An address to the suppressors of Greek life

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By Benjamin Nadareski

Across the United States, a blasphemous generalization has become a recurring trend amongst many collegiate institutions.

In the recent past, many administrative bodies have acquired an oppressive attitude toward both fraternities and sororities, too often leading to extended periods of suspension or expulsion. In doing so, administrators are exterminating the vitality of an influential body, on and off campus.

These negative generalizations made by colleges and universities can be attributed to the bad reputation that Greek life has drawn on a national scale, primarily from press releases and social-media outlets, which has not been correctly addressed.

In the news, one can consistently find horror stories that unfortunately involve both fraternities and sororities’ new members. Greek institutions have become a “liability” according to many bureaucratic institutions, which is an incentive for administrative bodies to remove them from their respective campuses.

Many fraternities, sororities and societies are falling victim to despotism, which is not only unfair, but also violates many of the deeply ingrained American values upon which our country was founded. The following serves to stand as an opposition to this tyranny, and hopefully aid in changing the opinion of collegiate administrative bodies nationwide.

With enough falsities and misconceptions of Greek life piling up, the reputation of excellence of fraternity and sorority life must be properly restored here at Union.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

How many out there responded with the answer, “President”? Or maybe you answered with “astronaut,” “senator,” “scientist” or even “a millionaire”?

Regardless of your personal response, it is important to recognize the wide-ranging sphere of influence Greek life has on the professional community. Since the birth of collegiate Greek life here at Union in 1825, all but three United States presidents have been members of fraternities.

In addition, the first female U.S. astronaut and the entire Apollo 11 team were affiliated with Greek organizations. Seventy-five percent of congressmen and total senators, including the first female senator, represent collegiate Greek chapters.

Why is it that these organizations are being bashed and torn apart by college administrations, fellow students and social media when they are so closely correlated with the most prestigious and successful positions in the nation? Shouldn’t the positive aspects of Greek life be publicized and valued among our society?

Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs clearly do not fall into the condescending stigma that Greek life now holds, considering all are members of fraternities and sororities.

The opinions formed based on the information presented, however, are essential to a well functioning society. Plato left us with the anecdote, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” Much like statistics, opinion based on information presented can be skewed or biased towards the facts given. This is the issue that has tarnished the reputation of fraternities and sororities nationwide; manipulated data that is presented to the national community ultimately causes a general, skewed public opinion to promote the widespread downfall of these sacred societies.

It is the media’s sole purpose to present the people with information and to later allow the people to form their own opinions. Whether or not the “information” is accurate depends on the institution that presents the data.

With this being said, it should be noted that the recent articles in regards to the severe hazing incidences across the nation are not an issue to be brushed under the rug by any means. The tremendous loss for those families and friends involved is an ultimate tragedy and our hearts go out anyone involved with these unfortunate occurrences.

It must be made clear that these horrible tragedies and the actions leading up to these events do not in any way represent the practices, morals or obligations of any individuals that are affiliated with fraternities or sororities. In fact, Greek organizations have continually made it nationally aware that they have no-tolerance policies toward hazing, ensuring that all new members sign legal documents stating that they will abide by this policy from the start of their membership.

Along with encouraging misinformed stereotypes and allowing individual events to define a nationwide organization, the media also consistently fails to cover the benefits that Greek life offers to society. Greek-affiliated individuals exemplify strong work ethics, while maintaining supportive mentalities that extend far past the realm of colleges and universities in the United States.

Unfortunately, hazing scandals are the articles making headlines, while the true practices of these organizations — such as fundraisers and philanthropic events — are quietly ignored.

Let us begin this much-needed clarification with the fact that 9 million college students are associated with a fraternity, sorority or society. It should be noted that one very common, inaccurate comparison is to equate Greek organizations with the various clubs on campus.

We’d like to then ask where the 200 years of history are in these clubs? How about the alumni network of over 4 million people? Or the rituals that every chapter shares? Greek life does, in fact, separate itself from the average organization and the common college community, but not in the condescending ways you would think.

Fraternity and sorority members hold themselves to a higher standard than is expected from the average citizen. In academia, not only is there a strict GPA requirement for membership, but also belonging to a Greek organization increases ones chances of completing a degree by 21 percent (Greeks have a 71 percent graduation rate, compared to 50 percent among non-Greeks).

The same high standard extends past academics and into athletics; numerous professional athletes associate themselves with fraternities, including Drew Brees, of the NFL, Bubba Watson, of the PGA, and Bill Buckner of the MLB. Many female athletes also associate themselves with sororities, including Kristin Armstrong Savola, an Olympic gold medalist in cycling, Rachel Buehler, an Olympic gold medalist in soccer, and Abby Johntson, an Olympic silver medalist in diving.

When it comes to donating to their alma maters, Greeks donate more than four times as much as non-Greeks, accounting for 75 percent of all college and university donations. For the undergraduate chapters, members raise an average $7 million a year and acquire over 10 million hours of community service, with Zeta Tau Alpha donating the most to nonprofits for sororities, at $384,039, and Sigma Chi at the top for fraternities, with $1,436,883.

Regardless of the area of human achievement, members of the Greek community participate in academics, athletics, philanthropy events and their professions with great distinguish and an unparalleled standard of exceptional behavior in all aspects of life.

Furthermore, making new friends and creating relationships between Greeks and non-Greeks is contradictive to public opinion and much easier to create than any previous conception of “an elitist exclusive organization that primarily is self-contained in regards to social relationships” would believe, especially here at Union.

As a Union student, statistically, you most likely know someone or have a friend involved with Greek life. That relationship directly serves as a networking tool to spark conversation with any mutual friend in common.

When searching for careers after college, we have been continuously made aware that networking is, practically always, both necessary and crucial in achieving the position of work you desire. Understanding how to properly network could potentially be the most crucial and applicable skill you learn here at Union.

With that being said, we believe it should go without saying that fraternities and sororities harness this concept of networking in great magnitude. Taking this one step further, the concept of networking is based on a relationship built between you and another person. Greek life honors this bond that members build with each other, promoting an undeniable support system for one another and creating a family away from home for Greek students.

Through thick and thin, brothers and sisters of fraternities and sororities are able to contact, speak with, reach out to and ask for help from their fellow Greeks without a second thought. If you would like to challenge this point, we would recommend you read up on Greek life statistics and history, and talk to Greeks on campus to validate this point.

Essentially, the concern on the issue of integration is a blame not to be placed on the fraternities and sororities, but on the school policies that tend to dictate the direction of Greek life.

One argument that has come up recently around Union’s campus, including articles published in the Concordiensis, is the interactions between the Greek and non-Greek communities. Before addressing this issue of integration and involvement, a clear flaw coming directly from school policy should be noted and understood.

When you arrive at Union your first year, you generally create a friend group that you are comfortable with, and with whom are able to experience college. These relationships are not affected by the views on Greek life you may have already had coming into college.

When sophomore year rolls around and, statistically, a good amount of your friend group decides to go Greek, if you do not believe in Greek organizations then there is a good chance it can create awkwardness among friends. (There are many exceptions to this, speaking from our personal experiences).

Greek organizations are, indeed, time consuming, and at the time your friends wish to join a fraternity or sorority, social schedules will, indeed, change, and priorities have the potential to change as well.

This concept, however, is the essence of college itself: time management and personal growth. If the administration were to alter Union’s policy, allowing rush to occur during students’ first year, this issue, commonly wrongly aligned with “exclusivity” or “social segregation,” is thrown around, simply because friends choose to join a organization of higher meaning and excellence.

Those who wish to refrain from participating in Greek life should never negatively associate fraternities and sororities with separation from the rest of campus or the destruction of social relationships.

If your best friend immediately stops hanging out with you “due to Greek obligations,” he or she is most likely not your best friend in the first place.

Addressing some present-day social inaccuracies, the argument that Greeks misrepresent and treat the LGBTQ community unfairly couldn’t be any more wrongly addressed. A quote from a report by Elite Daily states, “Gay and bisexuals (Greeks) are happier than one would think … 64 percent of gay fraternity and 56 percent of gay sorority members reported high degrees of satisfaction — definitely a break from the stereotypes painting Greek life as a bastion of heteronormativity and intolerance.”

With examples of diversification and excellence in so many aspects of life, repeatedly integrating itself into the non-Greek world, how can articles be considered anything but blatant lies if they are to claim statements such as, “… our school makes the already-cliquey-and-judgmental nature of Greek life that much more pervasive — in a bad way. The worst way, actually”?

To reprimand the entirety of our campus’ Greek life for, most commonly, the actions of individuals is blasphemous and undemocratic.

The public bashing of Greek life, many times on incorrect bases, is a concern that must be addressed and corrected now. Many chapters across the nation have already suffered the consequences of these misconceptions, some of them to the point of suspension or expulsion.

We have seen the consequences here at Union, beginning with the loss of the majority of housing for Greeks in the fall of 2004. The Minerva system implicitly tries to shift the focus from Greek life to these houses, as they are funded with an annual budget of $30,000 a year for events. Greeks, by the way, are not given any yearly stipends.

Analyzing the finances of this kind of investment, if the school were to take a simple statistic and realize how many students were attending fraternity and sorority events in comparison to Minerva events, it would become obvious that the allocation of administrative funding is misrepresented.

If the school’s initial motivation for gratuitously funding Minervas was to create a better social atmosphere for the students, why not fund and revamp the social scene in which the majority of students already participate? These funds should be directly reallocated to where students are actually going for social events.

Regardless of whether you believe in this system or not, as a Union student you financially support Minervas in your tuition. In your tuition bill, the school has set a portion of your payment to the Minerva System. Wouldn’t it be fairer if the individual had a choice, and could either choose to reallocate his or her payment to the Greek system or split the payment half-and-half between the organizations? It’s questions like these that need to be addressed at an administrative level and changed immediately.

It is unfortunate that there are increasing amount of effort to suppress the Greek community as of late, especially here at Union. As an incoming student, you can learn very well about the Minerva system on the Union website by reading a multi-tab web page explicitly describing the Minervas by just clicking the “Campus Life” tab and “The Minerva System” tab to access the page.

On the flipside, to learn about Greek life at Union, it’ll take you more time to uncover the webpage. Under the “Campus Life” and “Student Resources” tabs, you can scroll down the long list of links until you run across “Fraternity and Sorority Life,” which does not even address the long list of events, philanthropy and donation statistics revolving around Union or percentage of Union students in the organizations. As potential students, we would not be aware of how involved, or how excellent, the Greek life is here at Union from looking on the web, which is, nowadays, the most common source of information.

To make the argument of suppression more clear, I would recommend you take a tour of Union one afternoon. When asked, on tour, about the presence of Greek life on campus, it has been continuously reported that the tour guides say there is not a large Greek presence at Union, and that many students prefer the Minerva events on campus on the weekends.

How can that be said when a majority of Union students associate themselves with a Greek organization? Tour guides are told what to tell the incoming students, and it is clear that the school is trying to hide its Greek presence. And for what purpose?

Our Greek life at Union has been ranked No. 4 on the Top 10 Colleges that Get it Right by bestcollegesonline.com, ranked No. 7 on Princeton Review for Greek presence on campus in the nation, and was named one of the 10 Most Engaging Greek Life Schools in the Nation by Parents & Colleges, “for meeting the requirement of having a vibrant Greek life that supports diversity and community service, provides a thriving and responsible social scene and is highly regarded on campus and off.” We would say that’s something to be exceptionally proud of, wouldn’t you?

Misplaced blame on Greek life has become a common theme regarding fraternities and sororities as of late, as seen earlier in the issue of sophomore new member education. This is not the only case; in fact, the cases for blame are a repeated offensive by authorities and students alike.

One example, without divulging too deep into an individual case that could distract the point of this article, is the administration here at Union. Specifically, they have attempted to reduce the amount of transports on campus. Without question, this is an issue to be correctly addressed, considering the over-consumption of alcohol leading to hospitalization is never acceptable under any circumstance and is extremely dangerous. We will address this specific case not for the purpose of the example itself, necessarily, but because the moral and authoritative judgment behind the use serves as a prominent example of wrongful finger-pointing placed on Greek organizations.

The administration at Union attempted to resolve this issue first by identifying the source. The conclusion was that fraternities were primarily responsible for the amount of transports on our campus. Speaking not only from experience, but logically thinking about this, fraternities are allowed 20 “30-racks” of alcohol (packs of 30 beers) for social events on the weekends. With attendance at the “mixers” from 9:00-11:00 p.m. averaging around 120-140 people, meaning that each attending member averages approximately 4-5 beers, assuming guests aren’t involved (resulting in less alcohol per member), and that outside sources of alcohol aren’t brought in (resulting in more alcohol per member).

Needless to say, the alcohol supplied is almost always down to the last “30-rack” of beer when the party opens up to the rest of campus at 11:00 p.m. If, at the least, the majority of the alcohol is gone when the rest of campus shows up, and the transports are occurring most commonly by members not attending the mixer, how is it that the fraternities are being blamed for the issue of transports on campus?

When you attend a party here post-11:00 p.m., it is very common that there is no alcohol being served by the house. This signifies that many of the students are drinking heavily in their rooms before they go out. Many of these individuals are good at concealing how drunk they truly are, so they can be allowed into the parties without a second thought.

When these people are transported, however, they can very easily say “I was at (name the fraternity),” and the blame is wrongly placed on that fraternity. Although Good Samaritan laws protect us, during many of the incidences, from points issued by the school, it is this blame and responsibility for the student’s actions that still lands on the fraternities at the end of the day.

The initial solution was to make fraternities pay for alternate methods of food and drink during the parties. Running the numbers, considering the new regulations, each fraternity would be paying, approximately, an extra $3,000 a year for an issue that the school believes is the fraternities’ fault, assuming all scheduled social events were held.

No one is against the alternative food and drink present at the parties; however, since fraternities are non-profit organizations, at the end of the year our balances should technically be $0. Therefore, in order to abide by this new school policy, fraternity dues would have to increase in order to correct the wrongful judgment made by authoritative members.

Is this fair? Is it fair that a specific group of students, in each respective fraternity, compensate for the majority of campus because of a new regulation? The issue has been addressed and is being negotiated by Inter-Fraternal Council members and sustainability efforts to eliminate the water bottle usage.

What is agitating about this example is the fact that the school is now imposing an extra cost on the fraternities due to incorrect evaluation of a problem, not the fact that alternate food and drink must be served. Currently, the Greek community is looking to solve this issue before too many weekends go by where we are paying for this policy.

The underlying message of this case implicitly shows how blame is very easily, and quite commonly, placed on Greek organizations without deeper or more educated thought put into the issue. It is this exact concern that this article serves to address and correct.

One more case of misplaced blame comes to mind as of recently here at Union. The issue of date rape is a disgusting practice and a severe concern that every single citizen needs to be aware of. In drug related, the aggressor slips drugs into the drinks of innocent women in order to take advantage of them. By all means and under every standard is each and every Greek institution against this devastating practice.

In fact, specifically here at Union, many Greeks have held events to raise awareness of sexual abuse to the general population of the campus and the citizens of Schenectady. With this being said, it should be clear that Greek institutions hold a no-tolerance policy for any situations regarding sexual abuse or the drugging of another person without that person’s knowledge. This is set by both chapter bylaws and national standards alike.

There have been reports — scarce as they may be, they are still important to address — of sexual abuse and drugged drinking here at Union. The individuals performing these horrible practices are sought after by administration and charged accordingly. Now, the concern for the administration is how to further prevent these situations from occurring from our already low rate of incidences here on campus.

As in the last case, the first step in finding a solution is identifying the cause. Where do they find the cause to be? If you couldn’t have guessed, the cause identified is the Greek organizations here — primarily fraternities. This assumption is both offensive and incorrect, as stated earlier in Greek institution policy.

The blame is not placed just on the institutions, but also extends onto the shoulders of the individuals themselves. In essence, the people in charge of creating the rules are implicitly stating that members of Greek organizations are so commonly prone to drugging the drinks of partygoers that there must only be unopened drinks handed out. We believe we can speak for the entirety of the Greek community when we say this is not only an offensive claim, but also exceptionally false and ignorant.

The new rule that will be instated in the near future to resolve this issue at Greek social events is to ban the use of cups. The administration and Greek offices here are now making a push to ban cups from the social events thrown by fraternities on campus.

We would like to point out some key flaws that were overlooked before even considering this rule.

First and foremost, since kegs are already banned from campus — which would cause slower distribution of alcohol, ironically — the distribution of cups would allow for the bartenders to distribute one cup of approximately half a beer to each member of the social event.

At this rate, in order to get to a point of extreme intoxication, you would need to be receiving a multitude of drinks from the bartender, which would make it easy to detect over-intoxication.

However, with cups banned, full cans of beer must now be distributed to members. This allows a partygoer to have more alcohol on his or her person than with the cups, potentially encouraging activities such as “shot-gunning” or chugging full beers.

Also, it is a hazard to have aluminum cans lying on the floor around the social event rather than plastic cups.

Furthermore, this does not allow the consumption of alternative forms of alcohol at the social events, such as wine. Considering past parties, many sorority members prefer to drink wine over beer, and with the banning of cups, how is one supposed to consume this wine?

Basic issues are overlooked while installing this highly presumptuous rule to our social events due to the commonly occurring theme of misplaced blame.

The administration should be aware that the drugging of drinks could occur under any circumstance of consumption.

There have been past cases around the country of people dropping LSD drips into latex gloves and going around giving “high-fives” to people, causing the LSD to transfer into the bloodstream of another person unknowingly. With this in mind and under the same logic being used to ban cups, shouldn’t “high-fives” then be banned at social events as well?

Although an extreme example, the logistics are consistent. Where is the line of misplaced blame drawn? When will those creating the rules look into the future just a little bit before trying to push impractical rules?

In the present age of globalization, networking and social-media interaction are key factors for primary sources of information. By discrediting, bashing and acting ashamed of Greek organizations on our campus, Union is taking away from America’s future. It is diminishing and putting down a bond that is individually unique to the fine ladies and gentlemen who are members of the fraternities and sororities here in Schenectady, and ultimately affecting a majority of the campus.

Now, as we conclude, we hope this article has reached you, the reader, very clearly. More importantly, we hope that it has given you a strong incentive to eradicate the medium between knowledge and ignorance that Plato had described.

We hope the non-Greek community, the administration and all those hindering or bashing the name of fraternity and sorority life reading this will allow the ladies and gentlemen of Union Greek life a chance to represent themselves properly and clearly and to prove wrong those who are suppressing us under false pretenses.

We are confident that if an individual uncertain about fraternity and sorority life were to sit down with any member of Greek life here at Union, they would soon learn the exceptional standards, morals and sacred bonds of friendship on which these organizations are built.

Everything excellent that resulted from Greek life in this great nation is owed to those first Greek letter organizations that began here at Union in 1825. The creation of the Kappa Alpha Society in 1825, the Sigma Phi Society in 1827 and Delta Phi in 1827 quite possibly caused one of the biggest ripple affects on history in the last two centuries.

Our school serves as a model of Greek life for the rest of the nation to follow, holding the responsibility for being the founder of such praised organizations. Greek tradition and excellence has been ingrained into our culture as American citizens. The removal or destruction of reputation of fraternities and sororities within college institutions is an abolishment of a fundamental piece of American identity on which our culture was built.

It should be in humble gratitude, and great praise, of these traditional institutions at Union that should stand among the administration and the student body alike. The disrespectful, deceitful and misleading connotations regarding Greek organizations is one that must end immediately.

Our united voice speaks for the 9 million members of fraternities and sororities across the United States with a message that must be heard in order to invoke this necessary change.

 

The authors of this article wish it to be known that they used the following resources to obtain any un-cited statistics, quotations and other factual material: the Sigma Chi fraternity website; Nicole Glass’ “Examining the benefits of Greek Life” from USA Today College; Patrick Daley’s “Greek Life Statistics” on The Fraternity Advisor website; Max Grunner’s “15 Revealing Stats On The Current State Of Greek Life” from Elite Daily; Shannon Hughes’ “Greek life ruins Union for the rest” from the Concordiensis; and Union’s website. The authors also wish it to be known that they are brothers of the Gamma Zeta chapter of Sigma Chi.

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