The phrase you’ll often hear from the Greek community is that “Berkeley is different,” meaning the Greeks aren’t the Animal House-style, superficial jerks one might first imagine. The Greek system at Cal is the largest on the West Coast, and therefore hosts a range of houses. While many sororities and fraternities are far from the stereotype, many are spot-on. The system is predominately Caucasian—far from the racial breakdown of the overall student body—and attracts many snobby students who are looking for friends within Berkeley’s far-from-materialistic campus.
On the flip-side, the Greek system is also full of students who never thought they’d be in a sorority or a fraternity. Especially for new students, it is an effective way to make the campus feel smaller. Besides giving members 100 automatic friends within their chapters, the Greek community as a whole is also fairly tight-knit. Most of the houses are just off the southeast edge of campus, making it easy for the Greek houses to form a physical community. Most chapters also help members connect to the school by organizing philanthropic events, creating intramural sports teams, supporting members in outside activities, and hosting social events in San Francisco. The Greek system dominates Cal’s party scene, especially for students who are too young to go to bars. While it is easy to avoid the Greek community by partying in the co-ops (student-run housing on the opposite side of campus) or hunting for house parties (often held by the sports teams), it is easier to get into fraternity parties if you are in a house or friends with someone who is.