Their teams, their houses: athletes in Greek life

by Becky Brownell , Danielle Okonta and Samantha Hussey | 11/13/17 2:20am

Varsity athletes make up around 21 percent of the undergraduate student body, and given how prevalent Greek life is on campus, it comes as no surprise that Dartmouth athletes are heavily involved in Dartmouth’s Greek scene. Notably, 78.5 percent of varsity athletes eligible to rush are affiliated in Greek houses, in comparison to the student body average of 65%. For some sports teams, athletes choose to rush the same house as most of their teammates. On others, athletes are members of many different Greek houses, if they choose to be affiliated at all. There are vast differences in house variety for men’s and women’s sports teams, likely relating to the difference in their respective Greek rush structures. The Dartmouth took a closer look at Greek affiliation trends among varsity sports teams and the reason behind why athletes rush together or why they don’t.

The Dartmouth collected roster data from each Dartmouth varsity team’s webpage and affiliation numbers from the Office of Greek Life, speaking to members of various teams and Greek houses to corroborate our numbers. Our figures are based on the most up to date athletic rosters available and include former varsity athletes who left their teams but are still listed on their teams’ rosters.

The Greek system has seen a number of dramatic changes in recent years, particularly with the derecognition of Alpha Delta and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities. Their derecognition has had a dramatic effect on men’s sports teams that have historically been affiliated with these houses, such as men’s soccer or men’s squash, that have since transitioned to rushing at other houses. Despite these changes, many teams demonstrate a strong affinity for joining Greek houses together.

To look at why sports teams are drawn to particular houses, we examined which sports teams are the most homogeneous in rushing a particular house. For men’s teams, this includes baseball, football, hockey and lacrosse. For women’s teams, we see far less homogeneity in terms of Greek affiliation, though some teams such as field hockey and lacrosse slightly deviate from this trend.

Rushing together

Samantha Burack | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Several men’s teams in particular tend to rush a Greek organization together. For example, every member of the men’s lacrosse team has rushed Theta Delta Chi fraternity for the past several years. Jase Davis ’18, a member of the men’s lacrosse team, said joining the same house has been great for team bonding.

“The trend for rushing the same house is not too surprising,” Davis said. “The team facilitates tight bonds between all of the guys and we enjoy being together in the same spaces.”

Some women’s teams have demonstrated preferences for rushing certain houses as well, with the field hockey team and the women’s lacrosse team showing the strongest trends for rushing the same sororities. For example, 11 of 14 of this season’s rush-eligible field hockey players are members of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority. Hailey Valerio ’19, the field hockey goaltender and a member of KDE, said her sorority has been a great social space for the team, but the field hockey players do not necessarily rush the house simply because of their team membership.

“A lot of our girls really like the environment that KDE has,” Valerio said. “But even though we have a strong trend of being in KDE, we don’t necessarily rush the house just because the team is in it, and we tell our sophomores to keep an open mind during rush.”

Rushing separately

Other teams tend to rush an assortment of houses. This trend usually pertains to women’s teams, since the rush process for sororities is a less self-selecting system than the fraternity rush process. As a stark example, the men’s hockey team is almost entirely in Chi Heorot fraternity and the women’s team is spread out among six different sororities. Ice hockey team member Caroline Shaunessy ’19, who is in Alpha Phi sorority, said she appreciates the opportunity to make new friends outside her team.

“I think it’s really awesome how we all try to just go to a house that fits our individual personalities the best,” Shaunessy ’19 said. “And it’s really fun to meet new people outside of hockey.”

She mentioned that her teammates also tended to be in different houses because of the sorority rush process.

“For men’s athletes, it’s more likely that they will be in the same house because of the shakeout process and because they all hang out in the same house,” Shaunessy said. “It’s different for sororities, which is one of the reasons we’re in a lot of different houses.”

Because of this difference in self-selecting rush processes, some fraternities have a much higher concentration of athletes than sororities do. Gamma Delta Chi fraternity and Heorot are examples of two fraternities that feature an overwhelming percentage of athletes or former athletes (98.5 percent and 89.2 percent, respectively). In contrast, KDE (36.8 percent), Alpha Phi (30.7 percent) and Kappa Kappa Gamma (23.8 percent) are the sororities with the highest percentages of athletes, though sororities tend to be larger than fraternities.

Samantha Burack | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Holding off

While most varsity teams are more disproportionately affiliated than the rest of the student body, there are some teams that have high percentages of unaffiliated members as well. The men’s and women’s cross country teams as well as men’s swimming and diving have the highest percentages of unaffiliated members at about half of their team members.

Men’s cross country runner Will Shafer ’18 cited the challenges of balancing a social life and performing well athletically as reasons why team members choose not to rush.

“We’re in season fall, winter and spring, so to really succeed, you have to be willing to make sacrifices in your social life in favor of getting enough sleep and being healthy,” Shafer said.

Although Shafer is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, he notes that his team is close-knit and lives together in an off-campus house, which has provided a strong sense of community for the team.

“One of the main reasons people rush is to develop new friendships, and for the distance guys, we’ve been lucky to already have strong relationships with teammates and live together in an off-campus house,” Shafer said. “The house creates its own social space for the team, so I think a lot of the guys view this as a strong alternative to Greek life.”

Samantha Burack | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Branching out

For some of the homogeneous house-dominated teams like men’s ice hockey or football, a handful of teammates will choose to rush alternative houses than the rest of their team. For example, men’s hockey player Ryan Blankemeier ’20 chose to rush Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity rather than Heorot, where men’s hockey players have recently rushed as a team. Blankemeier said he wanted to meet new people outside of the hockey team, though it was not the easiest decision to rush a different house.

“It was a tough decision because being part of the team is a big deal for me — it’s my biggest identity on campus,” Blankemeier said. “I didn’t want to affect the unity or affiliation with the team. At the same time, I wanted to branch out and get to know other people on campus and I found that community at Alpha Chi.”

Some athletes also stray from their team’s affiliation norm by rushing national fraternities without a chapter on campus. For example, football player Emory Thompson ’18 is one of few that did not rush with the majority of his football team at GDX and chose the national Omega Psi Phi fraternity chapter instead. For Thompson, being a part of this fraternity was vital to him as a student and an athlete, but he still spends time with his football teammates at GDX.

“Becoming affiliated with the fraternity has helped me in every aspect of my life — academically, athletically, as a friend and as a brother,” Thompson said. “But I still spend a lot of time at GDX with the rest of the football guys.”

Chris Shim | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Correction Appended (Nov. 13, 2017): The original version of the Nov. 13 article, "Their teams, their houses: athletes in Greek life" incorrectly quoted Davis. The article has been updated to correct this error and clarify that his statement was written.