Before and during college, students are bombarded with advice from all directions by all people, some of it obvious, some intriguing but not fully clear and some brushed off like an insignificant fly. But there is one consistent piece of advice that is practiced at some point in every meaningful life. I've heard it from graduates of state schools and Ivy Leagues alike: Be open to new people and to different experiences.
The advice is clear, but sometimes the simplest advice is practiced incorrectly. The confused teenager with an eager heart, having heard during high school the defeated idea that college will be the best time of his or her life, with the impossible, barely perceptible fear of four years of solitude, rushes and joins a Greek organization.
Let me be clear: There is nothing inherently wrong with joining a Greek organization, nor do I argue against joining one. In fact, it's clear that fraternities and sororities have many benefits. They bring friends, opportunities and connections. But a step in the right direction - a step toward being open, meeting people and forming meaningful relationships - often leads to many steps toward antagonism, egoism and restrictiveness.
Students should avoid confining themselves to any single social organization, particularly a social fraternal organization. Greek life can consume a student's life and cause him or her to form an obsession with only one organization and its counterpart fraternities or sororities. Instead of diversifying their experiences and the types of people with they interact with, students consumed by Greek life feel antagonistic toward rival fraternities and sororities as well as other students. Relationships outside their confines can become insincere, short-lived and based on malevolent motives.
Both the individual and the university suffer when students center their lives on social fraternal organizations. Jokes about rival organizations and GDIs might seem to be in good humor, but they represent a more fundamental issue associated with the Greek lifestyle: the tendency to antagonize others, both Greek and non-Greek. This antagonism is anti-intellectual and not productive to higher education. We can see the effect of this antagonism on UF as a whole when considering the Greek system's attempt to monopolize UF politics through the Unite Party.
Though not always the case, I have too often witnessed the sad situation of students becoming engrossed with the Greek lifestyle, falling into a mindset that debilitates them once they receive their degree and they enter a new chapter of their lives. Without sounding like an anti-drug campaign, I have had friends, obsessed with Greek life, expelled from UF for low grades, a direct result of their time-draining obsession.
Finding a community during college is important for a healthy and happy mind, but so is remaining open to diverse experiences and people. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the university experience is the ability to connect with thousands of intelligent students, most of whom have very different beliefs, practices and ideas.
If a student joins a social fraternal organization and does not allow it and its members to become his or her life, then that student has benefited twofold. But when students finds their lives revolving around a Greek organization that hampers their ability to engage in new experiences and with people not so similar to themselves, they should consider what the organization actually stands for, if that lifestyle is in harmony with their ideas and if that obsession is the best way to dedicate their youthful, capable, brilliant years.
Abdul Zalikha is a biology and English junior at UF. His column appears on Wednesdays.