Bridging the gap: Gators and Greeks

Maybe not all unusual combinations at Allegheny are meant to be.

Students feel that there is a divide between athletics and Greek life, and they have their reasons. For example, the Allegheny Facebook network has a group entitled, “F Fraternities, I’m a Gator.” The group currently has 75 members. This is one of the gaps that a group of students are trying to bridge.

Many athletes see their team as their outlet for a social life and partying in college, while some members of Greek life are trying to see what restrictions are in the way of athletes joining fraternities.

Adam Spisak plays for the men’s soccer team.

“I feel there are not many reasons to join a fraternity if you play a sport,” Spisak said. “You already have the close-knit family friendship that a fraternity tries to offer.”

Beau Whiteman is a Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) member, a member of the swim team and also a brother in Phi Delta Theta. Whiteman and Mike Tylka, the Allegheny Student Government (ASG) president and Phi Delta Theta president, are trying to start a conversation with members of the athletic department about changing the way the two groups view each other.

“We are trying to create a dialogue,” Whiteman said. “We are trying to find out what kind of barriers there are that are preventing athletes from being a part of Greek life.”

Tylka, an involved member in Greek life at Allegheny, is spearheading the effort with Whiteman.

“Historically at Allegheny, alumni were members of both athletic teams and Greek life,” Tylka said. “Today, it’s not this way. There are low recruitment numbers from the Greek organizations, campus wide, and we are looking at it historically trying to figure out why things changed.”

Betsy Mitchell is the athletic director at Allegheny College.

“The athletic department has no policy on athletics and Greek life, positive or negative,” Mitchell said. “Students are students who are free to do what they want.”

Mitchell stresses that her department does not discourage student/athletes from exploring other extracurricular activities on campus. “The only conflict there would be is time,” Mitchell said. “But there certainly aren’t any barriers [from the athletic department].”

The issue is also being brought to the forefront because of Allegheny’s “unusual combinations” slogan, which sells the school to prospective students as a place where students balance all types of activities.

“Allegheny really is such a neat place,” Mitchell said. “Students can do a lot of different things. They obviously can’t do everything they want all the time, but our business is talking students through their decisions.”

The stereotype that fraternities and athletic teams do not get along may be well-known to students, but it hasn’t been brought up formally.

“It hasn’t been an issue for the 18 months I have been here,” Mitchell said. “I never discussed specifics about Greek life to coaches before.”

Despite the fact that the athletic department seems content with the way things are running, Whiteman believes there is room for improvement in the relationship.

“Betsy Mitchell is extremely receptive to student ideas,” Whiteman said. “We are currently looking into creating a discussion panel between the athletic department and Greek life.”

There are students on campus who balance both commitments, serving as members of a fraternity as well as athletes. One of these students is J.P. Russell, a varsity swimmer and a member of Phi Delta Theta.

The Phi Delts consist of 11 student/athletes, the highest total by far of athletes in fraternities.

“Being in both is not as bad as you’d think,” Russell said. “A lot of people think it’s a lot worse. I wish I had known more about Greek life during my freshman year.”

Another potential problem for athletes that also join fraternities is time commitment. Both activities require a lot of time to remain active in each.

“I would say don’t be scared of trying to do both,” Russell said. “If you have a good time with the potential fraternity, then go for it. Our chapter meeting was the same time as swim practice and the Phi Delts moved chapter back an hour for us.”

Annie Schultheis plays volleyball and is  sister in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

“I missed chapter meetings all throughout the fall seasons,” Shultheis said. “When spring rolled around, my coach was always very accommodating and would even move practice times back so I could attend chapter.”

Ultimately, the decision to become involved in both athletics and Greek life falls on the student. They are both large commitments, but both sides are trying to create a discussion panel, with a little extra push from the Greek community on campus.

“If you are truly committed to being an athlete but want to be in Greek life nothing should stop you,” Whiteman said. “If you manage your time correctly you should be able to pursue all of your extracurricular activities.”