Greek Life Gets Catholic Twist at MC

by Jilleen Barrett & Christine NappiStaff Writers

In recent years, Manhattan College has been increasing their affiliation with various Greek Life organizations on the national level, sparking a growing number of interest amongst students. However, because of the college’s Catholic heritage, Manhattan College is an unexpected campus to find greek life flourishing.

Manhattan is now home to chapters of Alpha Phi Delta (APD) and Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) national fraternities, as well as Sigma Delta Tau (SDT), a national sorority.

Greek life at Manhattan dates back to 1929 when APD was first established. Although it’s been present for 90 years, the chapter has only been consecutively active since 2007. In 2012, DKE was established, followed by SDT in 2013. Despite being fairly new to campus, students and administration now recognize the organizations as part of the college community.

In order for the organizations to officially be recognized by the school, Student Engagement Coordinator Sharon Ortega said that there needed to be a sufficient amount of interest in them. Due to the fact that each Greek club belongs to a larger national body, additional steps were taken that many clubs don’t have to go through.

“[It’s] something that requires national recognition and affiliation and making sure that it’s a good fit for both of us,” Ortega said. “The Greek life organizations like to come out to the campus and just make sure that it’s something they also want to be affiliated with.”

Due to its recent beginnings, Manhattan isn’t as known for their Greek life compared to other colleges. The college’s student interest isn’t as large as it is at other state universities, yet Ryan Kwiecinski, President of APD, notes that Greek life is becoming more prominent on campus.

“I think it’s starting to become more apparent, back when I toured four years ago it wasn’t something that was on my radar,” Kwiecinski said. “Now all the Greek organizations, they’re doing stuff on campus and it’s more impactful.”

A main aspect of all three Greek life organizations is their philanthropic work in the local and global communities. The fraternities and sororities work together to give back, both to the community and to Manhattan College. In doing so, the college community is recognizing the organizations more and more.

“All three of these organizations have a very strong philanthropy driven mindset and so because of that, I certainly notice their presence a lot,” Ortega said.

With philanthropy being a central component of national Greek life organizations, Kwiecinski finds the college’s Catholic background provides a strong “moral footing” for the Greek life organizations and their actions, which sets them apart from other chapters.

“I think it puts us in a unique position because we’ll all get involved,” Kwiecinski said. “It kind of proves a more purposeful role, like we’re able to take advice that we learned from the La Sallian mission and bring it into our chapters.”

Due to their increasingly strong presence on campus, the organizations’ philanthropy efforts, as well as their overall actions, impact the entire student body and community. When it comes to volunteering, the fraternities and sororities are more similar than different, with the organizations often all working together.

Meaghan Higgins, a second semester junior, said that being a part of SDT has enhanced her experience at Manhattan and made it more memorable, such that she has found her home in the organization.

“The more I am myself, the more I fit in,” she said. “It’s not like the typical depiction of a sorority, it’s really a nice network of empowered girls.”

When she transferred to Manhattan College, Higgins was a self-described introvert and wanted to improve herself. She had doubts about rushing, because she thought she might have to act like someone that she isn’t. Ultimately, she found that she didn’t have to act differently because being a part of the Sigma Delta Tau community made her grow in ways she didn’t expect.

“I really expected it to be one of two extremes, but when I got into [Sigma Delta Tau], I realized all the girls were really excited for me to learn,” Higgins said.

An additional aspect that sets Greek life at Manhattan apart from other schools is that students don’t feel an obligation to join, whereas they may at larger schools.

“Here it’s laid back to an extent where you don’t feel forced to join, but joining is still a great decision,” Kwiecinski said. “If you’re not in Greek life here it’s not really a bad thing, but if you’re not in Greek life at a big southern school it’s kind of like they look down at it a little more.

Horror stories of hazing and intense initiations, in addition to the way that sororities and fraternities are depicted in movies and entertainment, have influenced many students’ overall views of Greek life. Many Catholic schools, such as Fordham University, Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame, don’t recognize Greek life chapters as affiliated with the school. Manhattan College has chosen to officially recognize the chapters of APD, DKE and SDT but did shut down affiliations with a regional sorority at the start of the 2017-18 academic year after incidents of hazing came to light.

Despite the perception of Greek life being uncommon at Catholic schools, members of the three organizations find that the school’s Catholic roots offer unique aspects to their chapters. Belonging to a Catholic campus enhances their experience in the organization. Although the popularity of Greek life is just beginning to increase, students claim their decisions in joining proved to benefit them.

“Joining DKE has made my experience at Manhattan College far better than it would have been,” said Frank Vigna, president of DKE. “I have established a great network of people, improved my leadership skills, and have gotten more involved on campus that I would have without the fraternity.”