The Independent Student Council encourages students to get involved on campus beyond Greek life. Photo courtesy of the Independent Student Council Instagram.
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Butler University prides itself on its unique and strong Greek culture on campus. This aspect of campus life is highlighted during a prospective student’s tour and is one of the first things introduced to students when they come on campus.
Butler is a small school with many of the perks of a bigger school, and Greek life is not an exception. As a matter of fact, Greek life has a huge impact on campus due to the organizations’ commitment to service, philanthropy and building social interaction and community.
However, many students on campus decide not to go Greek at Butler and feel no regret toward their decision. If rush did not work out for an individual, Butler offers several alternative organizations and clubs to be a part of.
According to Butler’s Institutional Research and Assessment, 30 percent of the campus is Greek, meaning the other 70 percent are regular students. Except instead of being called “students,” unaffiliated members of a campus are called “independents.”
Sam Varie is Butler’s sophomore SGA president elect, and co-president of the Independent Student Council. Varie presents a theory on why the discussion of independents is prevalent amongst students.
“I believe that with the increased enrollment in the class of 2020, our campus experienced an increase in number of students interested in joining the Greek community, but the capacity of each house did not inflate at the same level, causing more students to not find their home within the Greek community,” Varie said. “Because of that, I believe there has been a larger independent population who is interested in addressing the gap between Greek and independent campus life.”
The concept of an independent is not new. “GDI’s” or “Godd*mn Independents” is how many campuses reference non-Greeks. Within the last couple years at Butler, being an independent has implied many things.
Many students choose not to go Greek because of unknowns about the process, the negative stigma that surrounds much of Greek life, or lack of interest and desire. For many students the rush process does not work in their favor and they are not invited to a house.
“There are a multitude of independent students, whether they are athletes, commuters, performing artists or students uninterested in engaging in mainstream campus life,” Varie said. “No matter where they find their home, or the “type” of independent student they are, each has made Butler their home in a different way, and it is the role of ISC, SGA and every student on campus to ensure every student feels supported and validated, regardless of where they find that home.”
No matter the situation, the idea of what it means to be an independent on Butler’s campus has been a topic of concern. More specifically the relationship between those in the Greek community and those considered independent.
Alyssa Gulick is a sophomore and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. She came to Butler with her two best friends and has had an experience that many can relate to.
“Upon coming to Butler, two of my close friends from home decided to come to Butler. One of my friends joined a fraternity, and the other did not,” Gulick said. “We still see each other and make an effort to hang out. I also have friends that did not go Greek, and we still remain close. I do not think that being in Greek life has to deter you from being friends with non-Greek students.”
While Gulick acknowledges the divide, she believes there are more contributing factors influencing campus culture.
“I feel that it is hard to just pin a divide on Greek versus independents,” Gulick said. “I think that all Butler students have been feeling tensions in regards to all aspects of student life.”
Mohsin Waraich, a sophomore sports media major, has his mixed sentiments about being an independent on campus.
“Not being in a fraternity has given me freedom to do what I want and not feel constrained to a certain set of values. I’m still able to make new friends, meet new people and be who I am with other opportunities on campus,” Waraich said. “However, with that being said, I also think that there are limitations to not being involved with Greek life. Most of the social events on campus are Greek-oriented and there is a clear disconnect between independents and Greek life members.”
Students who did rush and did not received bids on Bid Day feel as if their experience has been tarnished and will continue to happen to others.
“I actually did rush a fraternity and looking back on the experience, I just felt that everything was so vanilla. Every response, every question I felt judged, and I felt like a broken record,” Waraich said. “There needs to be more done to erase the divide between independents and Greeks, and if changes are not made, it will affect the future of this campus.”
Jordan Brooks is a sophomore pursuing the dual degree program in engineering and computer science and decided not to rush.
“I think Greek life is amazing and I would have loved to rush; however, with my busy schedule I don’t have to worry about going to sorority meetings that I don’t have time for,” Brooks said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Greek life is amazing, this campus is just lacking things for independents and does not bridge the gap between independents and Greeks.”
The Independent Student Council relaunched in 2017 to help alleviate the obstacles and perceived limitations of being an independent.
Varie said the organization “seeks to unite, ignite and empower non-affiliated students by connecting them to programming and educational events.”
The organization is described as a governing, umbrella organization that provides resources for the independent population without “club meetings” or membership titles. ISC has a group of ambassadors sharing resources across the Butler community.
“Any independent student can be an ambassador, and to ensure they do not become defined by organization, we allow them to make their role and our organization work for them, instead of dictating their role,” Varie said.
It is encouraged to be a part of outside organizations if you are a member of a Greek house. However, students who do try to get involved with on-campus activities feel overshadowed by those who are a part of Greek life.
Jenna Lebleu is a marketing and strategic communications major and believes that there is only so much ISC can do for independent students, specifically because of the strong Greek presence.
“OK, I understand that it’s required by some of the frats and sororities to be a part of clubs and stuff, but when it feels like it’s the same houses or group of people are running everything, what makes you think I want to join?” Lebleu said.
Murjanatu Mutuwa is a junior strategic communications major actively engaged with Greek and non-Greek events as an independent student, and she said the biggest distinction of her experience compared to her friends in Greek life is “having that automatic community.”
“This is a Community of Care, and because it’s a small school it is more noticeable once you’re on campus,” Mutuwa said.
As an independent, Mutuwa addresses the fact that everyone’s experience is different, but she sympathises with those who have not had the same experience as her regarding students who have considered transferring or have not had a great experience.
“I definitely think they should be more sensitive because it’s such a fragile thing. When you go to a job interview, they are judging you off your credentials and work experience, but in Greek life they are judging your personhood which is fragile for those who go through the process,” Mutuwa said.
Independents encompass the majority of the campus despite the atmosphere that is presented or perceived. While efforts for inclusion of all bulldogs are in the works, independent students want inclusion in all facets because first and foremost they are students attending the same university as anyone in Greek life.