It seems that fraternities and sororities have been making headlines since the beginning of time, or at least since 1978, when the infamous Animal House was released.
The decades old Greek system made headlines yet again this week when a Dartmouth College fraternity member ran an expose in the campus newspaper. Sigma Alpha Epsilon senior Andrew Lohse wrote about "the drunkest four years of your life." He spoke about disgusting "rituals" like trudging through a baby pool full of bodily fluids and forcing pledges to vomit on each other.
Administrators at the Ivy League campus quickly formed a task group to respond to the public outcry regarding the piece. Many called for the school to immediately get rid of their Greek Life system, which has been in place on the New Hampshire campus for over 150 years.
That is Lohse's own prerogative on his Greek Life experience. However, as a member of a Greek Life organization, I can readily say that those are not the ideals that have made Greek Life an institution for hundreds of years.
Over 730 miles away from Lohse's crisis, the true spirit of fraternities and sororities can be seen in Ohio. At the rural Bowling Green State University, campus members are grieving for the death of three Alpha Xi Delta sorority sisters and hoping for the recovery of two others injured. The students were traveling early Friday morning when they were hit head-on by a car driving the wrong way.
The campus is in mourning over the loss of their fellow students. However, even in the depths of sadness, the true morals of Greek Life will be on display. At this incredibly difficult time, BGSU members may be glad to have their ideals and each other to hold onto.
Sororities and fraternities teach young people to be strong, to be curious, to be brave, to be zestful. Their rituals aren't just words whispered in a dingy basement. They are living, breathing actions during collegiate life and beyond.
Rituals are picking out letters for a sweatshirt with your big sister when you're 18, then having her fulfill her maid of honor duties as she adjusts the train of your wedding dress twenty years later. They are a fraternity brother staying up late to help a pledge study for an economics test, then recommending him for a career changing job opportunity years later.
Rituals are a line of nervous guys adjusting their bowties while waiting at a funeral home to support a brother at his beloved grandmother's funeral. They come to life in happy moments like sitting at an old wooden picnic table soaking up the sunshine, wiping sleep from eyes to volunteer at 6 a.m., and feeling the wind hit your face as your sing your favorite song out of a sister's car window. Rituals are the big brick and mortar houses stuffed to the brim with people who are shoulders to cry on, build character, and help create leaders.
I believe that the true rituals take groups of strangers and bond them together to become family. When preformed by people with the truest of hearts and intentions, they are not harmful or embarrassing. They are meant to inspire.
As with everything in life, sometimes situational extremes can skew outcomes and perceptions. Things don't always pan out quite as you planned. Lohse probably did not pledge to partake in a hazing environment, nor did the Alpha Xi Delta sisters think they'd be losing some of their best friends at a young age.
Yet, hope always shines the brightest in the darkest moments. Even in the turmoil, the sisterhood and brotherhood Greek Life members feel will help comfort each other during dark moments and help in looking towards a more positive future.