“You’ll hear a lot of people say, ‘Yeah, I’m definitely a fiscal conservative,’” he explains. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say ‘I’m a fiscal liberal’ in the fraternity and sorority community.” He says Greeks tend to be more interested in professional degrees such as finance, law, medicine, and economics — instead of, say, women’s studies. The Greek system’s emphasis on philanthropy goes hand-in-hand with conservatism, he adds. “I think that goes back to the conservative value of doing things that are beneficial to you and the greater community as a whole,” he says.
Several students say a challenge for the Greek system is negative press from predominantly liberal campus newspapers. Christopher Warren, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 2012, said his fraternity consistently struggled with unfair coverage.
“The real thing we faced, even more than the bureaucracy of the university, was the on-campus media,” he says. “It was something we were constantly combating, having negative stories surrounding our fraternity or other fraternities on campus being the highlight in the school newspaper.”
He says negative stories were blown out of proportion and given front-page real estate, while the sparse coverage of Greeks’ philanthropic work was relegated to the back. And Warren says the bias could have been a product of liberal push-back against institutions perceived as bastions of conservatism. Burns noticed the same thing. He described the paper at the University of Indiana as “extremely liberal” and “very, very against the Greek system.” When he travels to promote his publication on other campuses, he says, he consistently hears stories of anti-Greek bias among student journalists.
As for the fraternity members, they don’t seem to mind if some students are put off by their right-wing proclivities. “It seemed that the very liberal students would shun the fraternity system,” Bowen says, “but no one really cared.”
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.