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Old 10-23-2003, 02:19 PM
hoosier hoosier is offline
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Chi Phi at Nebraska - a story

Some fraternities fail to live up to principles

December 05, 2002

I spent four years of my college life under the roof of a fraternity house. I thought my fraternity wasn't one that people talked about when they spoke of "those frat guys." We were doing positive things in our community.

We were different.

I last lived in the fraternity house in 1997. In 1999, a woman got so drunk at one of our parties that she fell out of a third story window. We shut our doors in the summer of 2001.

We were doing negative things in our community. We were the same.

The worst of what we did is as follows:

We thought that we were the best on campus;

We did not challenge ourselves to get better;

We rarely looked at our principles;

We constantly broke the laws of our university, campus, and state;

We did not look to learn from our differences.

Specifically, what we did was:

Vote to have alcohol in our house;

Provide that alcohol to anyone;

Tolerate drugs in our house;

Not tolerate gay members;

Allow members to default on dues and housing bills;

Allow members to continue to participate even though they were failing out of college;

Not say anything when they did;

Never talk to our brothers about their drinking problems;

Figure out ways around the laws;

Engage in inappropriate activities with our new members.

Each fraternity on this campus was founded on a specific set of principles. Those principles contain words like truth, friendship, integrity, honor, academic achievement, chivalry, civic duty, commitment and responsibility.

The words I always associated with my fraternity were truth and friendship.

But where was the truth when all we did was lie to others and ourselves about our behavior? Where was the friendship when we allowed our brothers to drink to a point where their behavior hurt themselves and others?

The words others often associate with fraternities are hazing, alcohol abuse, immaturity, racism, elitism, homophobia and intolerance.

What did I do when two members of my fraternity verbally taunted another member for having the courage to come out to the fraternity and the desire to still participate? Nothing. I was doing those three members, and myself, a disservice by not saying or doing anything.

After graduation, I went to work for my national fraternity as a consultant.

How can a man who came from such a fraternity background go on to be a consultant for that fraternity? How is he qualified to teach others?

The fraternity was my greatest learning experience in college. For every bad thing we did, there was a small group of us fighting to change things.

Fighting to end hazing.

Fighting to recruit diverse members.

Fighting to make scholarship a priority.

Fighting to learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over.

At my chapter, we lost that fight.

As a consultant I learned a lot about how a fraternity is supposed to work.

Your social program is there to help you learn how to socialize with others, not to teach you how to sit together with your brothers and drink until someone passes out. We idealized those guys who could drink the most, not the ones who went to class. We held several parties where all we did was sit around and drink together until everyone was severely intoxicated. Examples are playing games like "Beiruit" (15 full cups of beer per three-man team), "beerhunter" (downing one-ounce shots of beer every minute until only one man hadn't vomited), and Christmas stag (elves, usually freshman pledges, drinking from every bottle).

Community service is built around actually doing things in your community, not just playing kickball (that was ours) with sorority women and cutting a check for their entry fees. That's philanthropy. While it is good, it does not teach young men the importance of giving themselves to their community. The best of who we are to become is found in mentors. Who will tomorrow's youth turn out to be without positive influences?

Education is why we came to college. Fraternities are supposed to develop programs to promote this. We never spoke to members who were flirting with academic suspension or dismissal; instead we just dropped them from our rolls so our house grade point average would look better.

These are just a few small examples of what I am talking about.

Challenge yourselves to do the things that you say you stand for. Don't let what happened to my chapter happen to yours.

I still volunteer to teach at my fraternity's leadership institute every year. I'm hoping to challenge those who don't think about change, to help them see that it will yield a stronger brotherhood. I'm hoping to challenge those who think about change to do so more completely and with a louder voice. I'm hoping to challenge myself to become a better man - one who will inspire those around him to stand up for what they believe in. My fraternity founders would expect nothing less from me.

What are you fighting for in your chapter house?

Mark Zmarzly is an undeclared graduate student from Lincoln._
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