by Amelia Calkin
Content Editor: Magazine
Greek Life at Rochester University over the years has veered from a robust set of social clubs that formed the center of student life on campus to almost non-existence with few group activities, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic years.
Now, Greek Life at RU is on the road to recovery after the lean pandemic years and is a way for students to get involved with on-campus events, whether they’re commuters or living on campus.
Most universities across the country have at least one fraternity and one sorority on their campuses, and those are usually national chapters with a board of officers.
Unlike those other universities, RU’s three chapters are local and unique to its campus. Students can join the male fraternity Epsilon Theta Chi, the female sorority Omicron Omega Zeta, or the all-gender club Sigma Phi Delta Nu.
During the pandemic, Omicron and Theta Chi found themselves struggling to plan events for their clubs because of restrictions that hindered the building of community and culture. Due to the lack of events, many students were unaware of Greek Life on campus. Participation and membership in both clubs decreased.
Sigma Phi Delta Nu had disbanded several years before the pandemic even hit, but in 2021, Dr. Naomi Walters, professor and chair, Department of Theology and Ministry, and Katelyn Hargrave, spiritual life coordinator, who were members of Sigma Phi when they were students, determined to start it back up.
“My time as a member (and an officer) of SPDN was formative to me, as an opportunity to practice leadership skills within the club, to practice living in community with diverse folks inside the club, and to practice hospitality to all students on campus,” Walters said.
“Because being in SPDN served all those important purposes for me as a student, it matters to me that this is the same kind of opportunity I make space for as a sponsor.”
Walters also believed that relaunching the all-gender club would help more students be engaged in Greek Life. “I know many people who have found the ‘men-only’ and ‘women-only’ spaces available in Greek Life as meaningful, and that’s great! It seemed like there was also a need for a club for all genders, where folks could have a space to practice healthy inter-gender friendships too.”
Thus with the relaunching of Sigma Phi and life returning to normal on campus after the pandemic, Greek Life is rebounding and hoping to thrive in the coming years. Students looking for a sense of community and belonging can investigate the various clubs and decide which one is the best fit for them.
Brian Petty, residence hall director and student activities coordinator, encourages students to consider being a part of a social club because they “provide opportunities to create core memories through fun activities, but also through service.”
Nate Lightstein, president of Theta Chi and senior psychology major, said Greek Life is important for a sense of belonging it gives to students. “Real relationships are created through Greek Life, and lasting impacts are made. Students don’t attend club events simply for the fun of it or for any status that may be a result of joining, rather, they do so to find community.”
Each club has officers that represent and run the clubs: president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and a spiritual life coordinator to help the group build its faith. The clubs all work and serve with nonprofit justice partners throughout the year.
In past decades at the university, Greek Life was known for its club versus club competitions, including intramurals and Celebration, an annual variety show. Intramurals were a series of competitions between each Greek Life club and other teams. Both were open to all of campus, which let anyone, even those not members of a club, participate in the activity.
In 2022, Greek Life is rebuilding and doing better already with the overall participation, spirit and life on campus increasing.
Some hope to see past club competitions, such as Celebration and intramurals, return, and they also envision new events that will be hosted by the three Greek organizations.
“The more things we can do to provide folks with the opportunity to participate and belong, the better,” Hargrave said.
Each club now seems to be thriving in comparison to years past. “We have created a very special bond with each other and all of our members are committed to creating a sisterhood,” said Layla Cypher, president of Omicron and senior mass communication major.
Israel Henson, sophomore behavioral science major, joined Sigma Phi in the spring and he said being involved with Greek Life has given him multiple opportunities as a commuter to make friends and come to campus for more activities.
Overall, Greek Life is continuing to grow with more events and more opportunities to work together and thrive in the RU community.