My daughter is a Freshman - there are parties every weekend. Greek life is significant (about half of the students) but not all together exclusive or necessary to have a good time. My daughter elected not to go Greek has a great group of friends both Greek and not Greek and frequently attends Greek events. Drinking is not out of control but it is prevalent on campus and off (and of course some students are out of control with drinking) Seems about the same amount as my older daughter describes at Davidson.
I'll give you the perspective of a Junior at Rhodes. It's a 50/50 split on campus of Greeks and Independents so Greek life is there if you want it but it's not a defining part of life here. If you choose to stay independent as I did, you won't feel left out at all as many Greek parties are open to everyone from the start and if they're not then they usually open up around 11pm. The drinking isn't out of control and is pretty much always only on Fridays and Saturdays. I think it helps that no one lives in the fraternity or sorority houses so it's harder for there to be a crazy party on a whim. If you choose to drink responsibly you can, if not you won't be pressured (in my experience) to do so. People may offer you a drink but if you say no it's left at that and you're still welcome at the parties.
There's usually an activity put on by the Rhodes Activity Board or Big Deihl on the weekends that makes for a good alternative to drinking if that's what you choose to do. A lot of students hang out in someone's room on the weekends watching a movie or just chilling. It's part of the small-school feel that we have here that students are okay with not getting out of control every weekend. It's definitely not like some state schools where partying is off the hook.
Any other questions, PM me or reply. I'd be happy to tell you more.
I second what schnp just said. I'm a freshmen and just finished pledgeship, so I'm greek. But a good 50% of my friends aren't greek. My roommate and hallmates are independents and I love hanging out with them and in many ways I enjoy spending the weekends with them more than the "social" scene. And schnp is definitely right about the no-pressure atmosphere, if you don't want to drink, more power to you. I personally enjoy not drinking because its hilarious to watch a party with sober eyes. haha.
If anyone has any questions about greek life or Rhodes or pledgeship PM or reply to me.
I went to Rhodes quite a while ago. A friend whose daughter is considering Rhodes recently approached me and asked me for my opinions. Aware that there might have been significant changes at the school of which I was not aware, I did some digging. Among the resources I found was a doctoral project at Vanderbilt's Department of Education which addresses some of these issues. The thesis is "An Exploratory Study of Greek Life at Rhodes College," by Paul Gray Wiley, Amy Carol Gideon, and Christopher Bryan Hayse. It is dated May 2009, so the data and conclusions are definitely not stale. The thesis itself can be found at:
The following are quotes from the authors' recommendations, with page numbers in brackets.
In the most general sense, we found little that was obviously amiss in the Greek system. The perceptions of Greek members about Greek life and its effects were almsot universally positive. Faculty and administrators had a more balanced view, but only two suggested abolition of the Greek system. [...] Our report should not, in any way, be seen as an attack on the Greek system or its members. [...] We reiterate here our primary concern that the Greek system may have unintended negative effects on the Independent student population. We urge the College to investigate this concern more fully, and implement appropriate ameliorative actions as necessary. 
This seems to me a reasonable representation of the authors' conclusions as a whole, and I include it to place the remaining quotes into a fair context. And the authors of that study did make some disturbing observations.
[T]he sheer size of the Greek population at Rhodes makes it a monolith. Anecdotally, we were told that Greeks dominate student government, that it is difficult for Independents to hold elected office, and that Greeks overlap with the athletic program to a large degree. That is, other student organizations at the College may simply be proxies for the Greek system. It may well be that Greek life is so intertwined with all other aspects of student social life at Rhodes, that students who are independent of the Greek system -- either by choice or by virtue of failure to receive a bid -- simply cannot recognize a possibility of membership in a desirable social community. Social integration is perhaps the most important precursor to college persistence in residential settings, and communal potential is an important influence on social integration. 
The Greek system may be functioning as an oppressive subculture that engages its members, but alienates Independents. 
[W]e believe that the College may be relying too heavily on fraternities and sororities to provide social programming for students. 
Rhodes' initial concern in this study was to find out what happens to students who attempt to affiliate with a student organization, but are unsuccessful in doing so. [...] [W]e learned anecdotally that at least some students who are unsuccessful in their attempt to affiliate with a fraternity or sorority are devastated by the rejection. One faculty member suggested that students who do not get a bid are essentially "exiled from campus." 
I attended Rhodes for four years and graduated from there. Along the way, I spent two years in the Greek system before leaving it in disgust. And my reaction upon reading these comments was, "how little has changed."
What do recent and current Rhodes students say? Here's a sampling from one student review site (the forum software won't allow the name to be displayed for some reason). Similar comments can be found elsewhere.
Since I was a transfer during 2nd semester, I couldn't join a sorority and so it was impossible to meet people. Even girls in the dorms would only hang out with girls in their sorority, and it was extremely frustrating. If you don't get into the good sororities even during 1st semester, you are left with no social life and nothing to do.
Greek life runs the social scene at Rhodes for the most part. I myself am in one of the more popular sororities but even so they closemindedness of most of the girls is pathetic. The guys are the same way. Anyone different is not accepted past a very surface level.
I saw great friendships come to a crashing halt on 'bid night' because one person got into the 'right' group and the other didn't, and members of XYZ just do *not* (oh no!) associate with members of ABC ... and this was not a rare event.
The dominance of Greeks in leadership positions in non-Greek arenas might be cited by some as a reflection of the opportunity that Greek life provides for developing these attributes in students. While there is something to be said for that, it's also undeniable that a large part of this effect is simply electoral arithmetic at work. Given that half the student population is Greek, it's obvious on that basis alone that a large portion of the students in any sample will be Greek. But beyond that, it's also obvious and entirely foreseeable that the adolescent mentality that "the right people must end up in the right places" exacerbates the effect further. A Greek running for elective office can automatically count on the votes of everyone else in his or her fraternity or sorority, as well as a large portion of those members of other Greek organizations who believe it is simply proper that the Greeks run things.
Unfortunately, this effect extends beyond venues which are merely trivial, but also into organizations and positions which have significant effects on campus life (e.g., Honor Council, SGA), and which can also impact prospects for post-graduation employment and/or admission to graduate schools (student-run honor societies). Nor does this effect end with who ends up elected to campus leadership positions, but extends even to how those positions are executed. I personally witnessed one example where cheating by a student was quietly buried by the student-run Honor Council because of his fraternity membership; I don't think it's at all unreasonable to ask how many other times this sort of thing happened.
In my web surfing, I've seen a view often expressed by apologists for the Rhodes Greek system. This is that Greeks do not live in their houses, but rather alongside Independents in the dormitories. (The overwhelming majority of students live on campus.) From this, an inference is stated that the Greek system does not isolate and segregate students. The fact is true, but the inference in hollow. From what I recall, the typical Rhodes fraternity member shares a dorm room with a fraternity brother, dines exclusively with fraternity brothers, socializes nearly exclusively with fraternity brothers, and rarely attempts to develop social relationships beyond the level of superficial, casual acquaintances if those relationships are inconsistent with his Greek identity. The sororities' situations are slightly more complex, but the effect is virtually the same. To put it somewhat more baldly, my experience and observations were that most Rhodes Greeks carefully confined their friendships to those which were tacitly understood to be permitted by the Greek system as a whole. And after seeing those student comments I must say again, how little has changed. Walls can be just as impenetrable even if they are not made of stone and mortar.
As for the Independents, well ... the Rhodes Greek system is, to steal a phrase, "a monolith." Given that it is the dominant social force on campus, and is the dominant framework through which students form social evaluations of each other, the Independents cannot help but internalize some of the norms and evaluations of the Greek system. If a Rhodes student, whether Greek or Independent, wishes to form social relationships which contradict accepted campus norms which are mostly determined by the Greek system, he or she must have enough self-confidence, experience, and maturity to be comfortable swimming against a rather strong current. To be blunt, those are qualities that most late adolescents simply do not possess.
Now, a purely personal opinion. The dirty little secret that few seem to want to say aloud is that Rhodes is simply too small to have a healthy social environment and any sort of Greek system -- but, barring a major scandal of some sort, the College will never abandon it. It is simply too firmly entrenched, not only in the campus culture but also in the alumni community and its reservoir of potential donations. I personally saw a prominent alumni use his influence to attempt to protect his old fraternity from a well-deserved punishment for an obvious rush violation; again, I must suspect that this there are other cases which the students don't hear about in which alumni feel they have an interest either in the Greek system as a whole or in a particular society, and act to protect this interest.
While that is a personal opinion, I can place it into some contexts. In my life after graduation, I've come into intimate and prolonged contact with two other schools. One was a large university in which the Greek system played a small role. The other was a small college, slightly larger than Rhodes, which did not have a Greek system. From what I observed, the students seemed just as well adjusted, intellectually challenged, socially developed, integrated into campus life, etc. without ever having participated in or brought into close contact with Greek societies.
I don't want to paint an unfairly bleak picture. But I feel that the comments which have been made thus far are unfairly rosy, and that the other side of the argument needs to be aired. To be clear, I think that Greek societies, if they exist in a balance with a multitude of other social venues, can be a positive part of the college experience. I don't think that this balance exists at Rhodes. nor is it even close.
To sum all this up. I think any representation of Rhodes which projects an impression that Greek life and Independent life are more or less co-equal in social opportunities for students is, whether intentionally or not, disingenuous. It's not the case that a Rhodes student can simply take the Greek system or leave it. Rather, that student has two choices -- be a part of the Greek system, or work around it.
Incidentally, what I finally told that friend whose daughter was considering Rhodes was this -- the school is good academically, but in terms of the campus social life there are plenty of better places out there, and she'd be better off looking somewhere else. Just one Rhodes alum's opinion.
I am a Rhodes alum, and I am also a current Rhodes parent. I was a member of a sorority, and found it to be a good experience. I had friends who were Greek and independent. My DD surprised me by joining a sorority (not the same one), and also enjoys the experience. She, too, has friends who are Greek and independent. She has made friends through all her ECs at Rhodes (a religious group and various other activities.) Her friends who aren't Greek are happy, well-adjusted, and don't feel isolated. A lot of D's social life is NOT through her sorority--so I think there's plenty keep kids busy without participating in the Greek scene.
An honest question, from the parent of an EA Rhodes applicant, UT Austin grad....are the greeks at Rhodes in the same mold as those from UT? Racist, xenophobic, misogynist and siliconed? Broadbrush, but....fairly accurate in my opinion.
To mimimomx3: I have a friends who are in sororities at Rhodes and the University of Texas. I can tell you that the sorority girls at Rhodes are not typical of those described by you for the University of Texas. However, I would disagree with your admittedly broadbrush description of the sorority girls there. My best friend is a ChiO, but I also have friends in AChiO, TriDelt, Zeta, and Kappa and your description of them all as "Racist, xenophobic, misogynist and siliconed" is incorrect.
Back to Rhodes. The sorority girls are no more "Racist, xenophobic, misogynist and siliconed" than the rest of the student body. So very little on the whole. However, some stereotypes of greek life can still be seen. The girls are largely white, but then again so is the college. The girls have more money than the surrounding area of Memphis (again, so does almost every student there). The girls are pretty and take care to look good (are you catching my drift? again, most students on campus are good looking haha).
I would agree with shyparentalunit, my Independent friends have no problem with the Greek system. They just chose not to partake in rushing. They go to greek parties on the weekends but also often attend RAB and Big Deihl events. I would agree that greek life is a major part of campus life, but right now on the Freshmen Council and Senate, not a single member is greek so its definitely possible to be Independent and involved.
Certainly my description is a broad brushed one, but having gone to UT from 1980-1984, and not being a WASP, it is fairly accurate. In any case, it was my experience, and as such is valid. The world has changed, but if you lived that day to day experience for 4 years, then you know you want something different for your child. My understanding is that the Rhodes greek system is very, very different and I am glad about that.
I can't speak for UT, but I'll try to address the question anyway.
Racist? I have no reason to think that Rhodes Greeks are any worse than those elsewhere, but on the other hand, I also have no reason to think they're any better. An unfortunate fact of Greek life is that no matter what a chapter's bylaws and other governing documents say, a single determined active member can usually block a particular rushee from getting a bid. Whether or not a chapter has the rule that one blackball is enough, in practice, makes little difference. I saw that happen in my own fraternity on one occasion; an African-American had been propsed for membership, and an older member quite baldly stated, privately and off the record, that it was a waste of time because he didn't like the rushee's skin color and would ensure that he'd ensure the rushee never initiated if pledged. We didn't have the one blackball rule, but the other rules combined to create a situation where there was really nothing that could be done once this member dug in. In my fraternity's defense, we weren't exclusively white but had some Asian members and some from the Middle East. (I can only guess that in the mind of that particular ... ahem ... "gentleman," that there was some distinction to be made there. Sheesh.)
As for the other fraternities, well, in theory fraternity deliberations are supposed to be absolutely secret. In reality, occasionally word does get out. I'm aware of one other case with another fraternity where something similar happened. Now, I wasn't privy to the deliberations of the other fraternities regarding 99% of their rushees. One might therefore suggest that the case I was aware of was the tip of the iceberg, but because this is such a touchy topic I'll assume that the racial discrimination, and the outrage it may have evoked among some members, was the reason certain active members broke ranks and leaked the story. So maybe that was the only other time it occurred. Still, the point is, it happens, it only takes a very small faction to make it happen, and at the end of the day all the anti-racist rules and regs in the world make little difference. (A member doesn't have to give reasons and can block a rushee with no more explanation than "I just don't like him.")
Now, this should be obvious but it's important to explicitly state it anyway -- that sort of thing is certainly not unique to Rhodes College.
Xenophobic? I wouldn't say they're fearful of outsiders, so not in that sense. But they certainly do take steps to isolate themselves from the rest of campus (see above). I think the description I'd use would be "intensely self-absorbed." Most of the Greeks I knew believed that the entire campus revolved around the Greek system.
Misogynist? Well ... put a bunch of 19 year olds together, fuel with some beer, and it doesn't take much for the mob mentality to take over. But I don't think Rhodes Greeks are any worse than those elsewhere on this score.
Siliconed? Appearance counts. The members weren't all perfect Barbie and Ken dolls; the Rhodes Greek societies don't have as much raw material to choose from as those at a larger school. Still, a casual glance was enough to establish that in general, there was a strong correlation between a group's status on campus and the physical attractiveness of its members. I went through rush as a freshman and participated as an active member for two more years, and from what I saw, the core pledge classes were largely determined within the first week of school. It's not surprising that a lot of snap judgements come into play.
Gee, Wombat. 2 whole posts? And they are both on the Greeks at Rhodes? And you joined 12/20 to post them? What gives? I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your social life at Rhodes. What are the other two schools you mention?
My D is a sorority member after being adamantly anti-sorority in the college search. When she lived in the dorms her roomies (by choice) soph year were an senior officer in another sorority and a GDI. Now that she lives in East Village her roomies are still "mixed".
I can't deny that maybe someone with low self-esteem will cling to the sameness of their club, but that's not what I've seen or heard to be the norm. To anyone interested in Rhodes, recognize the existence of Greek's on campus and then investigate. That's what mine did and she felt very comfortable attending and has had a fantastic and rewarding 3 and 1/2 years.
As to any semblance of UT greeks in the 70's and 80's .....no. Not a bit.
If the existence of a Greek presence on campus offends you too much, don't come. If, OTOH, you are open to explore the way Rhodes students interact with one another, Greek and non-Greek, jock and non-jock, rich and not rich you may find a school you like. Or not. Don't let others make that call for you. And , yes. That includes me.
Last edited by curmudgeon; 12-22-2009 at 12:36 PM.
Gee, Wombat. 2 whole posts? And they are both on the Greeks at Rhodes? And you joined 12/20 to post them?
What does that have to do with anything?
What gives? I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your social life at Rhodes.
I didn't say that. But I didn't particularly enjoy the Rhodes Greek system.
Disparage my credibility all you like. This is, after all, the Internet, and that sort of ad hominem attack is the norm. But three professional-level educators examined these issues. They didn't just take a quick look around, but conducted a formal research project. That research was done under the auspices of a prominent institution of higher learning. The faculty of that institution judged the research to be of high enough quality to accept it as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree. While the researchers were careful to state their conclusions in positive tones, part of their conclusions were that there are problems which are far more than merely trivial, and which are not just the bad experiences of a few malcontents but are in fact systemic.
What sort of insinuations do you plan to make about them?
[My daughter] felt very comfortable attending and has had a fantastic and rewarding 3 and 1/2 years.
Good for her. Many do enjoy the school. But I shouldn't have to point out that the checks that paid for my Rhodes degree were just as good and cleared the bank just as quickly as the checks that paid for hers.
Don't let others make that call for you.
Nor am I trying to make the call for anyone. I'm just balancing the picture.
I have a daughter who attends an LAC roughly the same size as Rhodes but with a far higher greek participation. Her experience has been similar to what curmudgeon describes (went from wanting no part of it to joining and really having a great time with it), and I also agree with curmudgeon's assessment. It's one of many aspects that's a fact of life at many schools and easily enough to discern prior to making a decision to attend. There are plenty of places for the anti-greek crowd to attend just as there's the opposite. One just needs to do their due dilligence. It's not like the information is hidden. If a prospective doesn't do that from the outset, then I think they shoulder much of the responsibility for their own unhappiness regarding such circumstances.
I was really concerned about the dominance of the greek system at D's school initially, but after some digging, she concluded it would not be an issue for her whether she participated or not. Fortunately, what I also learned about it is that it is very different from my initial perceptions which were sort of along the lines of what mimimomx3 mentions. That's not at all what it is, and frankly, I had to admit that my initial concerns were vastly overstated.
Yet, I can certainly understand why some people who are really intolerant of greek life would avoid her particular school even if they did understand it beyond the usual sterotypes. Although pretty much everyone who wants one gets a bid, I'd guess it's probably not as much fun being an independent for those who opt out (although many have stated otherwise). Nonetheless, I think it would be silly to complain about it given that it's such a known part of the school's culture to begin with.
What sort of insinuations do you plan to make about them?
Well, I just skimmed it. I didn't study it..sorry, don't have time.
I can start with the fact that one of the authors is employed at a directly competitive institution that some believe has more issues than Rhodes. And that's just for starters.
Their methodology IS a little suspect, too but they admit to response bias in their paper. In actuality, I don't object to much that was in the paper. Most of it was common sense ,as well as common knowledge. Frat kids drink more? Really? I do find it interesting that they had trouble understanding why a less financially secure group would have a lower grad rate than a more financially secure group at a school that doesn't meet 100% of need. D'uh. I think a day on this website would give them the answer. Seems they could have equalized the $$ factor and then performed the same analysis if they wanted to actually find something meaningful.
And BTW I don't even like hominem. Way too starchy for me. And "attack"? Puh-leeze. lol. Whine to your momma, 'cuz that was no "attack'. BTW, you didn't answer the Q as to what 2 other schools and why were these your first 2 posts. Did'ya? Hmmm.
Last edited by curmudgeon; 12-23-2009 at 07:57 PM.