Saturday, January 24, 2009

SMU Sig Ep Tells His Reason for Joining

Not your everyday "Animal House"
Daniel Liu, Staff Columnist, dliu@smu.edu

This past weekend, hundreds of men and women returned to campus early for one reason: to join a Greek organization. On a surface level, these first year students seem so sure about who they wish to identify with for the rest of their life. The truth of the matter is, most students are pretty confused. As a first year, I had no idea why I should rush. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to major in let alone whether or not I should join a fraternity.

I want to write this article because I feel like the SMU community deserves to hear my story. I knew nothing about fraternities when I came to SMU. In fact, my dad suggested I watch "Animal House", since that was his only experience with fraternities. I was not impressed by what I saw. And when I came to campus, that is mostly what I discovered about these organizations: lots of drinking and partying all the time. It was not the experience I wanted.

A number of events occurred that helped me realize what differentiates SigEp from the other fraternities on campus. The first event was the Balanced Man Scholarship. I remember seeing a flyer in the elevator of Mary Hay about a scholarship based on strong leadership, academics, and athletics. After I finished my interview and was notified that I was a finalist, I felt pretty sure I would win the scholarship.

Though I did not win the Balanced Man scholarship, the banquet was impressive. I met a lot of members and it opened my eyes to a different kind of fraternity. I learned that SigEp was more than just a social club. It had higher aspirations. It wanted to help men lead better lives. I was still pretty skeptical, however.

The second event occurred during spring recruitment. Because I didn't know why I should join a fraternity, I decided to relax for another weekend at home. However, someone from the fraternity called to check up on me and invited me to come welcome the new members. I'm so thankful that I was able to be there because I saw so many of my best friends join SigEp that night.

Over the next semester, I spent a lot of time thinking about why I shouldn't join SigEp. I didn't feel like I would have the time or the money to make such a commitment. I started to really research SigEp that summer. I realized that SigEp was doing something right. While other fraternities were losing membership, SigEp was growing in numbers year after year. Ultimately, I realized that I could offer a lot to SigEp, and SigEp would help me achieve my goals.

On March 20, 2006, I became a proud SigEp. Over the next few months, my college experience changed drastically. I became more organized, more healthy, and more focused. I formed relationships with older members who helped mentor me and pushed me to succeed. And in return, I wanted to excel in all of my endeavors to make SigEp proud.

This past weekend, hundreds of men visited the Texas Upsilon chapter house of Sigma Phi Epsilon on 3050 SMU Boulevard. Hundreds of men visited with our brothers, listening and asking questions about the Balanced Man ideal. I know we don't offer the same experience as other fraternities, and I prayed that these men wanted something different. On Sunday evening, as every house waited eagerly for its new member class, my heart kept pounding. I saw different fraternities cheer on as their new members ran to their house and I wondered, "how are we going to do?" For a brief moment, I pessimistically considered the future. But that thought was quickly shattered as man after man rushed to our house. I looked at every single one of them that night and realized something epic had occurred.

You see, from my experience, most men at SMU who choose to go through rush are looking for friends, fellowship, and lots of fun. Please understand that I strongly believe that not every person should join a Greek organization. Many organizations exist on this campus that offer different experiences. I encourage all students to get involved on campus. If you feel like the Greek system is running the school, why not get involved and make an impact?

The SMU culture is evolving. I think that students are realizing that it is not enough to simply have a great time in college. SigEp offers more than just the social part of life. Yes, we have mixers with sororities, intramural teams, and philanthropies. Our secret and our defining difference is our Balanced Man Program. This membership development program helps build members up, instead of tearing them down. Our academic initiatives help members stay focused in school and pursue the "life of the mind."

I applaud the 40+ men who chose to join SigEp, because these men are making a statement. They are saying to Greek life, the SMU community, and the rest of the world that they want more out of their college experience. Look forward to seeing how SigEp takes the lead in academic excellence, healthy lifestyles, and, most importantly, leadership on campus. The SMU community must hold us accountable to who we say we are: we are building balanced leaders for the world's communities.

Daniel Liu is a graduate engineering management student. He can be reached for comment at dliu@smu.edu