By Leadership Consultant Spencer Montgomery
In such a short history, fraternities have evolved immensely and have experienced a vast shift in cultural identity. Many would suggest the only constant among all this change has been the values we say we represent, but are we sure about that?
Over the past few months, I have questioned what fraternities actually represent; not by what we say, but what we do. This question demanded that I take a closer and more detailed look, so I decided to follow “fraternity” via Google’s alert system for the past month and see what was being reported on the Greek life I love so much. To say the least, I was beyond disappointed.
Turns out, there has been a lot of negative coverage on fraternities lately. It seems as though the media is relentless in their pursuit to find any and all negative byproducts of this system. I can hardly blame them; no more than I can blame the media for those actions being made in the first place.
Too often, we jump to the same tired defense, arguing that the media fails to report all the good we do. But is the good we do good enough? Have we reached a point where we truly believe that six community service hours justifies the mental distress of an 18 year old? Do we think raising 6,000 dollars can replace a life?
Like it or not, these horrible acts are committed. And yes, they will always be the only aspect of fraternity reported by the media. But is pointing out the good we do even an appropriate response? It’s like we just accept this behavior as a necessary evil to all the good we do. I just can’t bring myself to believe that.
Instead of fighting against what is reported, let’s give the media nothing to report. We say we hold ourselves to a “higher standard” yet too often there is a report of alleged hazing or sexual assault by a fraternity member. Look, we will never be able to control what is reported, but the one thing we can control is our actions. Let’s stop playing into the stereotypes that we created.
I guess what I’m asking is at what point will we truly do what we say we do, without exception. Reaching that point includes everyone in the community. Regardless what you think your level of guilt is in all of this, if you’re not doing something to actively stop those who are, you’re not doing anything to help our cause either. Remember, the next time you turn your eye to what you think is minor hazing, it was that same bystander behavior that led to the death of an 18 year old being the top story on CNN.com.
Are we so far off the beaten path that we can’t come back to the pure state that we once were? Are we so concerned with fulfilling social norms that we dismiss the very reason we exist as an organization? Is the type of man that our fraternities originally sought even relevant anymore?
If you are looking for an answer, I don’t have them. Sorry. What I do know is that I took a vow to my organization, promising to be a better man and to make a difference. I’m committed to this vow. I commit to never giving up on our high ideals. I truly believe in Fraternity.
I’d like to challenge the fraternity men who continue to dismiss the values by which they vowed to live: I challenge you to start living to our high standards and stop making those men doing the right thing defend your actions with their own. I challenge you to stop giving the media stories to report. I challenge you to earn your place in this Greek life I love so much.