By John Eppich
“Animal House,” “Neighbors,” “American Pie,” “22 Jump Street,” and many more films and media exist that depict Greek life on college campuses in a less than flattering light. From drinking until 6:00 a.m. with one of the pledges dying of alcohol poisoning to having members be humiliated or put through unthinkable trails just to become a member of an organization with a name made of a random assortment of letters from the Greek alphabet, Greek life has gained a reputation that is, in most circumstances, completely untrue. For me, joining Greek life opened my eyes to all the lies the media has told about these organizations.
November 2015, I was asked by a good friend of mine to come over to his house for a get together with his brothers. At the time, young freshman me wanted nothing to do with Greek life or joining a fraternity in general. In fact, I fell for all the myths movies and television told me. While I was at my friend’s place, I learned just how wrong I was. There was not a group of guys doing keg stands, nor were there pledges looking overly exhausted from staying up 24 hours for a hell week. Instead, there was a family in front of me. A family which had shown compassion and care for one another. It was a family of men who wanted to see their brothers succeed in their academics and career paths. I was so elated by this that when I was handed my bid, I said yes. Being a member for nearly two years, I have learned that the myths I was taught were nothing more than extreme stories or flat out lies.
The first myth that was debunked was that all fraternity men were nothing more than alcoholics who party all day. My first day as a Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity member taught me otherwise. Alcoholism and drinking were not the focus for this organization as it often hindered our main goal: to be the best men on campus. There were not parties every night, but instead, my brothers were either at the recreation center working out, in the library studying for their big exams, writing their capstone papers, or at Café Ah-roma listening to our alumni’s stories of how the fraternity made them want to bring us back to Cleveland State. Alcoholism was often discouraged by the higher ups. Even as recently as this past summer, my fraternity made it so that all houses must be dry. That’s not to say people of age do not drink, but we are taught to be responsible and avoid any sort of conduct that would get not only ourselves but our brothers in trouble.
The second myth was one the largest myths I believed. Hazing is an integral part of joining. I remember before receiving my bid specifically asking if I would be hazed. In fact, my mother cried when she heard I was joining a fraternity because she feared I may die from whatever hazing ritual they may put me through. Little did my mother and I know, this was far from the truth. I was not hazed, nor did I go through a pledging process. As soon as I signed my bid, I was a member with all the same rights as someone that joined four years prior to me. I was not humiliated. I was not forced or coerced into something that I was uncomfortable with or that went against my moral compass. I was able to be myself, which brings me to the final myth that was debunked.
The final myth is that fraternity brothers are closed off from the rest of the student body and act as if they were a hive mind where everyone acts exactly the same with no diversity. This one was dispelled as soon as I joined. Every brother adds something new to the table. Every brother has his strength and his weakness. We learn how to work as a group while still keeping our individuality. Speaking as a bisexual male, fraternities are completely accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. When I came out, I was treated no differently than before. As for closing themselves off and ignoring others on campus, I found out that many fraternities host public events to get non-Greeks involved on campus. From hosting events where you can pet dogs during finals week to making blankets for the less fortunate in our community, Greek life has always been open for all people to come together to have a good time and enjoy these years we get to spend together.
With all that being said, many people will still point out the atrocities other fraternities and chapters cause on their campuses. From harassment charges to drugs charges, the news is saturated with these stories. I am not here to say these stories are fake news, as many of them are true, but it is not right to stereotype a group of people based on what very few in the community do. For every negative story, there is more positive this community brings, especially here at Cleveland State. Many fraternities will even have meetings discussing these horrible acts and discuss how we can avoid making the same mistakes other have made. No one in Greek life wants to get into trouble, and many will go to great lengths to avoid any possible risky behaviors.
Greek life as a whole is not what many people make it out to be. Greek life is not a drinking club. It is not a place where you are hazed or treated poorly, and it most certainly is not anti-diversity or cut off from the rest of the student body. Fraternities and sororities are a great place to learn about yourself and how to work on a team with others. They are places for you to learn and expand your knowledge to further your academic and career goals. Do not let the myths scare you away if you have any curiosity about joining a Greek organization. If you ever decide to look and see what we are all about, you will see that we are all a group of brothers and sisters whom want to be the very best us we can be.