Fairfield University.
Rather Fairfield administration says there is no Greek system because we simply don’t need it.
“We have many other organizations that fit the needs and the purposes most Greek life programs have,” said Donoghue. “For instance, students can participate in service projects through campus ministry.”
Donoghue stated that programs’ and organizations’ success or failure is measured through student surveys conducted throughout the year.
Director of Student Activities Matt Dinnan agreed, stating that there is no Greek life because students have not demonstrated that the University already provides anything students would get from a Greek system, and that there’s nothing students have mentioned needing that the universities division of student activities does not already provide, or could provide, through the creation of a non-Greek club or organization.
However, the Director of Campus Ministry Father Michael Doody, S.J. says that nothing compares to being a part of Greek life.
Doody, a Fairfield University graduated, has worked at St. Louis University for the majority of his career where he described the Greek life to be one of the finer aspects of the Jesuit institution.
”There’s a brotherhood and a sisterhood amongst Greek life that doesn’t compare to anything else on campus [here],” said Doody.
A Step in the Greek Direction
Omega Phi Kappa Multi-cultural Fraternity, Inc. Ring a bell? If not, you’ve probably seen fellow students wearing OPK shirts around school.
Omega Phi Kappa (OPK), a fraternity based out of Sacred Heart University, was founded in 1995. Fairfield students also can join.
“We are a colony of Sacred Heart’s chapter, and we are very much official,” said Jeff Carter, current President of OPK’s Fairfield colony.
A colony is similar to a chapter but is unrecognized by the University.
According to Fairfield’s student policy, “The University does not recognize or permit fraternities or sororities, or any other secret or ritualized societies, clubs or organizations.”
However this has not stopped the brothers of OPK from not only establishing themselves at Fairfield but recruiting Fairfield students as well, another violation of student policy.
University administration stated that OPK is just rumor and that they have heard about them in past years but have heard nothing from this current academic year.
“We put on events and activities for the University,” said Jordan Thames, an active member of OPK at Fairfield University.
“On top of that we greatly affect diversity here at Fairfield in that we are a multi-cultural fraternity,” Thames said.
Carter agreed. “Bringing more ethnicities to FU does make the school more diverse,” he said. “But it doesn’t necessarily diversify the school because it’s not guaranteed that the groups will integrate,” something OPK strives to do and feels it exceeds in.
Although Carter did not have much to say about becoming official at Fairfield ,he did say, “We are an organization that gives back. Those who have joined have learned life lessons and have built bonds with people that will well exceed their time at Fairfield University.”
Currently 24 Fairfield University students are a part of the Omega Phi Kappa brotherhood.
What Do You Think Now?
Greek systems can be quite intimidating. For those who do not know Greek from a first hand experience, many of their ideas of Greeks are muddied by college movies and comedies like Animal House.
Several participants in Greek life said they not only see an improvement in their social lives, but also in their academic lives and their growth as functioning adult members of society.
Supporters described Fairfield as a place with not only little to do, but also little student participation.
If students truly want Greek life then Fairfield wants students to do something about it.
“There has never been a student forum called to discuss Greek life,” Dinnan said, “but it is a conversation we should be able to have and would have if the students showed that is what they wanted.”