It could have started like a joke: -“First day on American campus, what does a student from Greece say when she comes across a Greek Life event ad?” -“She wonders why she hasn’t been invited”. Sounds funny right? The truth is, she has no idea of what this is all about. And then, the “Greek Week” comes, “The Greeks” are all over the campus but there’s nobody actually speaking Greek.
So, why Greek? The answer lies back in 1776 when the very first fraternity Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Back then, “fraternities were the first step for students to start thinking for themselves. It was like a revolutionary period” says Patricia Gonzalez, member of the KΔ (Kappa Delta) chapter and Programming Coordinator at NYIT.
Originally, ΦΒΚ was kept a secret and members were given formal invitations. Later on, in order not to be considered masonic – there was a high anti-masonic sentiment at the time – the Harvard Chapter disclosed that those three Greek letters stood for Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης (Filosofia Viou Kyvernitis), “Philosophy the Guide of Life”. Today almost all fraternities keep their traditions and constitutions secret. The secret motto is the only way to get access to the organization. “For us, it is secret and it’s not. The whole culture of being in a fraternity lets you already know that there is going to be this trust, this certain bond amongst a group of people and only they share that together. You don’t know what the letters mean until you become part of the organization and then you figure it out. It’s more of a mystery than of an actual secret” says Bryan Diaz, President of the InterGreek Council and President of the TKE (Tau Kappa Epsilon) chapter on campus. Patricia follows, “the values are something we don’t just go around and say; I will not say it to you, I will show it to you”.
Right after ΦΒΚ was created, all fraternities adopted Greek mottos to name their organizations; members, who were more highly educated than non- members, wanted to be considered intellectual people, like the ones Greek and Latin languages represented at the time. As time went on, though, Classics gradually disappeared from the curriculum and new members didn’t know any of the ideals the fraternity was originally based on. Until today, “the thing that relates the most to the Greek culture is the letters that we use. We pride ourselves a lot in secretism and in the fact of how fraternities and sororities have this sense of brotherhood, family and support. Although some of the letterings are Greek letters there’s also some symbolism used with actual Greek words. We believe in ancient Greek ideals too like democracy and philosophy” says Bryan.
When asked about the negative connotations Fraternities and Sororities very often carry with them, Adlina Anthony, member of ΑΣΤ (Alpha Sigma Tau) and President of the Student Government Association, says “if it was true what is written all over the internet, we would be a cult by now. Some students do bad stuff and it’s very unfair sometimes that all Greeks get the same impression. It’s a form of a leadership movement. When I joined, I had this bad impression because of what I had read, but I soon realized I was completely misguided by that belief. We actually help people. I personally follow this Ghandi’s saying that goes “If you wanna see the change, you make it”.
Eric Fantauzzi, member of TKE, states he was “super confused” too when he first heard about Greek Life. “I envisioned fraternities as amazing social clubs which threw the best parties and dated the prettiest girls, much like the fraternities in Animal House (1978) or neighbors (2014). However, my perception was slightly altered once I became a member of TKE. While many of my fellow members did date beautiful girls and did throw great parties, the most important is that they were focused on things such as academics and volunteer work”.
There are six Greek clubs right now on campus “but regardless of our different names and values, the entire Greek community is focusing on a bigger picture; how can we improve our NYIT experience.” says Patricia.