Educational programming at the 55th Grand Chapter Conclave opened with four speakers from higher education discussing the current state of Greek organizations, the opportunities for chapters to strengthen university partnerships, and the real meaning of fraternal brotherhood.
“It is supposed to be a higher standard to be in your organizations,” said Allen Groves, J.D., dean of students at the University of Virginia. “How about we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
In a panel conversation titled “Hero or villain? The story of fraternity today,” Groves was joined by Dr. David Grady, vice president for student affairs at the University of Alabama, and Dr. Darrell Ray, vice president of student affairs at the University of Memphis. Each member of the panel agreed about the power fraternities have to provide young men with tools they need for success in life and college. They also acknowledged the real challenges facing Greek organizations across the country.
“The perception of fraternities and sororities is shaped by television and movies,” Ray said. According to Ray, incoming students have never seen the community service and commitment of fraternity members, so those who would benefit from a positive Greek experience may be turned off by negative stereotypes.
When asked to comment on the pending Grand Chapter legislation to make SigEp chapter houses substance-free, Ray challenged those who may be opposed to truly consider why they object: “Our fraternity men seem to have the idea that they can’t have fun without alcohol.”
Grady, a member of Phi Gamma Delta, believes that Sigma Phi Epsilon may have an answer: “SigEp has always been on the leading edge of movements within the fraternity world. It is in your DNA to be different.”
In a session that preceded the panel discussion, Dr. Gentry McCreary, CEO and managing partner at Dyad Strategies, offered his own ideas about the opportunities SigEp chapters have to deliver on the promises they make to higher education and their members. McCreary’s ideas have been shaped by five years of research on the defining characteristic of fraternalism: brotherhood.
McCreary believes that the balance so integral to SigEp may be the key to a positive fraternity experience. He posited that there are four foundations of brotherhood: solidarity, shared social experience, belonging, and accountability. In McCreary’s research, solidarity is having one another’s back, generally a good characteristic. But chapters that place too much of an emphasis on solidarity can go too far to “build” this attribute and have a high tolerance for hazing.
Similarly, brotherhood built on shared social experience and camaraderie can be life-changing for the better. However, his research has shown that depending too much on shared social experiences can produce a chapter of brothers who care only about fun and are overly aware of social status.
McCreary suggested that a healthy emphasis on solidarity and shared social experience, balanced with two other attributes, accountability and a sense of belonging, can lead to true brotherhood. He argued that brotherhood is what defines a fraternity and urged attendees to ensure that their chapters are pursuing this balanced idea of brotherhood.