Ortiz: Why I am still Greek

Sterling Kossuth Ortiz, Senior Staffer


March 17 marked four years since I first joined my fraternity, Omega Delta Phi. That day, I capped off the end of the rigorous educational process with my new brothers and feasted on the best-tasting fast food I’ve ever had. This year, my anniversary celebration consisted of me using time on my flight home to reflect on what these past four years have meant to me.
My four years in Omega Delta Phi have been a pattern of ups and downs for the prospect of Northwestern Greek life at large. When I joined my Latino-founded, multicultural fraternity at the end of Winter Quarter in 2019, we had just reached the peak of pre-pandemic membership numbers across all of our councils. But, due to COVID-19 and a push to abolish Greek life, the summer and fall of 2020 saw a precipitous fall in the number of active members and chapters still functioning at NU.
However, Greek life has made a significant comeback this year and last. Part of the turnaround can be attributed to Greeks who have, like me, kept their affiliation even when general Northwestern culture made it feel as if most of our allies and neutral parties turned against us.
My existence begs the question: Why am I still Greek?
One of my main reasons for staying is that I want to build something greater than myself. When applying to schools as a first-generation college student, I viewed college as a 40-year investment rather than a four-year decision. I knew I had the chance to do many great things at a Top 10 university like NU where my accomplishments would form a foundation that would last a lifetime. When I began at NU, I joined many other organizations where I initially felt I could create this legacy. But, I ended up finding all of them inadequate.
During the first half of 2021, when students writ large were allowed back on campus amid COVID-19, I developed two initiatives that ensured my legacy. As Omega Delta Phi’s Events Chair at the time, I worked with my chapter to create engaging events that accounted for various COVID-19 restrictions. Our work ensured that my fraternity stayed active and could transition well to post-COVID life, even as other Latine student groups at NU were on life support.
Later, as the third president of the modern republic of the Multicultural Greek Council, I was blessed to work with a wonderful group of comrades from all chapters. Together, we kept our realm alive as we worked ourselves to the bone to ensure our future Greeks had a Council to join. I recall a time we once frantically placed flyers on every open wall we could find on campus to advertise joint events with Northwestern Career Advancement to give our members resumé advice. While President of MGC, I was also a Public Affairs Residential College/North Mid-Quads resident. As a freshman, I had eagerly applied to join the residential college and naively thought I would live there throughout my entire time at Northwestern. I was also president of PARC/NMQ for a time, though I chose to resign when I took medical leave starting Thanksgiving 2019.
Though my formal leadership had come and gone, I chose to move back to PARC/NMQ when the dorm reopened in January 2021. Unfortunately, the executive board at the time chose to live in Evanston apartments rather than PARC/NMQ. Nevertheless, I functioned as a go-between for the board and PARC/NMQ residents for two quarters and ensured our dorm traditions would stay alive.
I did not feel I was being treated well given the work I put in. When I applied to live in PARC/NMQ for this year to end my college years on a high note, I learned that the residential college’s leaders had not given me housing points to ensure residency. After years of dedication to PARC/NMQ, I felt I never got the respect I deserved. There has been a large contrast between the way my brothers and the general Greek atmosphere have treated me in comparison to those within the residential college system.
In contrast, in every part of the country, my Greek letters have opened doors and allowed me to meet people from past generations. I’ve met brothers from coast to coast, from the eastern San Francisco Bay Area to New York City, and broken bread over our common bonds. Though they’ve only met me just once or twice before at most, they treat me like a lifelong friend.
I understand some may read my paeans and find them superficial. But I know my words have meaning because I was there for the nadir of Northwestern Greek presence in the Summer of 2020, and now I see the entire realm, composed of all four councils, rising from the ashes. The workhorses within MGC have secured functioning Greek chapters for the post-pandemic classes to join. I stuck around because I knew that brick by brick, I could make a great fraternity with my brothers and a great council with my comrades. And now, four years later, I know my dreams are a reality.

Sterling Ortiz is a SESP fifth-year. You can contact him at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.