Friday, November 02, 2007

SIU Columnist Suggests Checking Your Roots

Column: Another side to fraternity culture
Ray Sophie

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a link on Yahoo news that seemed to scream out to me. The title of the link read something like "Fraternities Move Away from Party Image." The Associated Press feature story focused on the Missouri Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The Sig Eps, as they're commonly referred to, were losing control of their organization. Performing mundane tasks, learning large amounts of unnecessary history and the usual verbal and sometimes physical abuse is what awaited those who were pledging.

Then, nationals got one too many complaints, so they cleaned house. After kicking out a dozen members for not measuring up to their new standards (including a 2.6 GPA), more than 40 other members quit because they did not like the new system being put into place.

Dubbed the "Balanced Man" program, parties and laziness have been replaced with morning yoga sessions, wine tasting trips and documentary screenings. They have also gotten rid of pledging.

Sig Eps aren't the only ones on campus doing it either. Both Beta Theta Pi and Lambda Chi Alpha have done the same.

Having visited Missouri's Greek scene on more than one occasion, I can tell you that hazing, sexism and racism are very much a part of their life. While only four of the traditional 28 fraternities have made this kind of overhaul, it is a start that has already made national news.

What I find interesting, however, is that the two fraternities we are heavily lobbying to return to this campus were both mentioned in this article.

Both Sig Ep and Lamba Chi Alpha have programs in place to discourage hazing, and nationally they're both succeeding - Sig Ep is the largest fraternity in America. They are pushing for a return to the roots of fraternal existence - a way of life that preaches values in action as much as brotherhood.

The article states that fraternities carry values such as honor, virtue, scholarship and civic engagement, to name a few. Fraternities were brought together for a purpose, a sole reason, and that reason was to build a "Man of Principle," a "Man of Character" or a "Balanced Man."

The reason those three phrases were quoted is because they are all programs put in place by national fraternities to try to restore them to the original purpose of their formation.

I am in no way suggesting that SIU get rid of the pledging system, or follow the Sig Eps' approach and totally revamp our fraternity life. What I am suggesting is that this article is the first piece of national writing I have read that portrayed fraternities in a positive and encouraging light.

I am pretty sure every fraternity here has some kind of creed or mission statement or collection of sentences that outlines what values its organization stresses. Go home. Read it. Think about it. Why did your fraternity adopt these values and why did you agree to make them a part of your life?

It's little steps like these that can create the kind of change we see happening nationwide. After all, 8 a.m. yoga is far less embarrassing than hazing and alcohol abuse when it's written for a national audience.

Sophie is a junior studying
radio-television and journalism.