Greek Life at College: A Visual, Identity Focused Interpretation

Greek life was recently put on a halt at the University of Central Florida. This occurred after two fraternities were  caught acting in violation of UCF’s anti-hazing and alcohol policy. The university, in an official release, explained that they wanted to see a “culture change” within the greek community. Suddenly the greek community was at risk, and this got me thinking about my identity as a brother in the Sigma Nu Fraternity.

In the formation of this identity I experience life with my Sigma Nu brothers. We meet as a chapter every sunday, we hang out together, we socialize together with other sororities. We are in Sigma Nu because we share in the values and the vision for the fraternity. Together we shape individual identities within a collective identity. We are brothers, leaders, friends, contributors to the community, fun-seekers, trouble-makers, social-change makers, and many other identities.

This identity is a part of my life that I carry with me every day, but only a few times in the week is it my most explicitly displayed identity. Wednesday is Greek Day at UCF, and every Wednesday you will see me as well as all other greeks wearing their chapter jerseys. When non greek individuals see us in our jerseys the rhetoric of review instantly overcomes them, and they draw on their codes and assumptions about the greek community in general. They might look at us as involved campus members, as social elites, or as a bunch of alcoholics who glorify d-baggery. But the rhetoric of review changes, and can get more specific when other greeks see me in my jersey. No longer do I most explicitly show an identity as part of the larger greek community. Now what is important to my identity is what fraternity I am in; this shapes how I am ‘read’ by other greeks, especially the ones who do not know me. It is in this type of social context when stereotypes about individual fraternities might kick in. You might have heard some of them, but it would be inappropriate to say them on an academic research blog.

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