Denison for those not interested in Greek life?

Hi all, Denison seems to fit the bill for my D21 in many ways, but she is concerned about the amount of Greek life, even though it is nonresidential. It does seem that a pretty high percentage participate, especially for a small LAC. Can anyone offer any wisdom to allay her fears? Thanks!

I hope someone who is more familiar with the sororities at Denison will respond, but in the meantime, I can pass along what I’ve heard from my son, who is a Denison sophomore. This is a guy who went off to school with really no preconceptions about Greek life - his education was overseas, so he’d never heard anything about it, and I remember him asking me while we were touring US colleges why everyone kept talking about Greeks. In putting together his school list junior year, I think I naturally steered him away from schools with big Greek presences, as he has never liked any sort of cliquey or exclusive environment, but the fact that Denison does not have residential fraternities was reassuring. As things turned out, a number of his friends, including one of his roommates, are in fraternities, but he himself decided not to pledge. He is an athlete, which provides him with a kind of home base, but not being in a fraternity seems to be a complete nonissue and the overall environment at Denison is very inclusive. He absolutely loves the school.

My kid, like @tkoparent 's, was a male athlete who was not in greek life. Male participation in fraternities is around 25%, female participation in sororities is higher though I don’t know the numbers. There are enough sororities on campus, plus multi-cultural organizations, that there are generally “greek life” homes for those interested. My kid knew girls who fit the sorority stereotype who were in greek life, as well as lots of others who did not fit (LGBTQ, non-athlete, very alternative/artsy etc) and were happy with their sorority experience, plus girls who seemed the stereotypical sorority type who were not interested and not involved. The houses are non-residential, and sorority houses function more as hang out space, slightly down the hill, near the arts buildings.

I think the impact of greek life on the social scene started to change last year, and will continue to change over the next few years with. In the past, the big parties were thrown in the senior apartments (the “Sunnies”) often by athletes or greek life members. Parties in the Sunnies are supposed to be a thing of the past as the college announced no more large gatherings there, for safety, wear and tear on the buildings. Last year, the “Moonies” were finished and opened to serve as new social space/party barns, down the hill from the senior apartments and near the rec sports fields. Plus, with the expanded social space in the new Silverstein Senior apartments, with plans for an over 21 pub etc. and the wellness center planned, with more social space with a teaching kitchen, and other space, there are more options for social space and non-alcohol based parties. My expectation is that all these changes mean that greek life influence in party life will continue to be diluted.

My kid’s girlfriend, and all her friends, were not in greek life and did not miss it. At the same time, he had a bunch of friends who were “regular” non-fussy, non-fashionista girls, who were involved in politics, social issues, etc, who loved their sorority experience.

@tkoparent and @Midwestmomofboys – thank you both for your really helpful and thorough responses. I will show them to my daughter.

Great question @marshmallo, we are in the exact same boat with our daughter. Denison has been low on list because of the Greek & preppy vibe. Might have to dig a little deeper.

I know I’m a cheer leader, and perhaps can get a bit tiresome about being pro-Denison. My son’s experience, and ours, in getting to know his friends, team, etc., was that Denison kids share an overall “nice” kid vibe. It’s not a super social justice warrior vibe but I wouldn’t say it is highly preppy and Greek either. Yes, there are wealthy kids who take ski and beach vacations. But there are a whole lot (more) kids from middle class and upper middle class families for whom college costs are a big challenge, who watch their finances closely, and kids cannot afford to go out to eat a lot, or splurge on clothes shopping etc. Plus, a fairly significant percentage (nearly 20%) of 1st gen and low income students. I don’t think my kid was an exception, because his friends were like this too – he was a 4 year athlete, not in greek life, with friends from all over campus, from sports to acapella, to campus radio station, to student government to policy wonks, etc. He had friends from his major, from his dorm, from his Aug O group as a 1st year etc.

Sorority participation is higher than fraternity participation, but the girls he knew in sororities were, for the most part, down-to-earth, really kind, caring, involved people. They didn’t fit any kind of stereotype of sorority girls. He also had plenty of female friends who were not in sororities and it was not a big deal.

We didn’t look at Denison originally because I assumed it was still like what it used to be – wealthy, preppy, and not his scene. We visited on the advice of friends who thought my kid would like it – he did, and so did we. For him, it was the “just right” school – not too SJW, not too politically correct, and not too preppy. Of course, your mileage may vary, but I really encourage people to visit (they are still doing that, within limits) and reach out to Admissions for ways to connect. It is a surprising, and wonderful community.

These lists offer perspective on Denison’s sorority and fraternity participation in the context of other colleges:

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/most-sororities

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/most-frats

Daughter is a Freshman at Denison and you’d have to pay her to even consider joining a sorority. Nor is she an athlete. Having said that she is enjoying herself immensely, even with the Covid protocols in place. The Greek thing is a non issue for her.

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thanks @Herecomesmongo. That is good to hear.

Same here. Daughter interested, but Greek life seems to be too big for her liking. Any other female opinions of/experience with sororities and social life at D would be extremely appreciated. So many resources seem to describe/rank sororities as a pretty big priority there. Also, while I appreciate the perspective from the boys’/fraternity point of view, it is just very different for the girls in so many ways socially, culturally, emotionally, safety-wise, etc., — so looking for some female student / parent perspectives there if possible? Thanks so much!!

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Following- hoping to get more info on this. This is my D’s biggest concern. Other options do not have a greek system at all.

Hi, my brief comment above regarding my Freshman D who has no interest in a sorority still stands. D is now into her spring semester and meeting more people, widening her social circles and very content. She has been to some parties, both frat ones and non-frat, regular ones and the only complaint she had was the frat parties played bad music :laughing:. But if you have any specific questions or concerns from your D I’m happy to provide what I can as a parent. But here’s something that I know: Denison is a small school so the staff is really nice and accessible. At least that’s been my experience thus far. So if Denison is a school your D is really interested in but the Greek numbers you see in various reports is giving her pause, I bet you or she could contact admissions and someone would be able to give you guys some first hand intel.

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My daughter is finishing her sophomore year at Denison and has less than zero interest in joining a sorority. Greek life at Denison is non residential, therefore my daughter has friends that joined a sorority and others that didn’t. It’s never been a limiting factor for who she’s friends with. Same goes for athletics she has friends on various Denison sports teams even though she’s not really interested sports. It seems the kids all know each other and co-exist well regardless of chosen activities and focus areas.

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