The history of Greek life proves why we don’t need it at WU

When I was a freshman in 2018, I was initially disappointed about why Waynesburg University had cleared Greek life from its campus.

“Who wouldn’t want a group of brothers that you can live with?” I would say.

I never had brothers growing up, so a fraternity seemed like an opportunity to quickly make some lasting friends and mentors with common interests. If one looks at the history, fraternities have a dark past that would prove contrary to the mission of Waynesburg University.

According to an archived article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette titled “Waynesburg College makes its Greek life history” by  Milan Simonich published on Sept. 7, 1999, Waynesburg College had a vibrant Greek life scene. There were three fraternities and two sororities on campus. Waynesburg was also an epicenter for party life, being the crosspoint between West Virginia University and the city of Pittsburgh.

The decision to eliminate Greek life happened when the college made a significant effort to prioritize its Presbyterian roots after falling into the chasm of modern higher education, where they were distanced from the mission of faith, service and learning.

The last straw was when Waynesburg College’s fraternities and sororities took part in the “Greek Games,” a series of drinking and eating contests that a beer company sponsored at a Waynesburg tavern in the spring of 1999.

Being a dry campus, the college promptly put all Greek life on probation, and did not allow them to recruit new members, dropping participation significantly. A Waynesburg College vice president and acting dean of student life at the time, Richard Noftzger Jr., said that Greek life did not affirm the mission of a Christian institution.

Is Greek life inherently unchristian though? Our athletic rivals up north, Grove City College, have Greek life and they are also principled in their Christian mission.

As author Lisa Wade says in an article by titled “How American Colleges Became Bastions of Sex, Booze and Entitlement” published on Jan. 6, 2017, “The men who started fraternities did so specifically to cultivate values that their professors opposed. They rejected the religious values held by their pious professors and lauded the skills they believed would be useful for winning in this life, not the next.”

Wade’s historical analysis tells us that the original fraternity was created to defy these values that were heavily embedded in the first colleges in the 1700s.

Nowadays, Greek life is sanctioned by its colleges, but in the past it was a rebellious organization of elite white men who were put into higher education by their wealthy parents while holding a disobedient disposition towards education, according to Wade.

Now a senior, I understand, and approve, the reason Waynesburg University did not continue the tradition of Greek life. I currently live in an on-campus housing group with seven other individuals, who are all great friends of mine, and found the fulfillment of brotherly bonding without selective pledges, hierarchies, hazing and rushing. Additionally, our small campus population makes all students interconnected, eliminating the need for more exclusive subgroups.

Waynesburg College stood for antislavery and granting women degrees in the 1850s when it was founded, so why should it conform to a cultural trend rooted in personal exclusivity, paganism and misogyny?

Not all fraternities and sororities are bad. They are objectively better now than they were centuries ago. But in an effort to maintain its Christian core, Waynesburg University proves that the mission is not just a public relations stunt, but a fundamental priority.