Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Others View Greeks - Something to Realize

Rushing into trouble
The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan)
September 18, 2007
By Theresa Kennelly, columnist

On Sunday morning, still clad in summer attire despite temperatures below 60 degrees, girls lined up outside the Greek house of their choice, marking the start of the Panhellenic Association's recruitment as well as the end of tranquility in the freshman dorms. Everyone wants to know: Are you rushing?

Judging by the assemblies of young girls and boys outside the Greek houses on Hill and Washtenaw, it's clear that fall has begun in Ann Arbor. Freshmen will flock to the area for the next two weeks to participate in Fall Rush, or what is known in the non-Greek community as hell on earth.

The freshmen that are rushing will go through the motions like all fraternity brothers and sorority sisters have done before them - mixers, open houses, preference parties, schmoozing and maybe even an unsanctioned keg race or two. Their determination, persistence, communication skills and wardrobe will be tested, and they will find out at the end of the month if they passed the tests.

Before most of these students write their first college term paper, they will be choosing a letter and changing their lives (or so the Greek system's 2007 T-shirt reads). And the next four years of their lives thereby will be determined in these first four weeks of college.

Maybe it's all the brain cells they lost during Welcome Week or maybe their parents convinced them with fraternity tales of yesteryear, but year after year, freshman fall for Greek life en masse. In fact, recruitment numbers have improved significantly in the past couple of years after more than a decade of decline. This fact is not surprising given the heightened exclusivity of Greeks - meaning you can't party with them unless you're one of them. However, considering the problems Greeks have run into in recent years, it's a little odd that they continue to thrive on campus.

Since I came to the University in fall 2004, two fraternities and one sorority have been kicked off campus, another fraternity lost recognition from its national organization and a fourth was expelled from the Interfraternity Council - the governing body for most fraternities on campus, which has autonomy from the University. According to the IFC, four more fraternity chapters are currently facing social probation and countless others have received disciplinary measures either from the IFC or their national organization. Sororities have received less negative attention, but Panhel - the governing body for sororities - has dealt with hazing issues in recent years. Because of measures taken by these governing councils, rush has also become a "dry" time for Greeks and social committees have cracked down on house partying.

But none of this is stopping the freshmen from gathering at the Greek houses this month. The reality is, IFC and Panhel initiatives and punishments are not keeping Greeks from displaying their partying personality to big audiences or curtailing their drinking. It's like the governing councils are the angry parents of a bunch of problematic teenagers who won't stop acting up no matter what their parents say.

There is clearly a disconnect between what the IFC and Panhel see the Greeks as and what the fraternity and sorority members see themselves as. It's confusing why the IFC is trying to pass itself off as an organization that clearly none of its affiliated fraternity houses want to emulate, (which according to its website, is an organization with "an unwavering commitment to excellence"). If the IFC can't realize that its 30 fraternities are a little bit more into binge drinking than philanthropy, I encourage its board members to witness the drunken mess on display every Saturday on State and Hoover.

Every time I witness that madhouse on football Saturdays, I laugh at the fact that the IFC is trying to pass itself off as student organization dedicated to service and leadership. Sure, most of these kids are just acting like regular college kids. The problem is they're doing it under the banner of their fraternity letters or while wearing the shirt "Choose a Letter, Change your Life." That's the slogan of an organization whose mission is to empower students to "conduct themselves with integrity and in accordance with sound value." Since when is a beer slip-n-slide an opportunity to conduct oneself with integrity?

The disengagement between what Greeks claim to be and what they actually act like is the exact reason why so many Greeks get in trouble and receive bad press. In reality, it is a partying, social community that's lying about its primary commitment to leadership and service. Until Greeks drop the whole public relations spiel that IFC and Panhel promote and the governing bodies stop denying the reality of fraternity and sorority life, Greek life is going to continue to get eaten up.

Until Greek houses and members comply with the rules and social responsibilities that the governing councils boast and actually display themselves with the integrity the Office of Greek Life supposedly empowers people with, rush ought to be pushed back. Freshmen should have the opportunity to see the true world of Greek life and know the potential of getting in trouble before they rush.

But if you're a freshman so convinced by Greeks' demeanor in these first two weeks of school that you want to rush, shoot me an e-mail. I can think of several things you can do to change your life other than choosing some Greek letters.
Theresa Kennelly: Rushing into trouble - Columns
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