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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSC chapter.

UC Santa Cruz is known for a lot of things. Our memorable mascot, the beautiful redwoods, and its history of activism just to name a few. There’s one thing, however, that Santa Cruz likes to treat as if it doesn’t exist, and that’s the Greek Letter community. First, some background information, as I’m assuming that most students don’t know very much about the sororities and fraternities that call Santa Cruz home. 

Sororities and fraternities, together called the Greek Letter Organizations or GLO, are social, academic, and philanthropic interest groups. There are 16 organizations but only make up less than 5% of the student population. The first GLO, a local sorority, came to Santa Cruz in the 1980s. The community began to grow after Gamma Phi Beta, the first Panhellenic sorority on campus, was established in 1990. (Panhellenic is an umbrella term for 26 national and international sororities. As of today, UC Santa Cruz has three.) As quickly as GLOs came to campus, those against Greek life came just as fast.

After the first organizations established on campus came an anti-greek letter movement called SAGE. The Students Against Greek Experience wanted to ban GLOs from the UC. However, considering we have a small but dedicated Greek Letter community, SAGE failed in this goal. The animosity that drove SAGE is still present at UC Santa Cruz today.

I would like it known that I’m not writing this as an impartial observer, commenting on what I’ve learned in almost four years at UC Santa Cruz, but as a member of the Greek community. I’ve been a member of a sorority almost as long as I have been a student at Santa Cruz, so I’ve seen and heard a lot about what the general student body thinks of GLOs.

There’s the stereotypical stuff that’s perpetuated by the media. “Oh, sororities pay for their friends,” “All srats/frats do is party,” or my personal favorite “Why are you in a sorority? You’re smarter than that.” I’ve more or less gotten used to that stuff over the years. I mean, if all they know about sororities and fraternities is from “House Bunny,” the actuality is going to be a stark difference.

 The UC Santa Cruz specific prejudice still stings though. The looks I get when I wear sorority shirts, the snickers when I tell people what organizations I belong to. Even professors who saw me in my sorority letter sweatshirt would give me looks, as if because I was in a sorority, I wasn’t academically driven. 

And to a degree, I understand. UC Santa Cruz was born out of student protest, for a need of a UC that went against the harmful academic traditions that most higher education institutions possess. Greek Letter Organizations, as traditional and broken as they are, go against that spirit of UCSC. It also doesn’t help that GLOs, during their history on campus, have had allegations of racism, sexual harassment and assault, and fish grilling. I’m not saying that any of these things are okay by any means, but I know that individual organizations, with guidance from the school, are striving to make lasting, positive changes.

Before finishing this article, I did want to talk about what it’s actually like to be in a GLO. For one thing, the assumption that sorority or fraternity members don’t care about academics is the furthest thing from the truth. The members of GLOs are some of the smartest, most driven people I’ve ever met. The average GPA of sororities and fraternities members is continually higher than the school averages. They’re also some of the most successful people, both during college and after graduation. Members are able to take what they learned in their organizations and apply those skills to real world situations. We also raise money for local and international organizations, volunteer in the community, and offer resources and support for our members.

I’m by no means telling you that you should join a Greek Letter Organization. I mean, if this article inspires you to join one, that’s amazing. But, the point I’m trying to make here is that the Greek life community at UC Santa Cruz is composed of driven and dedicated people, not the slacking partiers that you would expect. Please treat them with the kindness and respect you give the rest of the student body.

Hi y'all! I'm Elise and I'm a History and Politics double major and Classical Studies minor. When I'm not holed up in the library, I love to hike, journal, make coffee, and wander through museums.