by ABBY KNOWLES
When you think of Mary Washington, Greek life is typically not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, many people choose UMW because there is no Greek system, but where does that lead those who want both a smaller school as well as the Greek life experience?
The University’s statement on Greek life asserts that “UMW is not affiliated with single-sex Greek social fraternities or sororities.” However, the affiliation the University has with Greek academic honorary societies and coeducational service fraternities, such as Alpha Mu Sigma, recognizes the Greek system and the involvement of the student body within it as an integral part of the campus community and student body. These sororities and fraternities are an important part of campus life for many students, providing an inclusive community for everyone involved.
The off-campus organizations at UMW include Zeta Omega Delta, Psi Upsilon, Alpha Mu Sigma and Kappa Sigma. These organizations provide students with an established community and welcoming environment.
In general, off-campus sororities and fraternities have less oversight from a school board or liaison to the college. The Greek system at UMW is run by a board of students with no oversight from the school, so the student members have to set their own structures themselves. For example, they have honor codes and academic standards in place for their members. The academic standards are upheld through GPA requirements and mandatory study hours, and the members of these organizations recognize the importance of community in relation to performing well academically.
Junior communication and digital studies major Carson Carr, president of Psi Upsilon said, “We hold ourselves and strive for academic integrity.” He added that they can lean on each for help when needed with classes and assignments. “You are here to be a student, you’re a student first.”
Senior philosophy major Nate Argust, the vice president of Psi Upsilon, echoed Carr’s sentiment. “We want you to do what you came here to do,” he said. In having leadership place such an emphasis on academics, the message really delivers to the members and pledges, and they understand that they have a responsibility not only to themselves but also to the community to perform well in their academics.
Members also noted the positive environment of these Greek organizations.
“The environment is great, Greek life is often seen as harsh and toxic environments but everyone is so welcoming, caring, sweet, etc.,” said junior elementary education major Lauren King, a member of Zeta Omega Delta.
Julia Mrotek, a senior psychology major in Zeta Omega Delta, said that joining her sorority provided her with a supportive and welcoming community when she transferred to Mary Washington. Having a community around helped her grow as an individual and gain skills she hadn’t previously possessed, such as how to communicate better with others and be a leader within an organization.
When asked about her experiences in the Greek system, Ashley Cook, a senior historic preservation major and Zeta Omega Delta pledge, said, “I joined because I wanted to experience college in a new way. I met some of the girls before joining and they were so sweet and really nice. It gave me a new light to what a sorority was. It is probably one of the best things I have done at the University of Mary Washington.”
Before coming to Mary Washington and joining their respective organizations, both Mrotek and Cook had a loose interpretation of what a sorority or fraternity had to offer. However, after joining, they now see it as a supportive and inclusive environment around them on and off campus.
Members from both Psi Upsilon and Zeta Omega Delta also mentioned the opportunities the Greek system has created for them, such as getting to meet people and being able to expand their social circle. For members, their sorority or fraternity has made college less lonely and provided them encouragement and support. This goes to show that, while the Greek system may not be affiliated or recognized by the university itself, it is a vital part of student life.