For 13 years, I have served my fraternity. I do so, because I wholeheartedly believe in the power of Greek organizations to positively impact the lives of young men and women. I continue to serve, because with any advice and direction I can provide, I hope to continue shaping transformational experiences for those following in my footsteps. My leadership journey is far from finished. My fraternity still has much to teach me.
In the last week, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a member of a fraternity. The events at the University of Oklahoma were horrific. They are just another black eye for our organizations. Seemingly, on a weekly basis, we are faced with headlines about hazing, intoxication, rape, racism, elitism, assault and death. On a weekly basis, I read of institutions and headquarters closing chapters, members being expelled and universities banning Greek organizations altogether. Many, standing on the outside of our organizations, are left wondering, “What’s the point?” They are tired of the liability. They are tired of the headlines. They are tired of having the name of their institutions dragged through the mud.
I can’t blame them. With every story, my stomach turns. I too am tired of having my name dragged through the mud. I too am tired of being guilty by association. I advise amazing men. Men committed to the ideals of philanthropy, community service, academic rigor, campus involvement, leadership, mentorship, accountability and creating life affirming moments. Their time spent in a social setting is so small when compared to the good they do. In the last year, I have advised men who have raised money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. I have seen them volunteer for the Washington Trails Association. I have seen them dance to raise money for people they will never meet. I have seen them hold each accountable to a 3.0 GPA standard. I have seen them join clubs and decide to lead within their own organization. I have seen them mentor new members and pick those up who need a hand. With every phone call, email or meeting I attend, I am floored by their potential. I am blown away by their growth and ability to realize that potential.
My stomach turns, not due to public attention or attitudes we may never change, but for the men and women we may never reach. Our organizations have the power to change lives. I know this to be true, because they changed mine. I worry for those scholars, leaders, athletes and gentlemen we may never reach, because of preconceived notions. They are right to hold those notions. While we may not be emblematic of those notions, I don’t fault them for holding the thought. As they decide Greek life is not for them, I worry about the potential they may never realize. Leaders are deciding they don’t need us or don’t want the hassle. That scares me.
So, where do we go from here? It is a powerful question. It is a cyclical inquiry all good organizations must evaluate on a constant and consistent basis. The second question is, “What do we want the future of these organizations to be?” My hope is these conversations are occurring, but I hope they are happening in places other than just fraternity headquarter board rooms. I hope they are happening on campuses, among advisory groups, between executive chapter leadership and members. I hope there is some kid from Frederick, Oklahoma wanting to join an organization with the thought of shaping an organization so great it wouldn’t even sign a future version of himself. I hope he dreams of making a difference. I hope he wants to lead. I hope he is open to being transformed. I hope he is open to conversations about race, orientation, class, status and brotherhood. I hope he sees Greek life as the vehicle best able to meet his aspirations. I hope he isn’t consumed by headlines. I hope he meets members fully invested in his potential. I hope he finds an organization who isn’t chained to the wrong traditions and isn’t too timid to ask itself the purpose of everything it does. I hope he signs with a dynamic house who won’t tolerate racism, misogyny, homophobia, rape, drugs or violence. I hope he gets to lead and fail. I hope he learns to follow. I hope he learns some humility. And one day, in the distant future, long after graduation tassels have been turned, I hope he is so filled with pride when asked to advise or serve his organization in any capacity, he answers with a resounding, “Yes!”
My hopes, vision and aspirations aren’t farfetched. I will work every day to make them a reality, not just for those I call brothers, but for anyone who dons a shirt with Greek letters. My hope in throwing together this year’s annual letter is that you will join me.
Thanks for entering my world,