Winona State’s Greek community perseveres

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McKenna Scherer

Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Winona State University’s Greek organizations have worked hard to recruit and maintain member numbers. With spring recruitment having kicked off a few weeks ago, the four chapters of Greek life at Winona State are hopeful to leave the school year on a positive note.

McKenna Scherer, editor-in-chief

Greek life is recognized as a major part of the university and college experience and even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Winona State University’s Greek organizations have worked hard to recruit and maintain member numbers. With spring recruitment having kicked off a few weeks ago, the four chapters of Winona State Greek life are hopeful to leave the school year on a positive note.

Currently, there are three social sororities and one fraternity at Winona State: Delta Phi Epsilon, Alpha Sigma Tau, Sigma Sigma Sigma and Sigma Tau Gamma. Several of the chapter presidents are younger students, which has proven its advantages and disadvantages.

President of Alpha Sigma Tau, Kaitlyn Lewis, is a second year majoring in elementary education. Lewis pointed out the younger ages of most of the chapter presidents, saying it has been helpful to be able to lean on one another for advice and put together joint events.

“It’s a really good support system,” Lewis said. “We all want us all to do well; We’d love for all the chapters to be big and successful.”

Lewis also serves on Winona State’s Greek Council as secretary and was previously part of the Panhellenic Association as the director of scholarships, while many other Greek life members also participate in each organization too.

Greek Council is made up of representative members from each of the social Greek life organizations at Winona State, working together on co-sponsored events like Greek Week and for events during the university’s welcome week for new freshman students.

The Panhellenic Association similarly works with several Greek organizations on campus but focuses on running primary recruitment each fall for the three national sororities at Winona State.

Joelle Toughill, president of the Panhellenic Association, has held several leadership positions in the Greek community at Winona State, with this year being her final before graduating from the nursing program this spring.

“My main priority this spring and upcoming fall is to help get back to normal. COVID-19 regulations were difficult as you aren’t able to achieve as much online,” Toughill said. “I would like to get back to as much of a normal as we can, host some more events and plan and hold an amazing fall recruitment. I know [fall recruitment] is a big deal and is truly one [of] the best parts of the year for all the chapters.”

Each Greek life chapter echoed Toughill’s thoughts, including Sadaat Ahmed, vice president of Sigma Tau Gamma and president of Greek Council.

Ahmed joined Sigma Tau Gamma during the second semester of his freshman year, even though he originally had no intention of joining Greek life.

“Coming into college, I never thought I’d be in a fraternity,” Ahmed said. “With COVID and everything going on though, it was super hard to make friends.”

He also did not live in on-campus housing during his freshman year, which only made making friends and meeting new people even harder. One of the ways he found a community at Winona State was by attending events held by Sigma Tau Gamma.

“These guys always have my back if I ever need something,” Ahmed explained. “I want to grow our Greek community here because I think that the community is really a big family. Like, I hang out with my brothers pretty much every single day.”

Looking to the future, Ahmed said he is excited for Greek Week. Greek Week is held each spring, consisting of various events put together by chapter representatives part of Greek Council. All chapters participate. This semester, Greek Week will occur April 4-8.

According to Ahmed, Greek Week will consist of a movie night, a Nerf war, a medallion hunt, a dodgeball tournament and an end-of-the-week celebratory banquet.

Hailey Lind, a third-year student studying psychology and president of Sigma Sigma Sigma, also highlighted another event: Sigma Sailor.

Also set to occur in April, Sigma Sailor is described as a male beauty pageant with all participants coming from the Winona State community. Sigma Sigma Sigma puts the event on in order to raise money for their philanthropy, which is a much larger part of Greek life than people realize, Lind said.

“I don’t think people really know [Greek life] is more than just the idea you’re ‘paying for your friends,’” Lind said. “I absolutely despise when people say that, because we do have to pay our dues, [but] the money has been worth every penny for me because I’ve grown so much as a person and I’ve met girls who will be in my wedding.”

Lewis also pointed out how large of a part philanthropy is for Winona State’s Greek life.

“Here, it’s a lot more local work. Our biggest things are philanthropy and then, honestly, academics. Greek life takes their academics way more serious than anyone realizes,” Lewis said.

Although each sorority said their member numbers have gone down in the past few years, whether due to COVID or members graduating, Sigma Tau Gamma has seen an increase in members this school year.

“We’re close to 30 members now and looking at it from a national perspective, like, our national average of members is 29 members I think, so [our current number of members is] actually kind of perfect,” Ahmed said.

Lewis said Alpha Sigma Tau currently has roughly 25 members; Lind said Sigma Sigma Sigma has roughly 35 members; Delta Phi Epsilon has about 40 members according to Shannon Dodge, president of the chapter.

All sorority chapters said large graduating classes of members have contributed to lower member numbers. However, some Greek life chapters have dissolved due to such low amounts of members, including Phi Theta Chi.

“[Phi Theta Chi] disbanded due to issues regarding recruitment numbers and maintaining a membership level expected by ASO,” explained Assistant Director of Student Life, Alex Thompson.

Thomspon, who began her role this past fall in November, specifically pointed out Sigma Tau Gamma’s growth during the past year.

“In the few months I have observed [Sigma Tau Gamma] they are committed to providing a positive fraternal experience and are doing an exceptional job recruiting new members,” Thompson said.

Greek life leaders continue to keep their spirits high with two years of the pandemic now behind them, hoping to keep growing the Greek community at Winona State.

“My hopes for Greek Life is that it will continue to grow and we will be able to further positive contributions to the community,” Dodge said.