By Sam Fatula | Asst. A&E Editor
Friendship, character, justice and education.
These are the principles by which I live as a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity. They are spoken before every weekly chapter meeting to establish our beliefs and foundation as a brotherhood.
In the Greek Life community, many other organizations also have a declaration, preamble, pledge, etc. quite similar to this, which should reflect the core values of their daily lives. And though they may be commonplace for some, others take them as a lifelong testament of existence, on University grounds or not.
Whether a person in Greek Life takes their core values seriously or not, there always seems to be one basic element that gets forgotten over time: the lost art of logic.
As ridiculous as it may sound, chapters lose their charters by choosing to be part of a stereotype. The concept of a ‘frat’ that was seen in the movie Animal House is personified, and the result is problematic, to say the least. Welcome to the discussion, Penn State University’s former chapter of the Chi Omega Sorority.
On Feb. 12, PennLive.com released an article stating that Chi Omega’s National Headquarters made the decision to remove the charter of the Nu Gamma chapter after a controversial photo was leaked on the blog website, Tumblr in 2012, suggesting crude racial stereotypes. Specifically, more than 20 of the chapter’s members were wearing ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. Two of the girls in the photograph held signs that stated, “Will mow lawn for weed and beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”
The attire the girls wore was not at all comical, and the signs that they made were even worse. Implying that the Hispanic culture consists of being employed as landscapers and desiring wages in marijuana and beer is distasteful, racist and ultimately unacceptable whether they are in a fraternity or not.
Since the photo had been released, the then-chapter had issued a public apology stating, “The picture in question does not support any of Chi Omega’s values.”
Unfortunately for the chapter, saying sorry did not suffice and 14 months after the incident, Chi Omega’s headquarters evaluated that the girls did not “adhere to the mandated requirements of Chi Omega,” and shut them down.
What bothers me the most is the reputation that Greek Life as a whole receives after an incident such as this happens. Once one fraternity or sorority undergoes destruction, the perception of every organization falters. Unity may coincide with a community, but that does not necessarily define all chapters as being the same. The Nu Gamma deserved to lose its charter after posting a photo like that, but in no way does that embody what Greek Life truly is.
One thing I was unaware of before joining a fraternity was that all Greek Life organizations raise money for a non-profit corporation as a means of philanthropic service. For example, Delta Chi’s philanthropy raises money annually for the Jimmy V. Foundation for cancer research. The Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority partners with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness month. By coordinating events throughout the year, all organizations raise thousands of dollars for charitable causes without searching for a profit.
Another factor some tend to brush aside when discussing Greek Life is the opportunity to hold a leadership position before exiting the collegiate level. All fraternities and sororities possess an executive board that run the operations of the organization and typically practice Robert’s Rules of Order when conducting meetings, a commonly adopted parliamentary among societies in the United States. The amount of professionalism and responsibility that goes into an executive board is required for the livelihood of the chapter, and it’s no secret that some fraternity members make for future leaders of this country.
More like 18 to be exact; that’s how many fraternity members have been elected as the President of the United States, according to The Atlantic’s article “18 U.S. Presidents Were in College Fraternities.” The article states that during a 2006 psychiatric study, it was revealed, “fraternity men do exhibit higher levels of personality traits associated with successful leadership later in life, such as sociability and conscientiousness, coupled with a driving ambition.” While being in Greek Life doesn’t guarantee you leadership status, it is easy to develop relatable traits in such an environment.
The stigma of a fraternity or sorority is a road that should be marked with a sign of caution. As it is with any group or organization, expectations are to be respected and values are just that; valuable. Just because some can’t operate under the same guidelines, doesn’t mean there is a need to create a double standard for everyone else.
Sam Fatula is a junior multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.