It’s not all Greek to them

by Laura Dillavou

Leadership is an art. It’s an art not everyone can master, regardless of their experiences, backgrounds or gender. However, many question whether Greek affiliation can factor into leadership ability.

Junior Evan Schaefer has been involved with Greek life since his first semester at Simpson. He is currently the vice president of Alpha Tau Omega and he has also held the positions of philanthropy and community service chair and new-member educator. He’s the current Inter-Fraternity Council president and former IFC vice president of recruitment.

“Having a Greek background helps to get your feet wet in leadership,” Schaefer said. “By getting involved in Greek life, it helps you get involved in student activities. It’s a progression upwards.”

Still, the student body president, the original Storm Chaser, captains of the football team and many other positions of leadership on campus are not held by Greeks.

Junior Omar Padilla is one of the campus’s student leaders who chose to remain independent of Greek life. He says “going Greek” was never a consideration of his.

“I never really thought about the choice to join or not,” Padilla said. “I think I had the wrong idea of what frats are all about from TV shows and rumors.”

As a leader in the International Student Organization, Multicultural Student Alliance, CASA, Beyond Belief and member of the Simpson men’s soccer team, Padilla has plenty on his plate without being member of a Greek organization.

To him, leadership comes through experience and learning.

“To be a good leader, you have to look at the reaction people give you,” Padilla said. “If you don’t put it out in the right form, people won’t accept it … you learn to be very flexible but have the mentality to get things done right now.”

However, members of Greek organizations feel that very same mentality is present from day one of joining a chapter.

Schaefer has made the move from Greek-based activities to student-run activities. He is currently the junior class president, a student ambassador and involved in CAB as a production manager.

These activities, he said, were brought to light by peer mentors within his house.

“My involvement in Greek life jump-started my involvement in SGA – it was kind of a foundation,” Schaefer said. “I looked up to Cory George, and then Eric Elben, who was student body president last year, as my mentors … it might have been a lot harder for me to start [student activities] without mentoring.”

Jim Thorius, vice president of student development, has seen leaders of all affiliations at Simpson College.

“If you compare individuals, Student X being Greek and Student Y being non-Greek, I don’t have any evidence in the way they perform against each other,” Thorius said. “Greek students tend to populate student leadership at a higher percentage rate than most would think though.”

Because of the support system Greeks have, Padilla feels they may be more likely to hold leadership positions outside of their houses.

“Greek leaders have a bigger support base already set,” Padilla said. “I think it’s easier for them to get the campus moving because they already have 40 people on their side. For that, I hold them to higher standards.”

Schaefer is familiar with those high standards. He said the perception of being Greek often puts a different light on a person from who they really may be.

“Having the idea that people would look at us [Greeks] in a different light besides a member of the Simpson Community reflects the perception that we are higher up,” Schaefer said. “We are just as equal … we are viewed differently because we are so visible on campus.”

Thorius said that while Greeks hold many student leadership positions, it may come from the experiences they gain while being a part of an organization.

“If someone comes from a background with Greek experience, it’s always a plus,” Thorius said. “It’s usually gives a better understanding of our campus environment and student life.”

But Padilla and Schaefer think they can both give that to the student body – affiliated or not.

“Greeks may win elections because they have connections through their fraternity or sorority, which should help them,” Padilla said. “But others may not vote for them because they don’t like Greeks in general. I think the person who does the best job is who the people will vote for.”

Schaefer said a label is just a label – not definitive or an accurate judgment of one’s character.

“In my experience, I know a lot of people don’t think I’m Greek,” Schaefer said. “They kind of see you in other aspects than being Greek.”