Greek systemoffers uniqueopportunity

In late November 1991, I wrote a song about what it means to have a brother. On one hand, the music and the lyrics poured out of me as I thought of my younger brother Ryan back home in Pennsylvania. But another inspiration for the song’s music stemmed from a feeling of brotherly love that I never thought I’d find anywhere else but from my own brother. Although it was different, the friendship and love I discovered from my fraternity brothers that fall quarter are unparalleled.
I played the song I had written in my fraternity meeting, and when the last D chord sunk into the walls, I heard the seniors crying.
In sincerity, I can admit that to many people this folk-song story may sound sappy and canned. But in reality, my experience with the greek system holds true as one of the most intensely positive and wonderful experience in my life. Even after five years, the brotherhood song is played quarter after quarter because it symbolizes and reminds everyone of the foundation of friendship, truth, diligence and brotherly love that the greek system represents.
Every woman, man, child and Chia Pet in America knows the stereotypical clichÇs of the greek system: Drink. Party. Pledge initiation. Panty raids. Kegs. Rapes. It would be an insult to the readers’ intelligence if I focused this article in such a way that denied these images because they are real. It’s true that horrible, weird and awful things have happened in greek houses throughout the last century nationwide.
Rather than going into a lengthy, rhetorical commentary about how our generation rises above institutional prejudices by refusing to categorize particular groups of people, I will instead give my story of what the greek system means to me.
Respect. There are some jerks (both men and women) out there who feel the greek system exists solely as a vehicle to party, drink and score sex. Hell, as young college students, let’s be honest — we all want to party, experiment, go crazy and make-out to some degree, but the problem lies in those individuals who want to use the greek system for this single purpose. This pushes all the negative stereotypes to the surface.
When people claim that the greek system is elitist, it most often comes from those who have been weeded out because of their Neanderthal-like motives behind joining. To be blunt, nobody wants someone to join who might hurt others or disrespect the organization during their membership.
In early high school, I had no understanding of what a fraternity or sorority was, so I parked and registered the “Animal House” stereotype into my head. For this reason, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to join a fraternity. What I never knew until I joined my house was that every University fraternity operates on a single code of honor called “tough brotherhood.” Many know about this, but for those who don’t, it is a spoken relationship that gives each brother the full right to say, “You are out of line, it’s time to chill out.” Nobody likes to tell a friend that he or she is going too far, but that’s why it’s called tough brotherhood. Hurt feelings are nothing when safety and integrity are concerned.
Broaden and challenge. The greek system, as a single unit, possesses one undying mission: to encourage the personal growth of each of its members. Fraternities and sororities do this by providing incredible networks through which people can explore interests other than the greek system.
Through the greek system, I was introduced to a gaggle of University programs. From volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House to New Student Weekend, I have met more friends, both greek and non-greek, than I would have ever imagined. It awes me to think of the lives I’ve touched and those who have in turn touched mine.
I was a counselor for New Student Weekend my junior year. Helen Phin, the current student body president for the University, was in my small group as an incoming freshman. Our group had an incredible experience together, and I am so proud to have watched Helen succeed at college life and reach so far. If it wasn’t for two of my best friends in the house, I would have never met Helen — or the 70 other people whose impact upon me is irreplaceable.
There is too much to say after four years of experience and opportunities in my greek system journey. But something does stand out. My brothers supported and encouraged me to go to Penn State my sophomore year, where I had the opportunity to take a position as the editor in chief of the York campus newspaper. What an experience — and again, all because my brothers helped me realize opportunities arise that we must individually take in order to succeed in life. And a year later, when I returned to Minneapolis, it was as though I had never left.
The love, support, friendship and hard knocks of brother- or sisterhood will forever remain out of reach for those who don’t at least have the opportunity to explore or challenge themselves in the greek system. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me, it was the time of my life.
Eric Thiegs is an alumnus of the University. He is a Sigma Phi Epsilon member and currently works asan admissions counselor for the University.