I guess I need to apologize before I go any further, because some of you are not going to like what I have to say. In fact, many of you won’t.
We’ve all heard the following argument in some form. “It isn’t fair that the media portrays us so negatively, they never report on any of the good that we do. They’re so biased.” Guys, I would agree with this argument 100%, if doing good wasn’t one of the basic pillars of what Fraternity & Sorority Life is supposed to represent. This article will discuss Integrity, Honesty, Respect, and Accountability, and, if I do my job properly, will hopefully encourage each of you to look at your fraternal experience a little differently and through a wider lens. So, let’s begin.
Quick, give me the first name, last name, and alma mater of every player on the Dallas Cowboy’s starting offensive line. (If you live in and around Texas, you’re excluded from playing this game. Even you, Houston…) My guess is that, while you may be able to name one or two, getting every single one right might be difficult. Why is that? The ‘14-’15 Cowboy’s offensive line was widely regarded as one of the best in the entire league, ranking 1st in Adjusted Line Yards, 5th in Total Pressures Allowed, and tied for Fourth in Pass Blocking Efficiency. Why then, in a world where we ALL know Tony Romo’s alma mater, yards per game, TD/INT ratio, favorite color and choice in breakfast cereal, can we not even name half of these guys who made that team what they were this year?
The answer is that the men on that line did exactly what they said they were going to do. When they signed a contract with the Cowboys, it was under the premise that they would prevent the loss of yardage, slow the pass rush, and above all else, protect their quarterback. (With the exception of one or two plays that made Jerry Jones’ heart skip a beat, they did just that.)
However, what DID we hear about this year in the NFL? Numerous domestic abuse cases, violations of the league code of conduct via drug and alcohol abuse, and a quarterback in Cleveland who we’re all convinced was rolling up hundred dollar bills in the bathroom of a nightclub for the sheer fun of it…
We hear about these things because they are all blatant examples of players doing exactly what they said they wouldn’t do under contract. They all agreed to a code, and then violated that code. So, given their celebrity status and our occasionally unhealthy obsession with the sport, (I’m guilty too, don’t talk to me during Fantasy Season…) it’s only natural that we hear all about it, sometimes in painfully explicit detail.
Let’s shift gears to another frequented topic in the media, the police force. Think long and hard about the last time you knew the names and home addresses of every police officer who pulled over a drunk driver? Or the officers who patrol inner city streets? Or even those who investigate murders and other violent crimes within your city? Again, those officers are doing what they said they would do, they are protecting and serving our citizens. What we hear about, however, are the officers who violate that code. We hear about the ones who use excessive force, who discriminate based on race or color, or who ignore the civil rights of citizens in their community. These officers are tarnished, regarded as an embarrassment to the force, and made local (and sometimes national) examples of. We hear about them because they did what they said they wouldn’t do.
Are you starting to see any parallels yet? Are you able to see some of the similarities between these organizations and our own? If not, let me give you a hand. Every one of us (Sigma Pi and other organizations) agreed to something similar to the following.
I will respect the dignity of all persons, and therefore, I will not physically, psychologically, or sexually abuse any human being.
I will respect the rights of property, both others and my own; therefore, I will not, nor will I tolerate, the abuse of private or community property.
I will not use nor support the use of illegal drugs.
I will not abuse or support the abuse of alcohol.
These are some of the basic tenants of fraternity membership. These are some of the basic tenants on human civility… These are some of the ideals we agree to represent, and as such, are basic expectations of any member. What about our creed, surely there can’t be any important agreements or expectations in that, can there?
to advance truth and justice
to promote scholarship
to encourage chivalry
to diffuse culture
to develop character in the service of god and man
I will strive to make real the fraternity’s ideals
Everytime we say our creed, we reaffirm our belief that these are the most important aspects of a man’s life. We agree that we are organized as a fraternity for the purpose of enforcing each of these ideals, and thus, it should be a basic expectation that we do so.
For all of these reasons, I urge you to stop falling back on that worn out argument we discussed at the beginning of this article. The media isn’t targeting you because they want to, or because we’re the low hanging fruit of the week. The citizens of your city, your state, and your country, are calling you out for not upholding a massive part of your contract. It doesn’t matter how many hours of community service your chapter has, or how much money you’ve raised for charity if you try to use that as a reason you shouldn’t be targeted for putting the safety of your members and guests in jeopardy. You’re not going to convince anyone that the amount of time you spend cleaning highways should cancel out the fact that you haze your pledges to the point of lasting physical and psychological trauma.
Doing what you said you would do will never compensate for the violation of doing what you explicitly said you wouldn’t.
We as a fraternal community have to stop focusing on how much our “good” outweighs our “bad,” and instead start focusing on not actually having any “bad” to worry about. Maybe then, we’ll be able to be recognized for our true purpose and impact. Until then, however, we have to accept our reality and how we will continue to be perceived by our peers until we can clean up our act.
Don’t like it? Do something about it.