It is a breezy July afternoon. The active house huddles around a two-tiered coffee table, feet propped up in an alternating pattern. In the middle of a presentation about lessons learned from our last regional event, brother Frankie Zhai takes a break from his coffee. "So after much deliberation," he directs to our alumni, "the active house has decided to rename Kapitol Explosion for next year."
As soon as he begins, brother Brian Truong slowly starts shaking his head. Undaunted, Frankie continues. "Kapitol ExBROsion," he finishes, hands shifting rapidly back and forth. He repeats it a few more times, taking care to adjust his cap to be more off-centered with each repetition.
Like Frankie, every brother in the Greek system is aware of the stereotypes that accompany fraternity life. The stereotype of a fraternity brother includes a number of defining traits. He uses the word "bro" as a primary English phoneme, with my personal favorite being "Brosideon, Lord of the Brocean." Also, he possesses academic abilities comparable to those of a trained monkey. He is constantly in some degree of inebriation. Finally, he is generally angry and combative because of said inebriation. There are plenty more, but I believe these four are encountered the most.
Unfortunately, stereotypes are often believed to be partially based on truth. Everyone has encountered individuals who exemplify the bro stereotype. These are the shiny poster children for detractors of Greek life, and their actions drag down the image of Greeks as a whole. After all, it is human nature to make broad generalizations.
Yet whenever a brother decides to get drunk and brawl on a Saturday night, five brothers are there to hold him down and drag him home. These five are rarely appreciated. They are simply darkly dressed extras on a stage, static noise to an audience with its attention focused on a minority Greeks neither promote nor represent.
Likewise, little attention is given to the community contributions of Greek organizations. Instead, it is the drama and amped nights that capture the most interest, giving only a distorted image of reality.
The most misunderstood process of Greek life is pledging. Fraternities pledge primarily for the purpose of continuation. Every semester, we search for individuals who can carry on our ideals and goals. Without that goal firmly in mind, many Greek organizations would not have survived past their charter classes.
Chapters will die out if they cannot find solid successor classes during the pledging process that properly represent the ideals of the fraternity. We rush not as an excuse to party, but to find quality pledges. Yes, the fringe benefits of Greek life are nice. Relying on them to draw in potential pledges, however, never ensures chapter survival.
Pledges must come to embody and preserve the concepts the organization represents, so the integrity of the house will remain untouched past the pledges' college years. Unsurprisingly, many of these concepts remain universal among Greeks - responsibility, to do what is expected of you; loyalty, to trust and be trusted; charity, to give what is deserved; and brotherhood, to embrace others' burdens as your own. It is too easy to dismiss these ideals as words fraternities use as a front to the community. For those who have been through the pledging process and active life, however, they are a tangible part of everything we do.
I arrived at the University one year ago as a dewy-eyed first year. When it came to Greek life, my head was full of the standard stereotypes. These stereotypes merged into a singular point of iron conviction: I would never join a fraternity. They had nothing to offer me, and I had nothing to offer them.
One semester later, I found myself pledging, giving up time and energy to complete strangers. By the end of those ten weeks, those strangers had become the most dependable, honest and determined people I know. My only regret from my first year comes from not keeping an open mind to Greek life. I judged without knowing, but the Greek system never reciprocated the action. I wish that regret was mine and mine only. But as long as Greeks exist, there will be stereotypes. All we can do is try our best to change them.
Mo Lu is the webmaster for Lambda Phi Epsilon.