The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Even without University recognition, Greek life still exists off-campus at UMW through a variety of different societies

4 min read
A large group of men holding up a yellow and red embroidered tapestry.

Psi Upsilon members, both undergraduates and postgraduates, gather together to celebrate brotherhood in May of 2022. Instagram | psiumw


Staff Writer

Greek life has long been synonymous with the stereotypical college experience; a quick search for “Greek life” on any social media platform reveals college students at parties, doing charity work, attending fundraisers and hosting social events. 

According to UMW Student Activities and Engagement, there are no affiliations with Greek sororities or fraternities at UMW except for the co-educational service fraternity Alpha Mu Sigma and Greek academic honorary societies, such as Phi Beta Kappa. None of these organizations have a house on university grounds, and their on-campus presence is similar to a philanthropic club. 

Nonetheless, there is Greek life off-campus, such as the Psi Upsilon and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternities and the Zeta Omega Delta sorority. These groups are student-led and operate from nearby off-campus housing, as they are not allowed to be based in any on-campus locations due to their lack of official recognition from the University. 

However, Greek life organizations are allowed to advertise their chapters on campus as long as it is specified that they are located off-campus and independent from the University. 

Junior business administration major and former Psi Upsilon President Spencer Van Gils noted that the lack of official affiliation with the University didn’t detriment their recruitment because they could also spread the word online. Social media is their primary method of student recruitment and is supplemented by on-campus booths and fliers advertising membership, activities and events. 

“We mainly rely on social media as the main source for recruitment, as it is a great way to reach a large amount of people,” said Van Gils. “In prior years we had to rely on complete word of mouth. Nowadays, we use a combination of the two.”

Zeta Omega Delta President and junior business administration major Hannah Anfinson described the recruitment process to join Zeta.

“We stay really active on social media and that’s our main way we get new members. The process of joining starts with pre-rush events, which consists of two to three events, [and] then a week of rush events to allow us to get to know one another,” she said. “After rush week, you would be invited to pledge, which is a semester-long process, and once you complete that you are officially initiated. There is a member fee, but it isn’t anything crazy compared to other bigger sororities.”

Zeta is a philanthropic organization that participates in community service and giving back to the area. According to Anfinson, the members also create their own community environment through internal social events. 

“As well as philanthropy, we do a bunch of internal social events such as movie nights, crafts and game nights for bonding,” she said. 

The two off-campus fraternity houses—Psi Upsilon and Kappa Alpha Psi—are located within five miles of UMW and house active members in their current chapters. There has been a recent increase in members in Psi Upsilon, and they have also built a name for themselves among students on campus who have no affiliation with the organization but attend their events. 

“We have seen a large uptick in the amount of people coming to our events,” said Van Gils about Psi Upsilon’s rising popularity on campus. “The house we currently use for events allows us to host larger groups; we recently hosted a Saint Patricks Day event that had well over 200 people.” 

He continued, “I would definitely say that our name on campus has definitely gained traction. I think that our events along with social media has helped.”

But even with student involvement evident, Mary Washington does not formally recognize these Greek life organizations. 

According to Anfinson, Zeta has not attempted to become affiliated with UMW in recent years. 

She said, “From my knowledge, we have never tried to get our sorority affiliated through UMW because it is a very long process and has a bunch of different qualifications that we would need.” 

Psi Upsilon attempted to become affiliated with UMW, but ultimately it did not come to fruition.

“We tried to get affiliated with the school back around 2015. Members of our chapter reached out to employees of the University to see what it would take to get recognized,” said Van Gils about past attempts for UMW to officially recognize Psi Upsilon. “I do not know the exact requirements, but the school did not offer any financial assistance or funding so it did not end up working out.” 

While UMW does not recognize these Greek life organizations, which may be a deterring factor for some applicants, the atmosphere surrounding the culture has not been affected. Events continue to be hosted off campus while still within the two-mile radius of campus, and students enjoy interacting with the chapters as they would at a university with official Greek life affiliations.  

Senior biomedical sciences major Katherine Scott recalled the general atmosphere of the last Psi Upsilon event she attended. 

“People were definitely excited to be there and having a good time,” she said. “I think that frats are usually stereotyped as dirty or scary, but the house was nice, and it wasn’t a raucous or unsafe environment at all.”