Men of Principle Initiative Program: Beta Theta Pi raises the standards
According to the 1978 movie "Animal House," fraternity members are obnoxious hazing drunkards who aim to bed as many women as possible while spending their parents' money on beer kegs.
This negative stereotype is what SIUC's Beta Theta Pi fraternity chapter worked to change this weekend when participating in the Men of Principle Initiative, focusing on the goals of the fraternity chapter.
"It keeps the standards high, and it gets back to the real meaning of fraternity," said Ryan King, president of SIUC's Beta Theta Pi chapter. "It gets the focus more on the brotherhood, the service and the academics - not on the party image. It's a culmination of our values."
This is the first time SIUC's chapter has participated in the initiative. In April, the members unanimously voted to utilize the program annually from now on.
The initiative allows the members of the chapter to discuss action plans and strategies for initiating their goals for the year. The program was conducted by Martin Cobb, director of the initiative for the Beta Theta Pi foundation.
Cobb began the weekend Friday evening with an explanation of the purpose.
"Let's own up to what we as a fraternity have tolerated for years," he told the group. "What are we going to do about it?"
Cobb first discussed the original fraternity, founded in 1839 by eight men, and the ideals it was based upon. He explained that since the 1960s and '70s, fraternities have endured steep decline in numbers and principles.
In 1997, 65 percent of Beta Theta Pi chapters recorded grades below the all men's grade point average on its campus. There are 140 chapters nationwide, but 40 chapters had major risk management issues in that same year. Eighty percent of those incidents involved underage drinking, Cobb said. In 1989, the average chapter size was 51 members; that number dropped to 37 by 1997.
Cobb also referred to a wire news story that ran in Friday's DAILY EGYPTIAN in which a Beta Theta Pi fraternity member at the University of Cincinnati fired 36 bullets from a handgun inside his chapter's house. The UC chapter is also under suspension for alleged hazing activity.
But this weekend, the 45 men of Beta Theta Pi convened to change those facts. Described by one member as "a rally cry for the fraternity," the members examined their own chapter through nine committees. Each committee discussed and produced strategies for the year on a different goal of the Men of Principle Initiative.
The nine goals include cultivation of the intellect, leadership development, commitment to the community, member education, responsible personal conduct, chapter advisers, member recruitment, communication and lifelong fraternal brotherhood.
The brothers discussed ideas such as programs they do, including pledge work and mentoring possibilities. They also suggested an officer transition period, which will educate new officers in a more efficient manner and a parent's association to help plan and raise money.
Although SIUC's chapter has only been chartered since February 1999, it is one of the top three in the nation. Also the No. 1 fraternity on campus, the chapter has won dozens of awards including the Knox Award from the national organization.
But Cobb urged the men to continue "raising the bar" on their standards.
"Image is not our aim. Anyone can do propaganda," he said. "We're looking for change."
Cobb said greek life at SIUC appears to be in transformation, and that this fraternity may be a part of that.
"Those who are not living up to the greek standards are finding it more challenging to do business as usual," he said. "Those who are living up to the principles are flourishing."
The mens' weekend continued with a roundtable discussion about their goals and then an alcohol-free night of bowling and volleyball at Coo-Coo's.
"It just shows you can go out and have a good time without getting drunk and going to the bars," King said.
Katie Sermersheim, assistant director of Student Development, said she was proud of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity for voting to participate in this program.
"The Men of Principle program, as a whole, addresses what each fraternity should strive to attain," she said.
Overall, King said the weekend was a success and a positive thing to continue in the future, but the best part was the fact that the student members decided to do this on their own.
"We have ownership of our goals and rules. This is going to set a good example," King said. "Maybe some of the other fraternities and sororities can see how we've been successful - we're trying to see how we can grow as a community."