Greek Life at CUNY


John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Despite widespread concern about the safety of Greek life, John Jay maintained its sororities and fraternities while keeping ethical standards and advancing their charitable aims.

Although Greek life’s objective is establishing brother and sisterhoods among undergraduate members, it has been a spectacle of controversy and division over recent years. 

The findings of The University of North Carolina’s research, which expressed ethical concerns about unequal representation and the safety of members, were among the topics debated nationwide. 

 These findings resonated with Andrew Cerbone, a freshman and John Jay law & society major. Cerbone recognizes that Greek life has caused racial discrimination and death in colleges nationwide. 

“Historically, ‘Greek Life’ has led to racial discrimination as well as injury and death,” he said. “There are many ways to organize with others on a college campus, Greek life is unnecessary,” said Cerbone.

There have been over 50 reported deaths of undergraduate students since 2000 that were all attributable to hazing, one of which occurred at CUNY Baruch College, according to NBC.

The stained reputation of Greek Life organizations has urged CUNY-based sororities and fraternities, such as Kappa Phi Alpha (ΚΦA) and Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) to abolish hazing practices in their founding. 

Kappa Phi Alpha (ΚΦA) and Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE)YX are independently administered Greek institutions. John Jay student and TKE brother Arjun Bhatia explains that John Jay College does not recognize their organization.

Some colleges in the CUNY system do recognize fraternal organizations, but John Jay does not,” said Bhatia. 

The members of ΚΦA and TKE are determined to redefine the meaning of being a member of Greek Life by emphasizing values of philanthropy, equity, and tenacity through various efforts. 

 Savana Weiner, ΚΦA sister, and John Jay sophomore explained why hazing damages the bonds of sisterhood.

 “We believe that sisterhood should not rely on harming others to prove how badly they want to be a part of it,” she said. “Sisterhood should be welcoming and caring,” said Weiner.

ΚΦA makes an effort to give back to its founding place, New York City by annually donating $200 to a charity of their choice. Previous donations and fundraisers were held in honor of the foundations known as T.E.A.L and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Weiner added that her organization wants to improve its community.

“We want to support the community by improving different areas for them,” said Weiner.

Sororities are not the only organizations that give back to New York City.  The Social Media Chairmans of Tau Kappa Epsilon, Arjun Bhatia, a junior, and Michael Caserta, a freshman explained the history of TKE’s generous philanthropic efforts.

“The founder of St. Jude, Daniel Thomas, was a brother of TKE,” said Caserta. 

 Bhatia, Treasurer of TKE, explained his devotion to serving St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital and the pride the fraternity has towards their philanthropic efforts. 

“Our main philanthropic efforts are geared toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” he said. “As of August 2019, TKE has pledged to raise $10 million over the next 10 years,” said Bhatia

The funds will help St. Jude further advance its mission to advance cures and prevention of pediatric diseases. 

TKE will host a philanthropy event entitled, “Prank-A-Teke” throughout April. Bhatia explained the event in further detail.

“We will be posting a list of potential pranks, and people are encouraged to donate and ‘buy’ these pranks with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” said Bhatia.

This event is part of TKE’s pledge to donate ten million dollars over ten years to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

Philanthropy is just one factor in rectifying the stained reputation Greek life has nationwide. Sororities, in particular, have been at the forefront of criticism in recent years.

Cebrone also shared that he believes sororities have been known to be misogynistic.

“Sororities, ironically, tend to hold incredibly sexist views regarding women,” said Cerbone. 

In contrast to criticism, equity, and proper representation efforts are ΚΦA’s priorities. Weiner explains how her sorority makes an effort to be inclusive.

“Everyone deserves to be represented in Greek life no matter what,” she said. “Our sorority continues to educate others about various holidays and aspects of cultures that people may not know about,” said Weiner.

Weiner explained learning about a person’s identity brings you closer to that person and creates bonds of sisterhood in ΚΦA.

ΚΦA not only builds sisterhoods, but also opens doors for career opportunities. Weiner explains how her sorority helps members in school and their success outside of college.

“Kappa Phi Alpha has continued to help me push myself not only in school but outside of it,” she said. “Our sorority helps sisters gain experience through internships and job offers due to networking with other sisters,” said Weiner

Weiner elaborated that teamwork, accompanied by confidence, are a few of the inherent values that ΚΦA sisters carry with them throughout their lives, she believes they all push each other to do their best. 

The opportunity to form lifelong communal bonds does not stop at sororities, Bhatia revealed why he pledged to TKE. 

The most appealing part was the sense of community that I found lacking due to the pandemic,” said Bhatia. 

Bhatia is just one example of the longstanding social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students had to adapt to isolation and became dependent on technology to communicate with loved ones and friends. 

Both TKE and ΚΦA are attempting to close the hegemonic social gap that resonates with members by hosting frequent social events. Sometimes, they host social events with other fraternities or sororities from the NYC area. But, not all events within TKE are open to nonmembers. 

Bhatia explained that select private visits occur exclusively between the TKE brothers. They enjoy visiting fellow TKE chapters such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York Institute of Technology, Stony Brook University, and Wagner College.

Although TKE and ΚΦA strikingly differ in some regards, their efforts to engage with their community and promote equity are identical. 

Bhatia explained through philanthropic efforts TKE aims to instill virtues in all brothers as TKE’s motto is “Better Men for a Better World.”