When I first entered college, I decided to go Greek. I did not do so because I thought I was a stereotypical "frat" guy, as so poorly portrayed in the recent Neighbors movie starring Zac Efron and Dave Franco; rather, I decided to rush because I wanted to experience something new in college, as I had been focused on academics all my life. I saw that Greek life would offer me some form of novelty. Despite the overwhelming white majority in all fraternities here on campus (which intimidated me as it suggests some form of homogeneity) I was, surprisingly, sought after by a number of fraternities. In the end, however, I decided to rush the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Chi after an elongated process. Out of the other fraternities that approached me, Sigma Chi had two Rush Chairs who seemed very genuinely invested in their fraternity. I was only with Sigma Chi for a few months due to financial reasons, but rushing Sigma Chi and initiating into the fraternity was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Fraternities are often viewed in a negative light, often for the right reasons, although that perception is not always fair. Coming into a fraternity against this backdrop was quite stressful and intimidating. However, as was assured by the Rush Chairs, there would be no hazing. I am not someone tolerates the ignorant mindset that believes hazing and the indignity that accompanies it would foster a closer bond with my pledge brothers. This is just a foolish notion that many other fraternities are trapped into thinking. Real bonds come from genuine struggles and moments of laughter with your brothers, not forced from humility. Sigma Chi did not engage in these activities.
To my surprise, Sigma Chi gave me everything that I wanted and more. Perhaps this was because I did not really know what to expect. Inside the fraternity, I found guys who were, quite plainly, very "chill." An outsider might see some one my brothers as crude guys who enjoyed self-proclaiming their masculinity and displaying their dominance like many other teenage boys. On the inside, however, they were guys who are always there for their brothers despite all the crap they give each other. These are academics who I often find battling it out on Smash Bros, dressing up ridiculously to raise money for a philanthropy, or competing with one-another in volunteer events, all living up to the Jordan Standard. However, despite the successes our Chapter has had, we cannot overlook the scrutiny the entire Greek system has experienced and ponder its potential implication on Sigma Chi Fraternity. The work of the majority can be overturned by a single act from a single member, and this is an indicator of how fragile the reputation of fraternities can be. Something that many people outside the system do not realize is that the Rush Chair is the most important position in a fraternity because they are the individuals responsible for bringing in good pledges or mediocre ones.
The obstacle that many fraternities are currently faced with is one of vision. Will they choose to brand themselves as masters of partying or, rather, a serious brotherhood committed to intellectual pursuit and civic purpose? I think that the solution is somewhere at the nexus of these two ends. If you remove the latter, fraternities will be nothing more than a social club. Conversely, without the social appeal, fraternities might lose their relevancy in the college environment. Whatever strategic plan decided upon by HQ should trickle down to the individual chapters, and most importantly, all the members (if not vice-versa). Real change can only be made with the representatives of the fraternity: the active members. Unfortunately, I have observed many fraternity members from other institutions embracing hazing culture, Greek elitism and believing that the objectification of women is okay. I was once even told not to try to change Greek culture. The important question, then, is whether fraternities actually want to change the current conceptual framework. There is no need for reform if this is the case, but given the problems Greek culture faces, it is foolish not to.
In my experience, Sigma Chi is a fraternity that is ready to address these issues. Sigma Chi has a very noble vision with a rich history. If anyone takes a look at any of its public texts, the writing is both beautiful and well-written. However, this message usually does not resonate with new members who are more often than not distracted by the social scene and the excitement of college life. This particular dilemma is a potential threat to the fraternity and will continue to remain as long as the brotherhood exists. There is bound to be someone who will mess up somewhere at some time. What is important, however, is to rebrand the fraternity system in a way that makes these isolated events something atypical, rather than events that confirm the stereotype. To achieve this, a great level of solidarity is needed not only with others in the Greek system, but with the broader student population. Unfortunate events happen, and perpetrators cannot act with impunity. What separates Greek culture from the rest of the student population is that we are an organized institution. What happens within our purview reflects directly on us, rather than just on those involved, as it is for non-Greek students. That being said, we have a higher standard to live up to.
Sigma Chi is a brotherhood that continues beyond the college years, unlike what is portrayed in Neighbors, which makes it seem like the experience ends upon graduation. I have seen numbers of alumni come back through our doors and greet all the brothers as if they were his own peers. For anyone who may be interested, I would fully recommend Greek life, but choose carefully. I am fortunate to have been in the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Chi -- other fraternities, or other chapters of Sigma Chi, may not replicate the same experience that I have had. I am fully committed to Sigma Chi's mission and am confident of its ability to thrive in the future. I will continue to support it every step of the way.