A Huffington Post headline reads, “Oklahoma Frat Boys Caught Singing ‘There Will Never Be A N—– In SAE.’” The “Oklahoma incident,” as it has been referred to by media, has sparked national uproar. The fraternity was traveling on a bus and began chanting a racist statement seemingly led by one individual in the organization.
The incident was caught on camera, and since then, the fraternity members lost everything. They lost their charter, they lost their house and probably any future job opportunities these men might have had. Was this punishment fair? Absolutely. Is Greek life as a whole to blame for what happened? Absolutely not.
First, let’s get one thing straight: the media loves to hop all over the misconduct of large fraternities. Rarely will you see any positive achievements be reported by the media. When was the last time you heard a story on the news about a Greek organization that raised thousands of dollars to fight childhood cancer?
For Pi Kappa Phi member and Interfraternity Council Executive Officer Alec Chapman, the stigma society has against Greek organizations is frustrating.
“It bothers me because everyone is trying to reinterpret the way Greek life is looked at,” Chapman said.
Greek life is much more than sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It’s about striving to better yourself and the world around you through the values you stand for. This Oklahoma SAE chapter clearly had no values, and as a result, they paid the price.
James Kennedy, philanthropy chair for Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, said, “Greek life has made me redefine what my values are. It put into words and then put into actions what type of person I am.”
Throughout high school, Kennedy described himself as “under the radar.” He didn’t know anybody and wasn’t part of any organizations or clubs. However, at Plattsburgh State, he runs multiple clubs and committees, and he attributes this success to motivation from his fraternity brothers.
Why is it then that society chooses to perceive Greek life as this large, evil conglomerate comprised of booze-swilling, coke-blowing, “Animal House” partiers?
“When all you see in the media are the deaths, the racist chants and stuff like that, I completely understand why a parent would be against Greek life,” said Anthony Asencio, president of Alpha Sigma Phi.
Before rushing, I didn’t need a parent to coax me out of joining a fraternity. I was a victim of the same stigma Asencio explained. But as I educated myself, I quickly began realizing what Greek life is all about. You will not find me blacked out at a fraternity house. You will not find me shouting “n—–” for all of the world to hear.
I joined a fraternity because I wanted to give back to the community I’m a part of. I love community service, and I love being able to make a difference in the lives of others. I pride myself in the letters I brazenly wear across my chest that I worked hard to earn.
But it’s difficult to make a difference when so many people have the wrong idea what Greek organizations stand for. Those exposed to the media’s negative attention of Greek life view us as the bad guys and label us how Huffington Post did: “frat boys” and “sorority girls.” But we’re not party boys and girls. We’re men and women with shared values trying to better the world around us.
The difficult task at hand is figuring out a way to fight this stigma. For former Inter-sorority Association Vice President Tess Alexander, the solution lies in education.
“We have to continue to work together in order to change the culture of Greek life as well as educate people as to why this can’t happen again,” Alexander said. “People are only going to hear what they want to hear, so make them hear it.”
Email Chris Burek at firstname.lastname@example.org