By Ashley Polihronakis
I began thinking about the creation of this feature early one Monday morning. I was running a bit late for class, and the first t-shirt I grabbed to throw on was a v-neck that sported my letters across the front. With hesitance, I stared at the Deltas printed across the shirt, and I realized that I was afraid to put it on.
This epiphany was a difficult one. My house, my chapter, and my sisters have brought so much meaning to my life, but the stigma and stereotyping surrounding greek life Here on campus is very real. This feature is not meant to offend or encroach, to enrage or to disappoint. I have chosen to write about the positive things that Greek members are involved with on campus to help break down the rigid boundaries that stereotyping has created for the students who are here to learn and to grow and have chosen to go Greek.
The first person who came to mind to write about was an obvious choice. He’s an extremely well-respected peer and friend to many of us, as well as probably the most good-hearted and honest person I’ve ever met. If you’ve ever seen him around campus, he’s that smiling, well-groomed red head, balancing a thousand books, holding coffee, and walking at an accelerated pace to his next destination. Patrick O’Hern ‘11 is a model Union Student. If you see him in the gym, you may find him checking emails while doing sit-ups. If you spot him in Upper, he’s probably eating quickly while studying Bio.
O’Hern was prepared for the interview. He cares about Greek life as much as anyone, and holds the position of President of the Inter-Fraternity Council. In layman’s terms—he plays God of the frats, and is in charge of handling all fraternal issues. He is also a Senior Intern at Admissions, President of both the Eliphalets and the Dutch Pipers, a member of the Student Alumni association, former chair of Wold house, a Biology tutor in the help center, and Academic Chair in his fraternity, Sigma Phi. Amazed? Just wait. It doesn’t end there.
O’Hern spent this summer working with the Union College Biology department doing research on Drosophilia, or fruit flies, and RNA. He investigated the genetic basis of Batten disease, a rare pediatric neurological disorder. He used the fruit flies to model Batten disease through crossing various fly lines, which influences the genetics of the progeny. In this way, he could then collect the embryos of the progeny and see the effects of gene manipulation on embryonic neurodevelopment. Through this research, he has been afforded the opportunity to present at NCUR (National Conference for Undergraduate Research) and be published with Professor Chu-LaGraff.
As a sophomore, Pat was elected Chief Information Officer of the Inter-Fraternity Council. Pat says, “Noticing an abundance of fundraising events and fewer service events, I began the annual IFC/Big Brothers Big Sisters field day. As a junior, I was elected IFC President and have increased programming for IFC through the Officer Outreach Program,”
I asked Pat about what Greek life meant to him. He told me that he wanted to be a leader, and he’s convinced that the life skills that Sigma Phi and the IFC have helped instill in him are specific to the Greek experience. He talked about the meaning of the new member process: gaining the trust and learning how to work with superiors, people who are older than you, and of course your colleagues, learning time management, problem solving, event planning, and developing a sense of self-identity within an organization has all come with the territory. Like any organization, he said, “you get out of it what you put into it.”
After I told him why I chose to begin this feature, he agreed that there was a general air of discontent surrounding Greek life on campus, and he told me about a T-shirt he once saw that really made an impression on him.
It said, “Being Greek doesn’t make me better than you, it makes me better than I was.”
We both sat in silence for sometime after that, eating our lunch and thinking back on respective moments where this quote rang so true in our memories. We both casually smiled at each other and laughed. “I know it sounds cheesy,” he said, “but I’ve been through some very, very difficult times at Union, and to have such a huge support system to go home to at the end of the day has made all the difference. They make me better, we all make each other better.”