Values-Based Fraternity & Sorority Life Experience
As you listen to your local news station or read an article on social media, it is easy to see that fraternities and sororities are serving as a source of controversy. So much so, college and university administrators are questioning if these organizations should be allowed on campus.
Think about it for a second. You are a parent or loved one of a student who is heading off to college in the fall. What are some of the first things you consider? Is she safe? Will he make friends? Will she pass her classes? There are many questions and fears that come to mind.
I was standing in a fraternity life information session last summer when a student raised his hand. He asked a very disturbing question, “Am I going to die?” Some of the men in the room laughed and giggled at this question, but those of us in the fraternity/sorority life community know this is a valid question to ask. It is unfortunate this question seems to be the main concern for potential new members and not the many good works fraternities and sororities do. So, what can we do about this? Where can we find the source or inspiration for change?
Why not look to our founding values and create an environment where members love, support, and assist each other in becoming the most successful version of themselves? We are values-based organizations, aren’t we?
Creating a values-based fraternity/sorority is what our founders set out to do in the first place. They wanted somewhere to belong, to contribute to their surrounding community through service, and to build up their fellow members. So how do we get back to these basic tenets?
Why not start with our new members? Instead of creating an environment where new members “survive” the new member period or “hope” they cross, why not design activities and establish a culture that builds them up? These efforts would assist in shining a positive light on fraternities and sororities. Building people up can be as simple as supporting their hopes and dreams and giving them the confidence to do what they did not think they could do on their own. Maybe once an individual finds a place to belong, she gains the confidence to run for student government president or changes his major to pursue work that he really wants to do in life.
The terms made, paper, pledging, and hazing have been buzzwords lately in the media because of the negative actions and outcomes from incidents involving fraternities and sororities. When our members would rather be out drinking and failing to attend a community service event, there is something wrong. Community service is a core value for most of our organizations, and we bring dishonor to this value when we would rather sleep-in or recover from the previous night’s activities.
I am not saying you shouldn’t go out and have fun, but be safe and responsible. Make sure those around you are being safe as well. Some students go to college with a very limited scope of what college will be like, and they model what they see on TV or in the movies. We all know that most of these images are exaggerated, but unfortunately some of these scenes play out in real life.
To help mitigate these misconceptions, your current members need to set the expectations for membership and communicate them to potential new members. When conducting recruitment or intake events, let people know your organization’s expectations and standards.
Changing the culture of a chapter, organization, or a fraternity/sorority life community on a campus will not happen overnight. It takes a lot of willpower and dedication, which will include answering the same questions repeatedly, debunking myths, and using consistency when dealing with situations. It can take a couple of years to change the culture on a college campus.
For instance, if jokes or sarcasm surrounding pledging and hazing pop up, encourage others to think of those who have lost loved ones. They are not laughing. Hazing is a serious issue and if not addressed, fraternities and sororities may be a thing of the past.
Also, build a team around you to help better the campus. There are many different ways to build a team. There are icebreakers, outdoor activities, competitive sports, philanthropic events, and community service projects that a team could do together to build unity. Work on bettering yourselves instead of tearing each other down. Make the world a better place for those who come behind you. Don’t take away their opportunities before they can explore them.