By Curtin Meyers
After reading Ms. Hughes’ opinion last week regarding her personal experience regarding Union and Greek life, I found myself reflecting on my own interactions with the Greek system in my three plus years at Union and my ultimate result of being an independent, like Shannon.
When I came to Union, I had almost no preconceived notions about fraternities.
My grandfather and uncle were both presidents of their chapters of Sigma Nu at West Virginia University and Lehigh, respectively.
My grandfather met his wife, my grandmother, while she was in a sorority at WVU.
As a result, my mother always spoke fondly of Greek organizations, and was encouraging of my joining one here at Union, but I never felt strongly one way or another before I arrived.
As a freshman on the baseball team, I met a lot of upperclassmen in the Chi Psi fraternity.
I loved the guys on the team and they were all in Chi Psi. I remember being in my friends’ rooms in Chi Psi and desiring to be a part of the house.
However, during the summer following my freshman year, I was offered an opportunity to work on a Presidential campaign, but it would stretch through Election Day in November. Thus, I was only going to be on Union campus for Tuesday through Thursday as I traveled back and forth to my job on the campaign.
I went to Chi Psi during rush week during the September of my sophomore year, and was certain that I wanted to join.
Many of my friends in my own grade from baseball and elsewhere were also looking to join Chi Psi and it seemed like it would be a good situation for my friend group.
I wasn’t sure if I was sold on the ‘brotherhood’ aspect of it, but if nothing else, it would be awesome to live with my friends and be in a group with them.
However, when bid night came around, I did not receive one, possibly in part because I was going to miss more than half of pledging because I would be away from Union.
It was disappointing, sure, but I understood the choice that I had made to work in Boston in the fall would likely prohibit me from joining a fraternity and I reasoned that if I wanted to join later, I could always go for it junior year.
The majority of my friends went on to pledge and ultimately join Chi Psi that fall.
I whole-heartedly disagree with Ms. Hughes’ assertion that these guys value my friendship less as a result.
The friends I had before pledging remain friends to this day, and I am living with Greek affiliated friends off campus this year.
I am not saying that any problems she has as a result of her not joining aren’t real, but rather that it is not omnipresent and certainly does not ruin Union for anyone not in a fraternity or sorority.
In addition to many of my friends joining a fraternity, I also experienced aspects of Greek life as a result of my then girlfriend going through new member education at a sorority.
I’m certainly guilty of making jokes to her about some aspects of sorority life that, at least to me, seemed superficial.
Ultimately, however, she felt empowered and excited by her experience of new member education and joining the sorority, so there is no question in my mind as to the positive value that Greek organizations add to individuals, and thus Union as a whole.
Why would we want to take away an organization that provides such a positive impact on those who choose to join?
Now, it begs the question that if I have such a positive view of fraternities and sororities, why would I not rush again as a junior?
The answer to that question is a better illustration of my broader point.
A year removed from many of my friends joining Chi Psi, while I did not, I did not feel ostracized or undervalued by them.
Additionally, with most of my friends already in the frat, I would not have been pledging alongside them, so I became much less enthusiastic about pledging without my group of friends.
All this being said, there certainly are pros and cons about being an independent.
Union’s social scene is Greek-oriented, and being an upperclassman who cannot attend these parties until 11 p.m. with the freshmen is certainly a con.
Not being able to go to formals with your friends is certainly a con.
Not being able to live with your friends because they are in their fraternity house during junior year is certainly a con. (It is also worth pointing out that those are the things you pay hundreds of dollars a term for, not to be ‘chosen’ or ‘accepted’ as Ms. Hughes suggests.)
However, I have found some pros as well. I have never felt divided from any of my friends in any circumstance, despite many of them being sprinkled around various frats and sororities on campus.
I have been able to focus more time to various other aspirations of mine. I have been able to save these hundreds of dollars. I was able to live in Fox as a junior (kidding on that one).
I cannot imagine Union without Greek life, and frankly, I don’t want to.
Fraternities are the staple of weekends at Union, for better or worse.
I would argue for better, and my time at the U has been greatly enhanced by the Greek system, despite my not being in it.
Those who are not in Greek life certainly do not get to enjoy all of the privileges that members do, but it is a major part of the culture here that everyone is able to enjoy, one way or another.
As I look towards my final two terms here at the U, I have enjoyed so much from this school.
In June, I will graduate alongside my classmates and after June 15, Greek affiliations will be relevant only at ReUnion weekend; otherwise everyone will take with them the friends and relationships from the school regardless of the letters, or lacktherof, on their sweaters on Wednesday.