Do Greeks still matter on the college campus?
I have actually heard this question quite a bit. And inevitably, there is an initial and immediate knee jerk reaction from those of us who are Greek to say yes we are absolutely relevant. I’ve found myself doing it. And the defense is often times to merely say “You would have to be Greek to understand.” Well that doesn’t really help our case at all…
So let’s look first at the argument of those who ask if Greeks are still relevant. Many bring up points such as buying friends, hazing, a lack of presence on campus, and the many negative images purveyed about Fraternities and Sororities. Much of this comes directly from personal experience or stories they have heard. If we’re being honest with ourselves, these are some great points.
Starting with the point of buying friends, how often have you been told in recruitment about selling your organization. How many times have you been taught how to fund raise and how to work with a brother or sister so that you can get them to the “ask“. We have turned it into a business model. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there is a lot of effort that goes into maintaining these groups and I have done some of this work myself, but are we doing it at the cost of making this appear like we are paying for friends?
And as for hazing, there is a point. Fraternities and Sororities are notorious for hazing. I’ve heard stories of sororities making women stand in their underwear and marking the spots they consider fat. And the stories of hazing for men are endless from insane over drinking and wine enemas to physical abuse or criminal behavior. There are documented cases for this happening, enough that in 2003 at an AFA meeting, it was decided that an active effort against hazing was a necessity. This began the National Hazing Prevention Week as well as many universities and states making laws and policies outlawing hazing. But is it enough? We know our offices don’t catch everything. Is hazing still an issue? Should we still be allowing it to be an issue? There is a claim that hazing is important to building great members…that is just silly. There are so many other ways to create great members that are far less dangerous and encourage trust and respect within the organization rather than breed hate and mistrust. Try these 100 options for example.
As for a presence on campus, is that a legitimate answer? How often do we hear the negative stories? How often do you hear about the great things that Sorority women and Fraternity men are doing? Oddly enough, it is a rare thing. You are far more likely to hear about “that awesome party that frat is having” or the trouble that frat boys and sorority girls are getting into. It is time that we as a Greek Community take back our own image. Each organization has a national philanthropy it is associated with and many also do a lot of great work locally. There is such a huge amount of service hours and philanthropic dollars that come out of Greek Life, but you are far more likely to hear about the girl who got alcohol poisoning at the local frat party or the pledge who went to the hospital after a hazing event gone wrong. That is because we spend more time inviting people to attend these parties than we do bringing them to our service events. When was the last time that your facebook and word of mouth campaign for your fundraiser was as big and took as much effort from the entire group as your party? When was the last time you took your members and friends to a cultural event to expand their horizons such as an NPHC step show, the opera, a religious service that is new to most of your members, or introduced them to a different cuisine?
So are Greeks Relevant? Well, you really must decide that for yourself. For me personally, I know that becoming Greek changed my undergraduate experience for the best and the fact is that I am still a brother today. While I was an involved student, being Greek is different. As a brother, I had my fraternity which offered professional development, leadership opportunities, chances to experience new cultures and opinions, a place for debate where I knew after that we were still united under those letters, and more. I did pay dues, but that was a matter of respect to join an organization. I’m not buying friends, but paying to support the organization I am honored to be a part of. I joined an organization where members had to be selected based on their merit, not their ability to pay. Our alumni worked hard to make sure that money was not an issue when it came to joining. I spent a great deal of time learning the history of my organization and participating in order to take the oath. That oath has led me to a badge and today I am a defender of that tradition along with every other man who has taken that oath. I found a home through my fraternity with like minded men that wouldn’t allow me to be comfortable where I was, they forced me to expand my horizons.
So are Greeks still relevant? To me, not only are we relevant but we are essential. It is time for us to reclaim our image from the likes of Animal House and those organizations that are still hazing and re-establish connections to our roots. Let’s get back to our ritual and show the community what we are about: developing men and women to be active and productive citizens of society.