Greek life? Yes. Really.
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:04
It was with consternation that I read yesterday’s op−ed, “Pledging to never rush: a criticism of Greek life at Tufts,” by Lauren Border, attacking Greek life at Tufts. Briefly, the op−ed accused Tufts’ fraternities and sororities of being individuality−destroying, destructive institutions with a malevolent grasp of social life on campus.
Border’s assertions come flying in a rush of appeals to stereotypes and controversial assertions presented as “common knowledge.” Two of its points stand out to me, and I can personally respond to them, having been a brother in Theta Chi Fraternity at Tufts for the last year and having many dear friends in other Greek houses across campus.
“Again, I ask, how much of yourself are you willing to scrape away at to join a sorority/fraternity: your pride? Your health? Your overall sense of self−worth?”
Thirteen percent of Tufts undergraduates are engaged in Greek life. We are everywhere on campus. To take one example among Tufts’ sixteen Greek organizations, Theta Chi is a collection of strong personalities, including the President of the Pan−African Alliance, the President of Tufts Queer−Straight Alliance, the President of the Arab Students Association, a freshman class president, a record−breaking track−team member, three JumpStart educators and a co−chair of the Programming Board, to name just a few. Being in Theta Chi doesn’t rob us of our individuality, self−worth or pride. If it did, we would never have joined in the first place and certainly wouldn’t continue now. We disagree on and argue constantly about politics, religion, music, philanthropy, current events and every other issue imaginable.
“Some say [Greek organizations are] known for philanthropy, and, well, really?”
The op−ed’s argument against the philanthropy of Greek houses starts and ends with: “really?” It gives no further effort to arguing this point, as though it should be obvious that Tufts’ Greek houses don’t do real philanthropy.
In short, my response is, “Yes. Really.”
Before writing those words, Border could have talked to some of my brothers: for instance, Sari Abboud, who brought Theta Chi together to raise $800 for the Red Crescent in Syria after several relatives were killed in the uprising and crackdown. Or perhaps to Dan Halpert, a senior leading Theta Chi brothers in selling shirts to raise money for Bike and Build, a charity that provides affordable housing — and who will personally be biking across America this summer to raise money for the same charity. If she had looked at FOCUS, the community service pre−orientation, she might have seen that dozens of its leaders, including the last four years of coordinators, have been Theta Chi brothers.
Outside of Theta Chi, she could have consulted with the Zeta Beta Tau brothers who raised more than $3,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston or the Alpha Omicron Pi sisters who raised almost $1,800 for juvenile arthritis this semester. If she attended Relay for Life this year, Border must have seen the plethora of lettered men and women participating.
These are only some of the Greek philanthropy events from this year in which I have personally participated; there are many, many more. Border should have consulted with any one of the Greek houses’ philanthropy chairs to see the tangible community service contributions our houses have made before she dismissed them with, “Really?” But she did not, which brings me to the biggest problem with the op−ed.
Like Samuel Daniel’s Mar. 14 op−ed entitled “No one at this school is racist,” Border’s op−ed exhibits a lack of experience or interest in truly investigating the issues at hand. It appeals to stereotypes to fill this gap in the writing. I invite Border and anyone who agrees with her on the topic of Tufts Greek life to actually come to our houses, talk to us and get to know us better. Our doors are open for recruitment every semester, and our members are all over campus, eager to speak with anyone what our brother− and sisterhoods mean to us.
As a freshman, I never thought I would join a fraternity because of negative stereotypes and false assumptions about fraternities. Looking back, I realize that, like Border, I had no idea what Greek life at Tufts was actually like. My discovery of the truth — that fraternities and sororities are dynamic, diverse communities of driven individuals — has hugely enriched my experience at Tufts. I implore anyone who agrees with Border’s recent op−ed to not be satisfied with stereotypes and baseless assertions and to come talk to us about what Greek life at Tufts is actually about instead.
Phil Ballentine is a sophomore majoring in Chinese. He is the Alumni Co-Chair in the Theta Chi fraternity.