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Greek life utilizes cult-like tactics for recruiting members

Jonathan Janasik, News Editor

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I’m convinced that frats and sororities are wearing ancient symbols on hooded sweatshirts in order to make contact with alien life forms. I know that the symbols are actually Greek letters, but the imagery of alien-worshipping frat boys is too amusing so I like to pretend. To be fair, I actually believe that it isn’t much of a stretch because fraternities and cults have more than a passing resemblance.

Let’s get the obvious similarities out of the way first. Both frats and cults prey on young, lonely, and susceptible individuals by promising some form of unity. That bond is further connected by the way the members of the group communicate. They call each other “brothers” or “sisters” as if to say that everyone was part of a family. The idea that you’ll always be a part of the group is accepted and celebrated by both cults and frats.

There seems to be a need to justify the group’s unnecessary existence. For example frats will often boast about how they do community service. But you don’t need to be in a frat to do community service. Cults will say that they create lifelong friends, as if people looking for friends couldn’t simply join a book club.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if the underlying themes of these groups didn’t seem so sinister. Frats and cults are basically looking for two things: people’s time and money. You’ll always see both types of groups stressing the importance of recruiting and it wouldn’t be outlandish to believe that the main desire behind this is gain more manpower to get more of those two resources. The odd part is that it’s justified using completely emotional terms, like the aforementioned promise of a second family that will be with you for an eternity.

This desire to control the reputation of the groups is an admitted concern to both frats and cults. A lot of frats try to call themselves fraternities to distance themselves from the negative view that the public holds.  They’re trying to distance themselves from the reputation that they themselves have created. A cult may call itself a religious institution, but if it still has all of the properties of a cult, then it still is a cult.

That’s the main problem, the deceptive nature of these groups. In one hand they try to like an important happy-go lucky part of the community while still embracing the traditions that gave them their negative reputations to begin with. And when they have your trust and money, they get you with the jungle juice/Kool-Aid.

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34 Comments

34 Responses to “Greek life utilizes cult-like tactics for recruiting members”

  1. Debbie Eddy on April 25th, 2014 2:20 pm

    It seems that you aren’t quite aware of how things work. Every organization in the world, whether a religious group, a corporation, a place you volunteer at, wants your time, your money, or both. They expect your loyalty and your efforts, and they are willing to give you something in return.
    Your time also suggests that people who join fraternities or sororities are all lonely, sad people have been unable to make friends anywhere else. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a large number of people that join these groups are highly social, outgoing individuals. The same type of person that later becomes an entrepreneur, a nurse, a lawyer.

  2. Nick Dobson on April 25th, 2014 4:50 pm

    I joined as a 21 year old junior. You sir have no idea what you are talking about.

  3. Kristin Thomas on April 25th, 2014 5:05 pm

    I think you should have educated yourself on Greek life at SRU before you opened your mouth. I can say my experience and officer positions within my chapter and with Greek Life helped me get into graduate school and get a good job. Further, I don’t see you or your friends trying to grant another wish for a child in need. If you took the time and really got to know the organizations you would know that each of them stand for more than just what they wear on their chest. Also, you’ll come to find as you go into the real world that organizations all have their own rituals, missions as well as dues

  4. Ian Reade Heilman on April 25th, 2014 5:05 pm

    I would like to hear your opinion on how being in a cult helps with your resume. Since they are basically the same thing, shouldn’t be too hard for you.

  5. Kelli Hodges on April 25th, 2014 5:05 pm

    Seriously? You are sadly mistaken.

  6. Becky Anne on April 25th, 2014 5:20 pm

    It seems to me that you are not educated on how the Greek system works!

  7. Stacey Lynne on April 25th, 2014 5:35 pm

    Why is it that people not involved in Greek life are the ones who view it negatively and write articles such as this one? If Greek life is as bad as you say it is, and so cult-like, wouldn’t people shy away from it? Yet, here we are, 2014, and Greek life (at SRU especially) is growing bigger all the time! I’m sorry that you feel the way you do about it, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion so I will respect yours. However, just know that you are bad mouthing organizations that have been the brother and sisterhoods of millions of people. I hope you’re ready for the backlash!

  8. Jon Janasik on April 25th, 2014 6:05 pm

    I’m kind of surprised how much of a serious response this piece got. I’d like to apologize to everyone who took this as a serious statement against Greek Life. I thought that beginning out with a ridiculous statement such as comparing Greek letters to alien symbols would have tipped the intention of the piece off. But I realize that sarcasm does not always translate into a static piece of writing as well as it should.

    I’d love to talk about the piece if you would though! I think that having a discussion about it would be fun. It goes without saying that you don’t need to justify to me why you like being in Greek Life. If you’re happy as a Greek, you shouldn’t need anyone’s justification other than your own.

    Debbie – Jobs and religious organizations give you something in return that you couldn’t get anywhere else. One of the points I made was that you don’t necessarily need a fraternity to get what it gives you. I’ve never been in a fraternity, so I realize that I could be mistaken. But the examples commonly given by people in fraternities are that they give you friendship, opportunities to help the community, and something good to put on your resume. These are all things that you could get from other means if you wanted to. On the flipside, if you want money, then you need to turn to a job.

    You’re second point is not what was I intended to say. I think that anybody can make friends. Part of my last point was that people don’t need a fraternity to make friends. In the piece I mentioned that joining a book club would be a way for people to make friends. The thing that I was poking fun at was recruitment week, in which Greek Life tries to recruit freshman. Freshman as a whole are known for being lonely, because they have to leave their hometown friends behind. The connection being made was that cults would love those kinds of people, because they are easy to recruit.

    Ian – If the cult is big enough it can help you network! Just kidding. I would argue that being involved with Greek Life isn’t necessary to build a resume. You could just as well spend your time volunteering at a hospital to build your resume.

    Also, pointing out minor differences doesn’t really break the argument. You could say that cults don’t wear letters. Even though it is a difference, the large similarities would still exist.
    Kristin – I think I answered your first two points in Debbie’s post. It’s not necessary to be involved with Greek Life to get into grad school or help with the community.
    I think that the last thing you said was interesting though. I think that there is a difference between Greek Life and other organizations, and it’s not a bad difference. Greeks seem to internalize their group into a part of their identity. I’m a part of Rock Readers, a book club. As much as I like the club, I wouldn’t feel obligated to defend it because I don’t think that it defines me as a person. It’s obvious by the responses that Greek life is different in that way.

    Nick – I’m not completely sure, but I’d think that you would be an exception to the normal newly recruited Greek. With that in mind, I still think that the target of recruitment weeks is usually freshmen.

    Becky – I’m willing to listen to what I’m missing!

    Kelli – That’s the joke!

    With all of that being said, last week I suggested that the SRU community spoon with the families of the founding fathers of SRU. I was not being sarcastic about that at all.

  9. Jordan Guido on April 25th, 2014 6:35 pm

    I really just want to apologize for whatever happened to you that put such a negative film over your eyes concerning Greek organizations. I feel that you really have no idea what being in a sorority or fraternity actually entails. I would think that if fraternities and cults were actually relevant to each other in nature that Greek life wouldn’t continue to exist after hundreds of years. You also need to educate yourself on sentence structure and grammar. As an alumna of Slippery Rock University it’s almost embarrassing that this is a representation of the education that is happening at my school.

  10. Jordan Guido on April 25th, 2014 6:35 pm

    I really just want to apologize for whatever happened to you that put such a negative film over your eyes concerning Greek organizations. I feel that you really have no idea what being in a sorority or fraternity actually entails. I would think that if fraternities and cults were actually relevant to each other in nature that Greek life wouldn’t continue to exist after hundreds of years. You also need to educate yourself on sentence structure and grammar. As an alumna of Slippery Rock University it’s almost embarrassing that this is a representation of the education that is happening at my school.

  11. Samantha Artman on April 25th, 2014 7:20 pm

    This is an opinion piece and should not be masqueraded around as news from a once award winning university newspaper. Until you become a part of Greek life you can’t even begin to imagine what it is all about. As a strong-willed and independent woman, I do not consider myself to be a lonely, helpless, essentially mindless, individual who was preyed upon by anyone. I made a conscious choice to join a Greek letter organization, the same as I made a conscious choice to go to SRU, to be a psychology major, and join the psychology honors organization, which also happens to be a Greek letter organization. University’s could also be compared to cults if the defining characteristic of a cult is that they proactively recruit new members. And if that is in fact the case, you, my friend are currently being indoctrinated into the cult of higher education. Welcome, we’ve been expecting you, our next initiation rite is May 10, you maybe know it as a sacred ceremony called commencement.

  12. Jon Janasik on April 26th, 2014 3:21 am

    Alright, I realize that the message still isn’t getting through as well as it should. I’m going to try to explain it as bluntly as possible.

    If the idea of comparing Greek Life to a cult sounds absolutely ridiculous. That’s because it’s supposed to sound that way. That’s the joke. A few people have pointed out that I’m not involved with Greek Life, so it’s impossible for me to talk about it. That’s the key to understanding this column. To Greeks, calling each other “brothers” is something that just makes sense. But to the people who aren’t involved, the concept seems completely alien.

    I think that often times the reputation of Greek Life gets in the way of understanding what exactly you do. It’s obvious by the reactions on this page and Twitter that Greek Life reputation is a hot subject. There’s nothing wrong with being in Greek Life, but I think it’s fair to say that some people aren’t going to understand. Giving some pre-packaged sounding justification like “I’m building my resume” or “I’m helping my community” sound silly to people who aren’t in Greek Life because there are other, less all-encompassing, ways to do those things.

    If you really want to write about what you like about Greek Life, you can send a letter to the editor to The Rocket and we’ll publish it. If not, simply saying, “I’m in Greek Life because I enjoy it,” is all the justification you need.

  13. Phil Geist on April 26th, 2014 8:20 am

    I found this opinion article – thought provoking in the sense that it really makes you think in inquiry in how we spend our time, money & power – to reconsider who influences us in our lives to make those types of investment decisions – in this instance within a social group. I’ll admit the reading makes some vast generalizations on Greek life and I think everyone who’s ever been on the campus knows there are good seeds and bad seeds in Greek life just like the rest of the population – judge on character, not on letters.

  14. Shane Jones on April 28th, 2014 1:20 pm

    Whether this is intended to be satire or not, I really hope this guy doesn’t plan to make a career out of journalism. I don’t think it would work out.

  15. Mary Elizabeth on April 28th, 2014 7:05 pm

    Jon, I feel like you are back paddling in the aftermath. Satire written well does indeed translate. I think it is you who “doesn’t get it”. Good luck with the angry posts.

  16. Sam Solomon on May 1st, 2014 3:50 pm

    Everyone need to take a chill pill. I don’t know how everyone else read this but I read it as satire. He was clearly being sarcastic and you all need to to chill. It was very well writen and frankly you all are being way to serious.

  17. Ann Magdic Petteway on May 1st, 2014 10:35 pm

    A writing teacher told me once that if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, it’s your fault. You need much much much much much much much much more practice at satire. Fail. Not funny at all.

  18. Debbie Eddy on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    It seems that you aren’t quite aware of how things work. Every organization in the world, whether a religious group, a corporation, a place you volunteer at, wants your time, your money, or both. They expect your loyalty and your efforts, and they are willing to give you something in return.
    Your time also suggests that people who join fraternities or sororities are all lonely, sad people have been unable to make friends anywhere else. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a large number of people that join these groups are highly social, outgoing individuals. The same type of person that later becomes an entrepreneur, a nurse, a lawyer.

  19. Guido Jordan on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    I really just want to apologize for whatever happened to you that put such a negative film over your eyes concerning Greek organizations. I feel that you really have no idea what being in a sorority or fraternity actually entails. I would think that if fraternities and cults were actually relevant to each other in nature that Greek life wouldn’t continue to exist after hundreds of years. You also need to educate yourself on sentence structure and grammar. As an alumna of Slippery Rock University it’s almost embarrassing that this is a representation of the education that is happening at my school.

  20. Mary Elizabeth on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    Jon, I feel like you are back paddling in the aftermath. Satire written well does indeed translate. I think it is you who “doesn’t get it”. Good luck with the angry posts.

  21. Samantha Artman on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    This is an opinion piece and should not be masqueraded around as news from a once award winning university newspaper. Until you become a part of Greek life you can’t even begin to imagine what it is all about. As a strong-willed and independent woman, I do not consider myself to be a lonely, helpless, essentially mindless, individual who was preyed upon by anyone. I made a conscious choice to join a Greek letter organization, the same as I made a conscious choice to go to SRU, to be a psychology major, and join the psychology honors organization, which also happens to be a Greek letter organization. University’s could also be compared to cults if the defining characteristic of a cult is that they proactively recruit new members. And if that is in fact the case, you, my friend are currently being indoctrinated into the cult of higher education. Welcome, we’ve been expecting you, our next initiation rite is May 10, you maybe know it as a sacred ceremony called commencement.

  22. Kristin Thomas on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    I think you should have educated yourself on Greek life at SRU before you opened your mouth. I can say my experience and officer positions within my chapter and with Greek Life helped me get into graduate school and get a good job. Further, I don’t see you or your friends trying to grant another wish for a child in need. If you took the time and really got to know the organizations you would know that each of them stand for more than just what they wear on their chest. Also, you’ll come to find as you go into the real world that organizations all have their own rituals, missions as well as dues

  23. Ian Reade Heilman on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    I would like to hear your opinion on how being in a cult helps with your resume. Since they are basically the same thing, shouldn’t be too hard for you.

  24. Ann Magdic Petteway on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    A writing teacher told me once that if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, it’s your fault. You need much much much much much much much much more practice at satire. Fail. Not funny at all.

  25. Sam Solomon on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    Everyone need to take a chill pill. I don’t know how everyone else read this but I read it as satire. He was clearly being sarcastic and you all need to to chill. It was very well writen and frankly you all are being way to serious.

  26. Phil Geist on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    I found this opinion article – thought provoking in the sense that it really makes you think in inquiry in how we spend our time, money & power – to reconsider who influences us in our lives to make those types of investment decisions – in this instance within a social group. I’ll admit the reading makes some vast generalizations on Greek life and I think everyone who’s ever been on the campus knows there are good seeds and bad seeds in Greek life just like the rest of the population – judge on character, not on letters.

  27. Shane Jones on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    Whether this is intended to be satire or not, I really hope this guy doesn’t plan to make a career out of journalism. I don’t think it would work out.

  28. Nick Dobson on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    I joined as a 21 year old junior. You sir have no idea what you are talking about.

  29. Becky Anne on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    It seems to me that you are not educated on how the Greek system works!

  30. Kelli Hodges on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    Seriously? You are sadly mistaken.

  31. Stacey Lynne on July 3rd, 2014 2:11 pm

    Why is it that people not involved in Greek life are the ones who view it negatively and write articles such as this one? If Greek life is as bad as you say it is, and so cult-like, wouldn’t people shy away from it? Yet, here we are, 2014, and Greek life (at SRU especially) is growing bigger all the time! I’m sorry that you feel the way you do about it, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion so I will respect yours. However, just know that you are bad mouthing organizations that have been the brother and sisterhoods of millions of people. I hope you’re ready for the backlash!

  32. Jon Janasik on September 16th, 2014 10:26 pm

    I’m kind of surprised how much of a serious response this piece got. I’d like to apologize to everyone who took this as a serious statement against Greek Life. I thought that beginning out with a ridiculous statement such as comparing Greek letters to alien symbols would have tipped the intention of the piece off. But I realize that sarcasm does not always translate into a static piece of writing as well as it should.

    I’d love to talk about the piece if you would though! I think that having a discussion about it would be fun. It goes without saying that you don’t need to justify to me why you like being in Greek Life. If you’re happy as a Greek, you shouldn’t need anyone’s justification other than your own.

    Debbie – Jobs and religious organizations give you something in return that you couldn’t get anywhere else. One of the points I made was that you don’t necessarily need a fraternity to get what it gives you. I’ve never been in a fraternity, so I realize that I could be mistaken. But the examples commonly given by people in fraternities are that they give you friendship, opportunities to help the community, and something good to put on your resume. These are all things that you could get from other means if you wanted to. On the flipside, if you want money, then you need to turn to a job.

    You’re second point is not what was I intended to say. I think that anybody can make friends. Part of my last point was that people don’t need a fraternity to make friends. In the piece I mentioned that joining a book club would be a way for people to make friends. The thing that I was poking fun at was recruitment week, in which Greek Life tries to recruit freshman. Freshman as a whole are known for being lonely, because they have to leave their hometown friends behind. The connection being made was that cults would love those kinds of people, because they are easy to recruit.

    Ian – If the cult is big enough it can help you network! Just kidding. I would argue that being involved with Greek Life isn’t necessary to build a resume. You could just as well spend your time volunteering at a hospital to build your resume.

    Also, pointing out minor differences doesn’t really break the argument. You could say that cults don’t wear letters. Even though it is a difference, the large similarities would still exist.
    Kristin – I think I answered your first two points in Debbie’s post. It’s not necessary to be involved with Greek Life to get into grad school or help with the community.
    I think that the last thing you said was interesting though. I think that there is a difference between Greek Life and other organizations, and it’s not a bad difference. Greeks seem to internalize their group into a part of their identity. I’m a part of Rock Readers, a book club. As much as I like the club, I wouldn’t feel obligated to defend it because I don’t think that it defines me as a person. It’s obvious by the responses that Greek life is different in that way.

    Nick – I’m not completely sure, but I’d think that you would be an exception to the normal newly recruited Greek. With that in mind, I still think that the target of recruitment weeks is usually freshmen.

    Becky – I’m willing to listen to what I’m missing!

    Kelli – That’s the joke!

    With all of that being said, last week I suggested that the SRU community spoon with the families of the founding fathers of SRU. I was not being sarcastic about that at all.

  33. Jon Janasik on September 16th, 2014 10:26 pm

    Alright, I realize that the message still isn’t getting through as well as it should. I’m going to try to explain it as bluntly as possible.

    If the idea of comparing Greek Life to a cult sounds absolutely ridiculous. That’s because it’s supposed to sound that way. That’s the joke. A few people have pointed out that I’m not involved with Greek Life, so it’s impossible for me to talk about it. That’s the key to understanding this column. To Greeks, calling each other “brothers” is something that just makes sense. But to the people who aren’t involved, the concept seems completely alien.

    I think that often times the reputation of Greek Life gets in the way of understanding what exactly you do. It’s obvious by the reactions on this page and Twitter that Greek Life reputation is a hot subject. There’s nothing wrong with being in Greek Life, but I think it’s fair to say that some people aren’t going to understand. Giving some pre-packaged sounding justification like “I’m building my resume” or “I’m helping my community” sound silly to people who aren’t in Greek Life because there are other, less all-encompassing, ways to do those things.

    If you really want to write about what you like about Greek Life, you can send a letter to the editor to The Rocket and we’ll publish it. If not, simply saying, “I’m in Greek Life because I enjoy it,” is all the justification you need.

  34. Anna Marie Muñoz on February 14th, 2015 10:11 pm

    when will the world wake up? Anything that is given oath or alligiance is a cult

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Greek life utilizes cult-like tactics for recruiting members