*Disclaimer* These are the personal feelings and opinions of myself and no person, chapter, or organization has any part of this blog post. Furthermore, I believe that Project Arete has both positives and negatives and I applaud all the work that our Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has done to improve our family at the University of Connecticut.
Passion is Progression
When I crossed in 2009 I did not know what to expect from other organizations; open arms or closed fists. Though the major differences in our culture, customs, and perspectives of things, I was more than happy to see that we all fought for one common goal. Greek Life is to better each member on a personal, academic, and professional level. Every chapter had their way of doing this and it was apparent to see how men and women went from interested candidates into brothers and sisters…into leaders. There were so many I looked up to that I would not even have been introduced to if it had not been for Greek Life, and these were not just Greeks I admired. I had a whole new perspective on a professional student and I had a group of men, that no one in the world would expect to become so close, to have my back and amplify my passions. Committing to a new endeavor, the Greeks of the 2009 era became something that was lacking on most campuses. We became a family that instead of compare our different letters we found ways to make them fit like puzzle pieces and tackled missions throughout the seasons. Collaborations, philanthropies, mixers, conferences, retreats, were as enjoyable as educational and rewarding. I knew that I had made the right choice in pursuing Greek Life.
It has been almost 4 years since the day I had crossed and I have never seen such a change in one entity. I have literally witnessed chapters that would collaborate together and party together began to hate each other and put their personal feelings in with their letters as if which organization you were a part in had anything to do with your personal life. I have seen individuals who looked up to Greeks and enjoy the company of Greeks begin to slander and despise the thought of any affiliation with Greek Life. Members became more concerned with what the public thought of them and their letters reducing the amount of creative thinking and innovation. The progression of Greek Life came and still is at a slow crawl as our leaders now loathe the idea of spending a weekend at Camp Jewel, it is now a job to attend workshops and President Forums, and if you were not in the same council odds were you do not speak to each other. Where was all of this coming from?
A Competition Or A Calling?
No person works week in and week out on an event or philanthropy just to say “I am proud of myself”. Of course we want to show off our work, earn some of the spotlight, and have others pat us on the back for our hard efforts, but it goes to a certain extent. I used to enjoy chapter meetings, chapter retreats, and staying up late nights devising and implementing a plan of action on our next big project. And the majority of that feeling came from doing it with the people I love. Hard work comes easy if you have people to share that passion with. Brotherhood and Sisterhood is not some cliche term used to market to non-affiliates. If anything it is the one characteristic of any team that pushes the success of every field. Only true love from a sister would me staying up all night to tutor a fellow sister to ensure she aces this class she needs for her major. Only true brotherhood would turn a drastic and stressful event into a laugh at memory. And only true brotherhood/sisterhood would make us realize that we do not need to cry alone…to struggle alone…or live our most happiest moments alone because there will always be a brother or sister available.
So what went wrong? I personally believe that our atmosphere turned from an emphasis on being the best for our brothers and sisters to being better than those brothers and sisters. Programs like Project Arete, which is aimed in increasing the productivity of Greek Life on every level may have inadvertently caused a change in the culture that Uconn Greek Life had. More emphasis on attaining a Silver or Gold, more emphasis on winning this award, more emphasis on raising more money, or who can kiss OFSL’s ass more. Adding this feature may have stripped the passion from each member and implemented a sense of duty.
Greek Life; A Unpaid Job
If you were asked to sacrifice part of your social life, your academics, and your professional life just to earn a little glass trophy and to say your chapter earned Gold…would you do it? How much is it worth to you? I personally did not join Greek Life to be forgotten after a week or two after winning the Community Service award. I did not join Greek Life to have compile hundreds of documents and turn every event into a requirement just to be compared to other chapters. I joined Greek Life to fill a void left by a broken childhood. I joined Greek Life to have a vehicle to put my passions of ensuring young children did not make the same mistakes I did. The last thing I want to do is to turn my passions into a paper requirement and make everything I put my heart into seem like an assignment by a governing entity. My whole legacy slandered and overshadowed by something that turns brotherhood/sisterhood into a annual group project. Uconn Greek Life is now a business in which its employees work harder than anyone else just for an Employee of the Month spot on the wall…
The Controversial Truth
This topic is often times hidden from the public. Discussed behind doors because no Greek wants to admit the differences. IFC, Panhellenic & IGC, NPHC are on completely different ends of the spectrum and it is true as you are reading this. To place organizations of 8 members or less in categories with organizations 100+ is plainly idiotic. I can completely understand why it happens considering no one wants to deal with the questions “Why are you treating them different?” “Isn’t that discriminating to separate the two?”. No organization is asking for hand outs or for special treatments, but it is blatantly logical that those who have more resources have the favorable odds of succeeding. Now the implementation of percentages does help in terms of attendance for each org…but lets be realistic. It is much easier to host a family BBQ to get the parents involved, or to send out Alumni newsletters when your org accumulates tens of thousands of due money from 100+ members. Not to mention try throwing 12 events or so with just 8 members as opposed to an org with 100+ who can afford 8 committees.
Now touching on the 8 member rule, I think it is selfish for anyone to say that 8 members should be easily attainable for all organizations. If we as an organization pledged 1st semester freshmen before they even knew anything about Greek Life maybe. If we had over 15,000 students to pull from maybe. If we had the funds to throw rush events for a week straight and pay for well placed marketing on buses, in dining halls, in classrooms, during the homecoming parades…maybe. Yes we have thousands of students who may be interested in learning more about our organizations, but when you have less than 10 members to wear your letters around campus, when you have to join a cultural center in order to have enough people to perform in lipsync, and when USG would rather fund $10,000 worth of paintballs instead of your cultural night to spread at least a little awareness…things get a little tricky.
A lot of you are probably asking where does my credibility lie? Well, I pledged as a freshmen in 2009, I helped create over 15 educational and social programs for the public in two semesters, including two award winning programs in which one still occurs today. With over 8 collaborations with organizations both inside and outside our council, we pioneered a new age in Greek Life that provoked Greek Leaders to actually want to know more about other councils (instead of it being some pledge assignment to attend MGC 101). It is my 5th year at the University of Connecticut and I had sat back and watched as new generations perpetuated this sense of a job-like organization. I have sat back and watched IFC completely forget everything that was learned about IGC and NPHC. I watched as Greek Leaders who would normally invite the idea of a collaboration with an organization outside their council walk past without a second look. And I say back and watch my own council and chapter struggle with Arete instead of struggling together with something they love.
So the next time you’re at chapter and your sisters or brothers thinks of a great idea for an event and then someone says “Yea, and that can be counted for Arete”…think about how you just degraded your great idea…into now an assignment to be able to put your chapters name next to a little Gold tag…which will only become a memory.