Unfortunately, as of late, there have been some incidents in the news involving members of the national Greek community that have been less than flattering. Examples range everywhere from someone offending another's culture by dressing inappropriately for a themed event, doing something to increase the presence of rape culture on their campus, or possibly the story I dread to hear the most, forcing a new member to do something that has taken his or her life. These stories perpetuate everything that most Greeks hate about Greek life and create a negative stigma around the environment that we have grown to love.
This environment is not one of drinking and partying; it is one that is built on a rich tradition where we are practicing the same ritualistic ceremonies that our founders created over 200 years ago. It gives us that opportunity to connect back to a time much simpler than this ostentatious period that has evolved from some facets of the Greek community. This evolution can only prompt me to wonder which path Greek life will venture in the next 10 to 20 years.
We can continue to be overshadowed by the negative stigma that some members bring upon our chapters and solely become a group of drinking buddies who happen to share two to three Greek letters on our chests. Or we can weed out the negative members associated with this "TFM" culture and focus on what makes us different than any other organizations on our campuses.
In the end, the fate of our community in 10 to 20 years will depend on which choice we as a community make. The two choices are to rather: 1) let the problem perpetuate itself and lose who the Greek community is as a whole or 2) step back and reevaluate what we are becoming and make changes that strengthen the experience for future members of our chapters while providing an equally enriching experience for our neighboring communities and classmates.
The easy choice is for us to argue that the Greek community is completely fine at this point in our history. We were rushed by these same tactics of drinking and partying and joined our organizations in their present state. Why would we fight to change something we fell in love with from day one?
If we decide to ignore our flaws in this current state and choose option one, we can only lead down a path where the outside community views us as nothing more than a bunch of drunken college students who slated these four years of their lives to enjoy their time drinking, hooking up, and partying. This will eventually lead to the downfall and expulsion of our community from our campuses in part to the exponential growth of that negative stigma along with the outside community's questioning of what value we actually bring to our institutions.
As a second semester senior Greek member, it is incredible to see what my campus' community has been able to do just in my brief time. Whether it is our grades, philanthropy events, or campus involvement, our community has been able to achieve incredible feats. For the last 10 years, the average Greek GPA on our campus has been greater than the average non-Greek students'. Within the community, we have hosted numerous events benefitting nonprofits such as the USO, Aishel House, CASA, and Make a Wish Foundation. Lastly, the Greek presence can be felt in many different aspects of our campus. Whether it is as a cheerleading captain, Homecoming Queen, Student Government President, campus tour guide, or news editor for the campus paper, our Community members push to make not only our organizations, but our campus, the best that it can be.
With these examples in mind, it is obvious that there is no one tougher on Greeks than Greeks themselves. We are proud individuals who want to be proud about our work and interactions. It is time for us to overcome this façade of being some drinking club on Greek row because we are much more than that.
However, positive interactions like these will continually go overlooked until we get rid of the negative stigma that precedes our community. Option two is tougher, but it is the path we must follow if we want our organizations to be intact when we return for our 50th reunions.
We were founded upon and continuously practice secret rituals about which we are hesitant to discuss with others. This hesitation is rooted in the teachings of our elder members saying that we shouldn't discuss them outside of the chapter room, but our ritual is what separates us from other extracurricular activities and makes us truly unique. Every other non-Greek organization focuses on what sets them apart from others and climbs to the highest mountains to share that information with others to find new members. Why doesn't the Greek community?
I don't want my thought to be misconstrued. I don't want our organizations to just open all the windows, release every record, and let everyone in to see, but at the least, we should be recruiting new members, living our everyday life, and representing our chapters with these founding principles in mind.
After attending the Undergraduate InterFraternity Institute hosted by the North-American Interfraternity Conference during my past summer, I realized that although we represent different Greek symbols and support different social tendencies, we are very similar across the board. It is this similarity that we need to discover with each other to weed out those members and regain our trust and reputation with the outside community.
Greek life has the potential to be something incredible in the next 10 to 20 years, but it also has the potential to crash and burn if the negative stigma continues to overshadow who we are as a community. I have faith in the members that recruited me and that I have been a part of recruiting to make sure that our image is nothing less than strengthened and improved. With this endeavor, I know that I am not alone, and it is the current and future leaders of our organizations that will make sure that we obtain the image that we want to have and not just sit back and accept the image created by the minority of our community.