Students deactivate Greek life, take Greek relationships with them


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

The Pi Kappa Alpha building in Northwestern’s fraternity quad. Many students feel torn over joining Greek life during the Abolish Greek Life movement.

Jacob Ohara, Assistant Video Editor

Sarrin Chethik was never a fan of Phi Delta Theta fraternity’s chapter meetings, but he loved to mingle at their dinners. Come junior year, he realized that the two were not necessarily tied.

Chethik, a Weinberg senior, joined Greek life as a sophomore before deactivating one year later. It was a choice he found ample precedent for among his fraternity brothers — he said around half of his fraternity’s senior class had dropped out.

“I felt like I could kind of recreate that since I built some relationships by that point,” Chethik said. “It felt like there weren’t very many benefits of staying in.”

Chethik’s experience is not uncommon. A number of students reported diminishing returns on what they often called an all-consuming experience. Expensive dues and live-in requirements were also common grievances among students who’ve deactivated from Greek chapters.

Though not universally enforced, many houses on campus require members to live in-house for two years. In order to void their housing contract and live off-campus, some students said they decided to deactivate.

Weinberg sophomore Brianna Costa, a current member of the Delta Gamma sorority, said she and her friends were previously considering deactivation for this reason. Compounding this issue was their perceived limitations of Greek life activities.

“I did meet a ton of people, but it’s a very specific group of people,” Costa said. “If it’s not Greek-related, I find that I meet so many more people, and it’s a different variety of people.”

In addition to issues of diversity, Costa felt she had “met everybody” after a year in the sorority. With the ability to maintain those relationships outside of Greek life, she said she could understand if her friends felt diminished incentives to continue their memberships.

Kimberly Ortega, a first-generation student, saw her involvement in Greek life similarly dwindle.

Despite a limited knowledge of Greek systems prior to enrolling at Northwestern, the Weinberg senior was determined not to write it off. However, after a little over a year in the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, she deactivated in the fall of her junior year.

As students set their eyes on graduation, Ortega said it can be difficult to surrender the time necessary for Greek involvement. For her, it was preparation for post-graduation that filled the gap left by chapter meetings. She blames her deactivation partially on this “reprioritization” of her time.

“I started valuing social time outside of the mixers and the parties,” Ortega said. “I want to stay in on a Friday because I need sleep to do something productive on a Saturday.”

Ortega said financial costs were also a factor in her decision, as she paid out of her own pocket.

Each student said deactivation did not necessitate cutting ties with Greek life; in fact, they each saw a continuation of Greek relationships outside of chapter events.

“One thing that’s great about Northwestern is that deactivating is not necessarily held to this bad stigma,” Costa said. “People can deactivate and still be friends with the people in their sorority… it’s not a bad thing.”

Students said they turned to Greek life in their first year to create new friendships and expand their social circles, but as relationships solidified, the value of membership changes.

Though currently inactive, Chethik said he valued his time in Phi Delta Theta. In departing from the fraternity, he was able to maintain those important relationships without sacrificing time and money.

“Last year at this time, I would have gone to a party that Phi Delt was hosting,” Chethik said. “(Now) it’s hanging out with friends…it’s just it’s not in the Phi Delt setting.”

This article was updated Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. to clarify Brianna Costa’s comments.

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Twitter: @JacobHenryOhara