Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Our Time is Now

We seem to be living in a period of extremes. Distinctions between one view and its polar opposite dominate the headlines and there isn’t much attention paid to the wide swath of middle ground. This reflection pertains to Greek life, it seems, as well. 

A week ago, a highly anticipated study by prominent higher education researcher Dr. Gary Pike of Indiana University was made public. Dr. Pike’s study sought to define the impact of fraternity and sorority membership on student engagement in college.

Among the findings, Pike’s study concluded that “membership in a fraternity or sorority is associated with greater involvement in curricular and cocurricular activities, promotes student learning and development, and promotes satisfaction with the college experiences.” The North American Interfraternity Conference released a copy of the full study, which can be found here.

Shift forward to this week when an article on the Abolish Greek Life movement was published in The Washington Post, painting fraternities in particular with a brush dripping with racism and sexism. While it’s hard to deny fraternities and sororities have had their share of trouble, Pike’s study seems to be a reminder not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As he points out, “…these are problems throughout higher education and are not unique to Greek-letter organizations.” 

The increase in vocal disenchantment with the fraternity/sorority experience, however, should be a call to attention for anyone who cares about the preservation of the nearly 200-year-old institution. For years, calls for a return to the ideals of fraternity and sorority that made membership advantageous, sought after, and respected rather than an opportunity to participate in the largest parties on campus have gone unheeded. 

Our time is now. Greek life is neither perfect nor critically flawed, rather it occupies that middle ground between the extremes. Those of us that care about preserving Greek life need to work to make the changes demanded for so long. One of the first ways to help make that happen is for alumnae/i to take an active role working with members and defining both what is acceptable and what is not acceptable as a member. Education and resources that enhance the Greek experience should support the values and culture desired by organizations and members should be required to live those values or face black-balling. 

The Washington Post article won’t be the last on the ills of fraternities and sororities, but together we can take steps to make the changes required of our organizations for so long and begin to quiet the voices of discontent. Over the past 6 months, Alpha Fraternity Management has offered webinars on a series of topics to improve the culture, sustainability, and advantages of Greek life. We’re committed to continuing to offer guidance, additional resources, and services to improve the experience of fraternity and sorority membership and the success of each chapter.

Not only will changes preserve the amazing experience of brotherhood and sisterhood for future generations, as Dr. Pike says, “Effectively addressing these issues will better allow fraternities and sororities to contribute to the academic and social life of American colleges and universities.”