Greek letters: What do they mean?


Not on my watch
Columns by Mitchell Chapman, Features Editor and Vice President of The Beacon

Columnist’s note: The aim of this article is to talk about Greek life and Greek letters, not specifically on the local, but on the national scale, and in general. This does not attempt to comment on any local organizations at MCLA or the former North Adams State College, nor was it the intention of the author to do so.

If you know me, chances are you might catch me in my fraternity’s letters. Here’s what they mean to me.

Like many organizations, Greek organizations stand for a set of principles and values that determine everything they do, on every level of their internal and external governance. For many, their letters serve as a symbol for this set of values, earned through the process of becoming a new member of these organizations.

It is not easy to be Greek, for unlike a club, membership into a Greek fraternity or sorority (or a Greek society in general) is something that has to be earned and not given. It is a privilege, and not a right, as you have to exemplify the principles of the organization you are joining before you can wear their letters. A Greek’s letters have the value they put into it, which must be maintained even after they are earned.

It’s a lot like swimming. If your organization exemplifies values of good community and brotherhood or sisterhood, that is what your organization and letters will inherently mean, regardless of the organization’s principles, and, as such, in order for an organization’s principles to mean anything, they must be upheld. Otherwise, it’s just talk – hot air. Likewise, if your organization largely performs acts that create an unhealthy community, such as lies, condescension and disregard for the law, that is what your letters will come to mean.

At the end of the day, what you do and not who you are is what truly matters for a Greek organization. No organization is invincible, no matter how long their history, their status of affiliation, or the money backing them, and it is often those organizations that think that they are invincible that fade away the fastest. This is the twenty-first century, where hazing is not tolerated and when the notion of what brotherhood and sisterhood mean are beginning to change. The social/party aspect of Greek life is dwindling down, making way for routinely maintained academic and comradely environments that actively improve and bring out the best in its members and its surrounding community.

The Greek environment in the 1990s and early 2000s has left for good, and, while some of its echoes remain, they even those echoes will soon depart, leaving forth what I hope to be a new tomorrow for Greeks moving forward, one very different than that of the past, but one that hopefully gives new meaning and respectability to what it means to be Greek.


  1. Dear Author,
    While I appreciate what you are saying to voice the acceptance of Greek life on the MCLA Campus, as a Greek myself, your article does very little to promote the acceptance of Greek Life outside of your organization. What could have been used as a positive call out to the many philanthropic fund raisers and community out reach programs run by Greek organizations instead you have used your platform to bash organizations that are not yours. The Social/Party aspect of Greek life, that you so desired to write about and bash, is not a definition of the organizations that chose to spend their free time that way. Members of some of those organizations have been Presidents of Clubs, been involved in the FPA programs whether it be on stage in the Fall or Spring performances, involved in Dance Co or helped with Harlequin or the Shakespeare shows. Many have graduated magna cum laude. What could have been a great article for the acceptance of Greek life, in all aspects, has instead been an article about how ‘My organization is right, and yours is wrong’. I hope that you will take this and think deeply about your “acceptance” for diversity and realize that your article does not preach acceptance for organizations that are not run how you see fit.

    Michael ‘Skyler’ Candelet
    MCLA Alumni of 2011
    Pines Brother

  2. It’s attitudes like this that alienate Greek Alumni and the reason I don’t contribute back to MCLA financially.

  3. This is absolutely disrespectful and ignorant. Do you even know the history behind Sigma girls? Do you even know what Delta Phi Epsilon? What is Sigma Chi Beta?

  4. Thanks for the snub! You have managed to insult over a 1000 alumni and further damaged the very fragile relationship some of us have been working to repair.
    -Erin Baffuto ’05
    Pi Upsilon Omega Alumni President
    MCLA Board of Directors

  5. I see the original article has been altered. Very interesting. While you might think that adding in the “columnists note” gives some buffer…. the damage has been done.

  6. Fraternities and Sororities are quite simply party organizers. The meager benefits they do provide can be supplemented by the many other college affiliated clubs and organizations. These organizations do engage in hazing activities, any anyone who claims that they do not is either uninformed, or is lying.

    What about this? or this?

    These organizations hinder academic success, which should be the foremost concern of a college student. It’s time to abolish Greek life for good.

    To the alumni commenting: You’ve graduated now, your reverence to the past tells a story of failed progression into successful adulthood. Good riddance.

    • Dear MCLA Student,

      I’m sorry that this is your view of Greek life. It speaks volumes to your lack of education on community service and the Greek way of life. I invite you to stop by our rush table in the spring. Connect with a brother or Beta Sister, ask to be put in touch with an alumnus if one of us isn’t at the table. We would love the opportunity to discuss what Greek life really entails. We are proud of the service to the community we provide. Helping lower income families during the holidays, supporting JDRF, CF Foundation, and much much more. Additionally we are leaders who have succeeded into the progression of successful adulthood. It started at MCLA when we were presidents and eboard members of multiple clubs. This transitioned to Alumni board members, CEO’S, President and VP titles at multiple respectable companies across the US.

      Greek life is far more than you are aware of. It is a support structure I never imagined. A diverse culture embracing all walks of life, contrary to popular belief. I’m a brother of Pi Upsilon Pi and I would love to connect with you personally to teach you how you can elevate yourself. The meager benefits of being a member of this fraternity have substantially outweighed the benefits of being a member of MCLA on its own. Join me, lets talk and discuss the contributions Greeks make to the local community and how you can maybe be a part of that.


      Matt Jennings
      Brother Pi Upsilon Pi
      former President MCLA Ski Club, MCLA Boxing Club
      USA Hockey Officiating Mentor

    • Hazing plays a small role in the Greek life it’s just to prove you are all in. Don’t knock all the good they do just because someone had to eat a pizza with a little bit of bodily fluids on it.

  7. Hi MCLAStudent: My name is Sally and I graduated in 2002 and am a member of Pi Upsilon Omega. I fully recognize and do not deny that the improper actions of a few are overshadowing a whole lot of good that Greeks provide to each other and their communities. Your views of us as party organizers and your assertion that because I still advocate for Greek Life means I haven’t progressed into adulthood are woefully shortsighted. While I was in school we raised money for CF, invited local kids on campus for IGC field days and had Pines guys dress up as Santa to distribute gifts to low-income kids, to name a few of the activities we did that were not related to partying. Those service opportunities laid the groundwork for my passion as a volunteer. Since graduating I have been very active in charity work. Today I’m a member of the volunteer group Junior League of Denver and sit on the Board of Directors for a Denver non-profit that has seen year-over-year growth and impact data. Aside from philanthropy Greek Life also provides a career network. I actually found a major change from broadcasting (what I went to MCLA for) into project management through another Pi Upsilon Omega sister and that has led to a fantastic career for me, spanning five cities and four upward rungs on the ladder, so to speak, landing me as the current Director of my team, reporting into the CEO – all because of my sorority connection. Pines girls have an active Alumni networking group where we help each other update resumes, share job opportunities and even offer employment current students with our Pines-owned businesses in Berkshire county. We have meetups for Moms and out-of-state sisters. When my brother passed away six months after my MCLA graduation, the IGC rallied to host a talent show to raise money for my brother’s scholarship. Pines men and women recently met in Boston to raise money for the children of a sister tragically murdered. Pines Alumni are even working right know to start a scholarship fund at MCLA in honor of their house mother and MCLA cafeteria employee, Dottie. The Greek experience extends far beyond the North Adams student years and in ways that have real, not meager, impacts on folks’ successful transition into adulthood. We are not grown children looking to continue the party – we are passionate about correcting the message and preserving these groups because they have been incredibly beneficial to us. Others should be able to have the same experiences. More than happy to continue to conversation if you’re interested. I can be reached at

  8. First, to the author. Your group of friends calling yourselves a fraternity is in no position to educate or even offer an informed opinion of Greek life. Until you have toiled in philanthropy after philanthropy, spent dozens of mandated hours in the school library, or raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity while trying to stop the ever-oppressive school from shutting down your efforts, you are wildly unqualified to speak on the subject.

    I could go on, but your attempts to diversify and alienate real Greeks while abusing your position with the paper (and appropriating transgender peoples) make it clear you don’t understand what Greek life really means.

    To mclastudent, if you stand as firmly behind your convictions as you say, I’m wondering why you posted this anonymously? It sounds like there was some personal slight to you, as if you tried and failed to join…or maybe you are the author?

  9. Greek life has always been helpful at MCLA, I’ll never forget how helpful pledgers were when my house needed to be cleaned after a rowdy night of partying and making a mess. The Greeks have always been there to provide a fun and relatively cheap party location for freshmen who want to get out and meet people but don’t have a town house to drink in. It’s not easy to make friends sometimes and not everyone has a family back home and this is something that the frats have always been able to help with. They also do charity work so even if they are doing a little bit of hazing for kids to get in it all balances out. Look no further than the military you will get hazed there as well but its all part of a “brotherhood”.

  10. So does hazing still happen when trying to join a greek organization or not? I guess this can all be cleared up if those who are defending greek life can say yes or no?

  11. Dear mclastudent,

    Your rant sounds like someone who never experienced Greek life and have no idea what it really is. My sisters are my life long friends. Yes, we partied together and behaved inappropriately at times, but we bonded and share those memories. As well, we were involved in many philanthropic activities, participated in college sports and campus organizations, and went on to graduate with honors and lead very successful adult lives.

    If bring Greek isn’t for you, that’s fine, but take your bs about whatGreek life is and peddle it elsewhere.

  12. Rory,
    Even though this article is awful,it is not fair to dismiss Sigma Chi Beta as a faternity all together. They are newer but this Spring they have been part of the Greek community for 8 years. 8 years of philanthropies,15 pledge classes. They were accepted into IGC,have participated in Greek weeks,Campus wide town clean ups and the list goes on.
    Obviously this article makes Sigma guys look bad because of one active brother. But to insult the entire frat is uncalled for and wrong. Most of Greek life at MCLA has died out compared to what it used to be..but some orginizations have survived. Sigma guys is a thing whether you like it or not.

    • So Sigma guys acquired MCLA recognition, by meeting the standards and conditions for affilation, and is now a voting member group of the IGC? No jokes, actually curious about this.

  13. Do you still have to eat an cherry or m&m out of another pledges behind to get into pines? I know it’s rough but it shows dedication.

  14. Clearly this author has no idea how powerful the Greeks are at MCLA. The Greeks are known on a national scale and are regarded as some of the best students at the school. Go to any other college campus and ask about Pines and someone will tell you many great stories!

  15. Pledge Pines and your GPA will go down and your chances of ending up in the hospital will go up.

    Pledge a modern fraternity and your GPA will go up, and your challenges in pledging won’t feel like abuse/assault.

    Greek alum – there is little point in talking to Rory. His head was up his ass in his early 20s when it was still developmentally appropriate, and it seems he likes it dark as his head has stayed there into his 30’s.

    All Greek organizations participate in community service and philanthropy. Some make their members literally vomit on themselves nightly and shove things up their ass, and some don’t. It’s that simple. We can’t get too upset with Rory, or Matt, or any others because they can’t change the cringe worthy, embarrassing acts they performed in the past, so the natural human reaction is to be defensive and condescending towards others. If you had licked whipped cream out of a man’s ass or eaten dog food for the sake of getting closer to people, you would probably be defensive and condescending too and put on a “this is legitimate” act for the parties and philanthropies all the while keeping the hazing a Greek only “secret” when that “secret” has been out for decades. Your traditions are disgusting, illegal, and unjustifiable.

    The fact that ALUMNI come on the student newspaper to defend themselves and their “organization” is direct evidence of guilt.

  16. just to be clear, nobody “makes” you do anything in pines. we’re young guys and sometimes dare each other to do stupid stuff but the only things mandatory for membership are measly dues, library hours and philanthropies. some of the stuff you guys come up with is just gross where does this crap come from?

  17. “At the end of the day, what you do and not who you are is what truly matters for a Greek organization.”
    Are you kidding? I’m glad to be a part of an organization that are “individuals; unique but all the same” and not one in which who I am doesn’t truly matter. It’s disgusting to take away from who you are. Yes, you represent your organization, but if you lose yourself in the process you’ve missed something and I am sorry.

    “This is the twenty-first century, where hazing is not tolerated and when the notion of what brotherhood and sisterhood mean are beginning to change. The social/party aspect of Greek life is dwindling down, making way for routinely maintained academic and comradely environments that actively improve and bring out the best in its members and its surrounding community.”
    Since 1975 the notion of sisterhood has not changed and I hope that there is nothing going on changing in my sorority now. Just because Sigma likes to boast about their clean program, despite their founding class bragging “You don’t want to know what I’m covered in” the night they got in, doesn’t mean your brotherhood is any better than my sisterhood. NASC was a party school and the Greeks hosted parties: fact. Cutting them down into Echoes and implying that partying was their main aspect, and that academics and community engagement were null: embarrassing. You have no idea what other organizations have gone through, poured their hearts into, and you have no right to criticize it.

    ” …while some of its echoes remain, they even those echoes will soon depart… ”
    This post and the comments have been edited enough, please fix this.


    I hope your “new meaning” doesn’t take hold. I hope anyone actually interested in knowing the TRUE meaning of a Greek organization can take initiative and investigate themselves, instead of listening to rumors and stories. If someone wants to believe we just party and eat ass cream, I don’t care. I don’t need to defend myself. If you want to know the true meaning of my organization you come to me, or any of my sisters.

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