College can throw anyone for a loop. It doesn’t matter how responsible you are or how strong your sense of right and wrong is upon starting college, because the most amazing part about college — which is also the part that carries the highest potential for disaster — is that you are exposed to new experiences, opportunities, people, ideas and a new level of sweet, sweet freedom.
Among those new experiences might be choosing to explore the Greek scene, and I believe that students should not be able to officially join any Greek organization until their third year of college.
It’s true that this is an incredible time of personal growth, achievement and learning life’s major lessons, but the reality is that during the course of this particular learning curve that leads us to adult life, college students screw up. We make mistakes, poor decisions and often have trouble seeing the bigger picture as far as the consequences of our actions go. And for the most part, that’s okay and it begins to fade once the novelty and adrenaline rush that is the college life starts to die down, typically somewhere around the end of the second year.
This has nothing to do with being a good person, because I think everyone has the capacity and the choice to be a good person. It’s about reaching that mark of maturity which allows one to surrender personal needs, problems and desires for the greater good of a cause much bigger than the individual. Greek organizations call for a high level of respect and personal excellence that seems to have gotten lost in the negative party culture, inappropriate behavior and the longing for social and/or aesthetic power. Each Greek organization already has an identity with roots deep down in centuries long before us, and in regards to what I have experienced on Colorado State University’s campus as well as what has been going on in other Greek communities around the nation, I can say that I believe the founders of our fraternities and sororities would be less than proud overall.
Yes, each organization has a philanthropic cause for which members work really hard to make generous contributions to, and most of the members of Fraternity and Sorority Life are leaders in the community and in the classroom. However, that is not enough to overshadow or outweigh the hazing that still occurs, the rumors and truths about who was sexually assaulted at which frat house, women tearing down other women because of their innate desire to compete with each other means more than the sisterhood they swore themselves to, the fact that looking cool seems more important than doing what is right, the objectification of sorority women by fraternity boys (men? — maybe someday) and the list goes on, deeming both fraternity and sorority members to be at equal fault.
Not everyone contributes to these bad habits, and I’d like to sincerely thank them for doing their best to uphold the reputations of the fraternities and sororities they represent, because it’s not an easy task. It’s tough to face the consequences of individual actions that reflect on an entire group, such as bad decisions and inappropriate behavior from those who are simply not ready to take their fair share of responsibility for the organization they chose to represent.
I also acknowledge that not every first- or second-year student seeking Greek membership is too immature to assume that responsibility, but the fact is that the many students who aren’t ready for it yet put Greek chapters at higher risks for organizational consequences such as social probation, disaffiliation with the University or being removed from campus altogether, as well as physical and emotional consequences due to aggressive hazing rituals, date-rape drugs, groupthink and the idea that one of the main parts of Fraternity and Sorority Life is the party scene.
That being said, we all know that the bad stuff is remembered and lingers longer than the good, and reputations are easier to destroy than they are to build up.
As a senior member of Kappa Alpha Theta, which I joined my junior year, I can say that I am miles away from who I was when I started at CSU just a semester short of four years ago, and it is for the better. A lot of incoming college students, many of whom choose to participate in Greek recruitment events, are excited to get a taste of the parties, the bad decisions that turn into some of the best stories, missing class due to your first real hangover, doing crazy sh*t with your friends and all the things that come with life in a college town. I was stoked. I had the most unforgettable times, and as immature as some of those experiences may have been, they helped me to grow up and handle things much bigger than myself — like assuming partial responsibility for and commitment to the reputation and livelihood of my own chapter as well as the Greek community as a whole.
I would propose the implementation of a transitional program into Fraternity and Sorority Life that is open to first- and second-year students in order to prepare those who are serious about representing the Greek community and what their desired organization stands for, and weed out those who are not.
As a student and member of the Greek community, I ask that my fellow Greeks on any college campus step up and rise to the standards and expectations that our organizations were founded upon, or to give up your membership if you find that your reasons for participating do not align with your chapter goals and rules and are unwilling to adapt. As members, we are the soul of our respective fraternities and sororities, and it takes every single one of us to affect any sort of change. If we continue down this path of internal destruction, eventually we will be no better than the nasty stories and stereotypes (many of which are sadly true) that have clouded the idea of Greek culture, and all achievements, progress and positive efforts that belong to us as well as those who came before us will have been in vain.
Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.