For anyone who doesn’t know, many Greek organisations do actually have American and Canadian chapters. Yes, there are far less Canadian chapters, but we do exist! It’s an interesting situation, given that Greek Life is stereotypically American. In some ways, I think it works for us, and in other ways it works against us!
What are the positives, you ask? One of the biggest (in my opinion) is (1) that we aren’t under a microscope. Given that Greek Life is pretty much unknown in Canada, we don’t have the same problems with “tiers”, and the general social drama that seems to accompany Greek Life in the US. Because Greek Life is such a minority of the student population here, you are exposed to other people, groups, and organisations.
(2) We get the chance to stand out from our peers. I have had many a professor and instructor ask about Greek Life when I was wearing letters or they would read my CV. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to explain just everything that we do and achieve when there aren’t any other student groups on campus who can even come close! Our five pillars diversify us more than we know, I think, and I have yet to see another student group who offers all of this in the same organised manner.
Now onto the negatives. (1) We don’t quite “fit” the American model. For example, Alpha Gam is planning a Week of Service this year, from February 14th to 20th. February 15th is a holiday in most Canadian provinces and territories, and that is Reading Week for the majority of schools across campus. Yes, the people who haven’t scheduled themselves to work 40+ hours or haven’t booked a trip somewhere could do something, but why didn’t anyone think to check before this was planned? Our terms don’t quite line up with the American term, and it feels like this is never considered; we are just supposed to adapt for ourselves.
(2) Greek Life isn’t known, and they don’t know how to approach that. I find that a lot of the suggestions for bringing girls out to recruitment and COR are centred on the PNMs at least knowing what Greek Life is. Every single time we speak to a young lady, we are starting our explanation at the beginning. Maybe one out of every hundred and fifty girls here has had exposure to a sorority, and that would be high. And not only are you having to do a massive selling job on the PNM, you typically also have to sell the parents. None of the materials provided to us cover the extensive amount of information needed, and once again, we are left to deal with it.
(3) We pay the same amount of dues, yet aren’t delivered the same amount of service. This is in no way IHQ’s fault, but we are being slaughtered by the exchange rate. Taking the exchange rate out of it, we pay the same monetary amount of dues per member as any American chapter, but we do not see anywhere close to the level of personalisation. It is left to the officers and advisors to try and figure out how we can tweak and fiddle with programs, events, and everything else to fit our chapter, while many US chapters that are well over two hundred members have personalised attention. Maybe we could grow and gain more prominence if we had the same support behind us.
What would I like to see done? (1) Have one employee at IHQ “assigned” to working with the Canadian chapters. It could even be a member of the Volunteer Service Team! It wouldn’t be full time, but if they could take even a little time to understand that we are coming from a different situation, it would go a long way to help members’ happiness, and chapter well-being. As the Campus Relations advisor, I would love to see Canadian specific material for Formal Recruitment, both from Alpha Gamma Delta and the NPC. [Extra points if this person could be Canadian, so that they have first hand experience.] We had a Volunteer Service Team member come and help with recruitment this year- she was from Calgary, and it made a world of difference not having to explain everything to her. I would have to say she is certainly the most helpful and thorough member of IHQ/VST that I have dealt with, and I hope I can work with her again!!
(2) A Canadian specific conference for the Fraternity. It doesn’t need to be every year, it could be every 3-5 years, but just something for Canadians to come together in one place, and meet with each other *and* representatives from IHQ to touch base and assess how the Canadian chapters are doing, and what support we need. Your dollar will go farther here, we won’t have to pay thousands of dollars for 2-4 days, and we could all actually make progress together.
(3) More information disseminated to the Fraternity as a whole about Canadian chapters. I think that there just needs to be more education about us. I’m not suggesting that every member do hours and hours and hours of training about Canadian chapters, but anyone working for IHQ or the Volunteer Service Team should have some working knowledge of the Canadian chapters. There are what, eight Canadian active chapters? It wouldn’t take too terribly long.
What are your thoughts?? Canadians, do you agree?? Americans, do you know much about Greek Life in Canada?