As I am writing my last column, and pondering my time in the Greek community, I thought I would dedicate this column to a list of my random musing and thoughts. Bear with me here, this is certainly not an exhaustive list — there are many more positives (and negatives for that matter) that I simply could not fit.
What the Greek community at the University of Michigan does very well:
Creating Leaders: We are cultivating future leaders on campus and for the future. Just look at the list of business, civic and sport leaders that were Greek at the University. It’s simply not a coincidence.
Maintaining a great balance between social life and GPA: This is not true of every Greek, but on average, we do a great job of working hard and playing harder. Simply put, we know how to have fun, but to keep our lives in check to ensure that we will be successful in the future.
It makes me laugh when people categorize fraternity members as guys who only care about partying hard. I live with eight guys from my fraternity in our senior house, and contrary to popular belief, we all have been extremely successful in college. Among the group is a future investment banker, doctor, consultant, lawyer, equity trader and mechanical engineer.
Creating and maintaining lifelong relationships: If you don’t believe me, see if you will have a reunion for your hall mates your freshmen year or with the members of the student organization that you participated in.
It may not be the case for all, but I’ve met people who are 80 years old who can still tell you everyone in their pledge class and still talk regularly to brothers who were in their house. This is not just some corny catchphrase that rush chairs spit to get people to join chapters — you really are creating tangible bonds with people who you will talk to for the rest of your life.
Preparing you for the real world: If a company existed with more than $100,000 in inflows and outflows and was run by a myriad of 18 and 19 years old, you would think that the company structure was foolhardy, and the firm would be insolvent. But this is how fraternities and sororities have been operating successfully for decades. Sure, they have a backstop with alumni helping manage the finances, but they are giving real-world experience to those running the chapter.
What the Greek community can improve upon:
The Rivalries: The only real tangible thing that separates chapters are our rituals. Some of the best aspects of being a Greek (Mudbowl and Greek Week for example) involve direct competition between chapters. It’s ok to be competitive, but spewing vitriolic words at each other further divides us into segments. One house is too fratty, the other house is not fratty enough. One house is full of douche-bags, the other filled with boy scouts who don’t know how to have fun.
Twenty percent of people doing 80 percent of the work: This is true with any organization. Not every individual can be president of the chapter, nor would every individual want to bear the colossal responsibility of serving as a chapter executive member. But whether it is at a chapter or council level, very few individuals shape the way the community is run. If we pride ourselves on being a diverse community, why does it seem like the same individuals are always making decisions that have a tremendous impact on the Greek community?
Keeping seniors involved: A stigma exists that the old guys and gals should be done with their chapter involvement after their junior year. After putting in two to three years of work they are either burnt-out or forced out by the younger members.
If I could only track how many times I heard the words, “We are a completely different fraternity/sorority than we were a few years ago.” Here’s a hint — no you aren’t. The seniors are the ones who recruited you, and they are the ones who indoctrinated you into the fraternity and sorority culture. It is natural to want to grow and do bigger and better things, but let’s stop trying to reinvent the wheel.
Ryan Knapp can be reached at email@example.com.