Frat behavior doesn’t always match mission

Some years ago I made the decision not to join a fraternity. I didn’t want to be labeled with certain characteristics because of the actions and attitudes of other members.

I prefer to be judged by my actions and my actions alone. By not joining a fraternity I’m limiting the possibility of having unwarranted labels placed on my name.

I personally believe it’s shallow to judge someone based on fraternity affiliation without getting to know the individual. Sadly, I have come to the realization that there are people who practice stereotyping on college campuses and some of them are functioning members of fraternities and sororities.

My feelings aside, I do believe these organizations serve a purpose. In addition to the services they provide to the community, fraternities can endow their members with a sense of stability at a time when young people are searching for their way in life.

Upon entry to college there is a period of uncertainty in which young people experiment with majors and activities. Fraternities and sororities can be extremely useful in helping young people to stay focused because most of these organizations use academic performance as a criteria for membership. These groups can give a certain swagger and confidence to individuals who were lacking self-assurance and self-esteem. If a Greek organization can make the difference between someone dropping out of college and being unproductive, or graduating and achieving a higher standard of excellence, then so be it.

Over the past couple of days I have visited many of these organizations’ Web sites to read their mission statements. These statements include buzzwords such as “integrity,” “humanity,” “service,” “brotherhood,” and “leadership.” Yet after four years of interacting with some of the members of these groups in the social atmosphere of USF, I’m convinced that some of these people have lost sight of their organizations’ original intent.

It’s unbelievable to me that people who claim to be proud fraternity brothers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who was hit with rocks and attacked by vicious dogs while refraining from violent retaliation, can’t walk away from a simple confrontation with another fraternity at a college party. People who say they are proud to be fraternity brothers of Rev. Jesse Jackson can’t walk away from a trivial altercation during a charity basketball game.

I have seen members of fraternities deliberately bump into members of rival fraternities at parties in hopes of getting a reaction and escalating the situation. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been at an event or party during which there was some kind of conflict between fraternities. It’s almost like a geeky college version of the John Singleton film Boyz n the Hood.

It seems as though the only principle some of these people have adopted is that of brotherhood, which has translated into: “If my ‘brother’ has a problem with another fraternity, then I have a problem with them, too.”

It’s apparent to me that people don’t take the mission statements as seriously as they should. If they did, these altercations would be few and far between.

I don’t want to seem as though I’m denouncing all of Greek Life, because I’m not. I’m well aware there are many good people within these organizations who stay true to their mission statements.

I’m talking about a number of knuckleheads who misrepresent entire organizations and drag their associates into shame. I’m talking about situations in which an individual wearing Greek letters around his neck foolishly starts a fight, and that fight expands to involve the whole fraternity.

It is up to the leadership of these organizations to eliminate these bad apples. The “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” theory is not always fair – but that goes back to my reason for not joining a fraternity in the first place.

Ryan Watson is non-degree seeking student.