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Greek life at Clemson is growing: Here’s why

Clemson News // Courtesy
Last academic year, chapter members spent 72,479 hours performing community service, and $1,123,199.08 was raised for chapter philanthropies.

In the last five years, student membership in Clemson Greek Life has been at an all-time high, increasing 35.7% since 2018, with 58.4% of members coming from out-of-state. These percentages were just announced at the October board of trustees quarterly meeting by Gary Wiser, the assistant dean of fraternity and sorority life at Clemson.

There are many reasons for this increase in numbers.

“One of the primary reasons people join a fraternity or sorority initially is for friendship and to be a part of a smaller network within the larger campus community,” Wiser said. “There are also so many opportunities for students to serve in formal leadership roles like an executive officer, committee chair, or event chair within the fraternities and sororities.”

More than 35% (35.8%) of undergraduate women are in sororities, and 18.7% of undergraduate men are in fraternities, totaling almost one-third of Clemson’s student body.

One Greek life leader explained to The Tiger why the organizations are so attractive to students.

“Our community is a brotherhood, and that’s what it provides as a baseline across the board. It varies throughout, though. Some chapters have really strong alumni bases, and that’s a really big draw. Other chapters do really well on specific philanthropy, or they’re adamant about certain brotherhood events.

“That’s where you start to see people choosing different chapters over others, but at the end of the day, our chapters provide a community, and I think that’s what people find the most important,” John Shoemaker, Clemson Interfraternity Council President and member of Phi Gamma Delta, said.

Shoemaker was nationally recognized as one of 12 recipients that received the Undergraduate Award of Distinction from the North American Interfraternity Conference this August, which recognizes fraternity men who are exemplary leaders of their organizations and serve their brothers, campuses and communities with “humble confidence.”

For many, joining Greek life also allows for a smoother transition to college, where students can easily find a smaller community, according to Gabi Villicana, the Clemson Panhellenic Council president.

There are four councils that structure Clemson’s Greek Life chapters, which include the Clemson Multicultural Greek Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the College Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council. Each group oversees various chapters and provides a support system and structure for each chapter.

MCG is an umbrella council for four multicultural Greek-letter organizations, while NPHC serves as the governing council for nine historically African-American fraternities and sororities. CPA consists of 13 National Panhellenic Conference chapters on campus, and IFC has a total of 23 fraternity chapters that are active. These make up a total of 49 chapters active on Clemson’s campus.

“The structure that all of the councils provide, not just IFC, is very close-knit and supportive. In IFC, we have our own individual coaching sessions with an adviser and will meet one-on-one with chapter presidents.” Shoemaker told The Tiger in an interview. “Although each council slightly differs in structure, we all have the same goal of serving our chapters.”

Leadership opportunities are also annually offered to members, with each chapter and council offering multiple opportunities to members where age isn’t a major factor. Anyone is allowed to step up and run for a position, and diverse leadership is strongly encouraged.

Greek Life also provides support to the Clemson community by giving back through philanthropic events and fundraisers. Last academic year, chapter members spent 72,479 hours performing community service, and $1,123,199.08 was raised for chapter philanthropies, according to the 2023 Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Report.

“In Zeta Tau Alpha, we put on various philanthropic events to raise money for Breast Cancer awareness and education,” Bailee Tayles, a sophomore English major, told The Tiger. “Having the opportunity to engage in a philanthropy that is helping to save so many lives all while bonding and growing closer to my friends is such a special opportunity.”

Some events that the CPA participates in are pop-up shops that support businesses of local women and panhellenic members, with proceeds that go to GirlUp GVL, a local nonprofit organization that supports women’s development. CPA also holds a dance competition annually between its chapters to raise money for its mission to “initiate early, life-changing success by empowering our girls to reach their highest potential. Our programs are geared towards creating experiences for our students to lead to greater enrichment and empowerment,” according to Villicana.

Although Greek Life provides students with community, structure and philanthropic opportunities, there is still a lingering reputation about Clemson’s hazing allegations in the past, according to Shoemaker.

“We do have issues, and every campus does, but we are very fortunate to not have the volume or severity of issues that other campuses do,” Shoemaker told The Tiger. “We work hard from the start to put our chapters and all information in front of them. This is where we have had issues in the past. When stuff does happen, though, we work really hard to hold them accountable.”

In response to previous hazing allegations and incidents, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, along with the four governing councils, sponsor educational and training programs for a variety of audience sizes using different delivery methods each year.

Over the past two years, both Kappa Alpha and Alpha Gamma Rho have been investigated for possible hazing. Alpha Gamma Rho was officially suspended from July 20, 2023, until May 14, 2027.

In light of these allegations, FSL has worked to improve its peer-led new member education process to make new members knowledgeable of the dangers of hazing.

In June 2023, Clemson News reported that the Clemson IFC was one of the six award winners of the Laurel Wreath Award for its new member education series, where it earned acclaim for its peer-led new member education process.

“We were fortunate enough to present alongside Cindy Hipps at the beginning of the year in front of all new members before they began their processes to discuss how hazing affects our University,” Shoemaker said.

Alumni benefits are another reason why Greek Life brings in a continuously large number of members as well, according to Wiser. Getting involved allows members to join an extensive international alumni network.

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Emma Vick
Emma Vick, Asst. News Editor
Juliana Coates
Juliana Coates, News Editor
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