If your only exposure to frat guys has been the Daily’s coverage of hazing violations, the movie “Animal House,” a beer pong game on football Saturday or the womanizing, meat-eating roommate that peed on you freshman year, it’s time you heard a new perspective.

Ken Srdjak

Chances are you’ve met a frat guy and didn’t even know it. When I worked at Shaman Drum during book rush last fall, my co-workers played a game called “pick out the frat guy.” Amused, I asked them what they thought I looked like. They took one look at my shaggy hair and asked, “You smoke a lot of weed?”

The truth is, Greeks are everywhere. They’re in your band and your a cappella group. They volunteered for both Kerry and Bush last November. They’re leaders in Dance Marathon, Detroit Project and K-grams. They represent a variety of ethnic and cultural organizations. They even write for the Daily.

When I came to the University freshman year, I didn’t know this. I had the same misconceptions that most people have about Greeks. In high school, my friends and I used to talk shit on the guys who had graduated and joined fraternities at the college in our town. Then during Rush freshman year, a guy from my dorm asked if I wanted to check out some frats, and I said what the hell. I ended up hitting it off with the guys at Sigma Epsilon, and two and a half years later I’m still active in the house.

I think most Greeks would agree that the reason they joined a house is less important than the reason they stuck with it. I enjoy partying as much as anyone, but the reasons I give my time to my fraternity have nothing to do with alcohol or girls. More than anything I value the friendships and the support we provide each other, whether that involves intramurals, volunteering, music or studying. At Dance Marathon last weekend, nine other brothers and I danced to support pediatric rehabilitation, and almost 30 of our brothers showed up at some point to cheer us on. At ten Sunday morning, when I didn’t know if I could stay awake any longer, one of my brothers suggested we get some fresh air and then play basketball. Afterward, I was fine for the remaining six hours. That is the kind of brotherhood I value the most, the stuff that rarely gets public attention.

Unfortunately, if you picked up a Daily last year, you’d find reports of hazing violations. In these situations, the stupid things a few individuals do speak for the whole Greek community. Serious cases of hazing in which people get sick or injured are unacceptable, but standards for hazing have grown too broad. The Greek hazing policy forbids situations which cause “embarrassment,” “humiliation” or “ridicule” of an individual or group. Under this definition, nearly every organization on campus is guilty. Under this definition, I was hazed at Dance Marathon last weekend. For dropping my name tag, I had to get on stage and sing the Pepto Bismo song about indigestion, stomach pain and diarrhea. Other people had to sing “I’m a Little Teapot” or dance the “Macarena.” I see no problem with this treatment, but hazing should not be viewed as a Greek specific problem.

I’m not trying to disregard hazing: Serious cases do occur and should be cracked down on. I commend the Interfraternity Council Hazing Task Force for stepping up their efforts. IFC Vice President of Social Responsibility, Dustin Schmuldt said, “We’ve expanded our hazing task force, and we’ve put Greek advisors in Markley and Alice Lloyd … We’ll never totally eliminate hazing, but we’re doing a lot — as much as we can to combat it.”

Measures to reduce hazing, along with the new social policy, should be welcome improvements to the Greek community. Whenever someone gets hurt, be it a pledge or someone who got drunk at a party, the liability falls on the fraternity members’ backs. The new bring your own beer rule for parties will now put the legal and financial burden on partygoers. Fraternities have always had sober monitors at parties, but the new rules have solidified this system. Most Greeks have mixed emotions about having closed parties. I’m concerned this change will sharpen the divide between Greeks and the rest of the campus. Schmuldt suggested positive ramifications for Rush: “Not only will our numbers be just as good or better, but we’ll be getting higher-quality guys because fraternities won’t base Rush on parties.” Many people think that the Greek system has been getting screwed over with the new social policy, but I think it is going to foster a stronger, more value-based Greek system.

Cravens can be reached at jjcrave@umich.edu.

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