Hazing. Sexual assault. Substance abuse. Underage drinking. Partying. Low grade point averages. I’m sure if you Google any of these phrases, the greek community will somehow pop up.
As the Interfraternity Council President, I am very biased. As much as those buzzwords pop up, I believe in the benefits of a fraternal organization. What students who are non-greek don’t see is that there is a huge movement within the greek community to live up to the values we say we have.
Fraternity and sorority founders started their chapters for many different reasons. Tau Kappa Epsilon was one of the first fraternities started “not for wealth, rank or honor, but for personal worth and character.” The founding fathers of TKE were law students, and they couldn’t afford the admission into the already-established fraternities.
The “Miami Triad” is a term referred to Miami University in Ohio, because three fraternities were established there, all at different times. They were Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi.
Sororities are even more dynamic. Kappa Alpha Theta is referred to as the first women’s fraternity. Their primary founder, Bettie Locke, wanted to be a full-fledged member of a fraternity. Instead of granting her membership, they gave her a fraternity badge and asked her to be the “mascot.” She went on and started her own.
Don’t forget, there are culturally-based fraternities and sororities. In fact, three of the leading culturally-based greek organizations were founded on this campus: Nu Alpha Kappa, a Latino-interest fraternity; Sigma Omega Nu, a Latina-interest sorority; and Omega Xi Delta, the first Asian-interest fraternity at Cal Poly. The common misconception is that these organizations are limited to an ethnic background. In fact, membership is open to anyone of that gender.
The biggest thing I hear from potential new members – or “rushees,” as we call them in the fraternity world – is that they don’t want to join a fraternity because they don’t fit the fraternity image. Granted, there probably is some sort of image, but it baffles me when people tell me this. I mean, c’mon now. I am a Filipino, low-income, gay student. How much of a fraternity image do I fit? I’m not white, my parents don’t pay for my school, and I’m of a sexual orientation that doesn’t quite fit the stereotypical fraternity world. But if you read the values that my fraternity envisioned their members to have, I fit the mold of someone whom they would accept.
There are fraternities and sororities, as well as their members, that fit the stereotype. Alas, readers, there is hope! The movement I speak about is commonly referred to as the “Fraternal Values Movement.” It’s simple. Go to any fraternity or sorority’s Web site, and click on the history. Read their creed. Read any of the archaic language on the Web site. Here is Lambda Chi Alpha’s creed, as taken from their Web site:
“We believe in Lambda Chi Alpha, and its traditions, principles and ideals. The crescent is our symbol, pure, high, ever growing, the cross is our guide, denoting service, sacrifice and even suffering and humiliation before the world, bravely endured if need be, in following that ideal.”
If we as greek members followed these creeds and the values on which the greek organizations were established, the greek community could really make some changes. As idealistic as that sounds, there are countless brothers and sisters nationally doing so. I strive to embody the values of my fraternity every day. I am part of the “Fraternal Values Movement.” Many of these greek members are attending a values-based institute called the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute, which sparks conversation and serious discussion on the path that greek life is heading down based on our values.
So the next time you see a greek member doing something idiotic, call them out. Hold them to a higher standard because they swore an oath in their secret ritual to be a better person. Those secret rituals aren’t even secret anyway. They should be personified by each member every day. Ask them, if their founders were alive today, would they be proud of the things they do in the name of their fraternity or sorority? Or would they be embarrassed that greek life has been labeled with just buzzwords?
Adrian Herrera is an aerospace engineering senior, Interfraternity Council president and a Mustang Daily guest columnist.