Yoga, opera and wine-tastings don’t typically come to mind when college students think of fraternities.
According to the Associated Press, however, the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Missouri-Columbia – which was punished by the university for hazing – has taken to these activities. The fraternity hopes to combat the stereotype and practice of Animal House-style behavior that is thought to occur at fraternities and return to the institution’s original aim – create well-rounded and responsible adults from college students.
Matthew Ontell, who directs Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national “Balanced Man” initiative, told AP: “We’re doing our best to destroy the frat boy stereotype. This is what Greek life is supposed to be about – holding men to a higher standard.”
Ontell couldn’t be more right.
Fraternities are social organizations, and the rules and requirements involved in membership can help its members become better students and citizens, or they can encourage the opposite if the organization’s culture is lax.
Fraternities, for example, that emphasize social service and scholarship and required a high minimum GPA would obviously help its members gain academic success and foster community improvement.
A fraternity that requires members to neither maintain a minimum GPA nor participate in community service, on the other hand, might not see the same academic commitment or community involvement as a strict or stringent one.
Personal health initiatives and cultural activities would further enrich this experience, and should be encouraged and implemented by local chapters of fraternities and sororities, while the national-level Greek organizations should mandate their affiliates to adopt them.
Fraternities and sororities – albeit not for every student – can positively shape some students’ college experience. It’s only logical that the familial environment often provided by a Greek house can help first-time college students acclimate to an environment that’s unlike the home from which they come.
The potential to use a strong network of friends for four years of boozing – and the alcohol-rich hazing that often coincides with rush – represent just two negatives that come with it, negatives that should be avoided.
Fraternities and sororities should make the most of their opportunity and use their Greek membership to grow as individuals.
And they can start by following the example of one Greek chapter in Missouri.