Henry: A call to action for the greek community

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Opinion: Henry 2/21

Katie Henry

After I wrote to all ISU students asking to rethink any negative opinions about the greek community and it was greeted with positive feedback, a friend of mine, who happens to be a member of a fraternity here at Iowa State, asked me an excellent question.

What do you do about the greek members who continuously live out the negative stereotypes we fight so hard to defeat?

The answer isn’t cut and dry. As much as we’d like to, we can’t force these negative influences to change their behavior. However, we can ask these people one simple question: Why are you greek? Did you join for the leadership opportunities and to make long-lasting friendships? Did you join just to make your resume look good? Were you looking for a place where it would be easy to party? More than likely, you’ve joined a greek chapter, you were initiated and now you’re an active member.

Imagine if, at random, one person from your chapter was chosen to give the entire campus an idea of what your chapter is about. Is there someone in your chapter that you wouldn’t want representing your chapter? If you answered yes to this question, something needs to be evaluated. What is it about this person that doesn’t represent what your organization is about? Is the person apathetic and lazy? Does she slack off in classes? How does he act when alcohol is around?

The reason these stereotypes exist are because of the few people in each organization whose behaviors align with these negative stigmas. Unfortunately, a member who devotes hours to community service may be overshadowed by a member who slacks off, parties too much and has no respect for the values of your organization. This is where we need to hold each and every one of our members accountable for their actions.

Another way that our greek community is misrepresented is due to the culture that surrounds the greek community in the media. The website Total Frat Move is a case-in-point example. The website began as a spoof of Southern fraternities and sororities, where greek life is much bigger than it is in the Midwest, and where stereotypes about greek life are much more accurate.

The website celebrates partying, promiscuity, ditziness and wealth as positive aspects of the greek community, and portray these things as behaviors that greek members should adopt; hence the phrase “Total Frat Move.”

The website rarely posts anything positive celebrating new members, philanthropy, academics or any of the positive aspects of greek life that many campuses, such as Iowa State, choose to promote. These things do not accurately portray the values of any greek organization. Although the website is intended for humor, there are people who take it so seriously as to consider it a lifestyle, instead of the values that they committed to when they joined their organization.

Living your values isn’t limited to initiation, sisterhood or brotherhood events. Once you made the commitment to join your organization, you promised yourself and your chapter that you would live up to the set of standards that your founders created. Nobody has forced you to join your chapter.

You choose to accept membership. You choose to hold yourself to your chapter’s standards. If you don’t think you can make a commitment to your organization, don’t do it. Once you’ve literally worn your letters once, you wear them for the rest of your life. People will know you and the organization that you are a part of. Are you giving them a reason to respect you and your chapter?

Unfortunately, there is at least one person who fits into each stereotype. There are those who refuse to branch out beyond their chapter, those who don’t treat their members with respect, those who go wild on the weekends and those who don’t take anything seriously. What if those people are the ones that people base their judgments of the greek community on?

Nobody is perfect. However, our organizations give us tools to make ourselves, our campus and community a better place. More often than not, those outside the greek community will choose to ignore the positive things about our community and focus on the negative stereotypes that some greek members so blatantly advertise.

Fighting stereotypes seems difficult, but all it takes is initiative. Take initiative to make sure that you are the one that your brothers or sisters would be proud to have representing your organization. Be the one who can take the initiative to tell your friend to check themselves before doing something that could harm themselves or your organization. Be the solution, and not the problem.

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Katie Henry is a senior in journalism and political science from Pella, Iowa.