I have not been a huge fan of Greek life on campus. As the Dean, I have had to deal with fall-out from Greeks organizations: a call from an 80-year-old neighbor who has to sleep in his garage because the fraternity neighbors routinely held loud parties; the hazing cases in which the victims were ostracized and ridiculed; the sexual assaults (yes, I know they are not always fraternity-related); and even the limits of brotherhood when the going has gotten tough (long story). There are the groups that have come and gone, and come back and gone again. There are the alcohol poisonings. There are the tasteless and crass parties. Some of it reminds me of when I was in college. That's not really a good thing. In all, it is hard to embrace the Greek culture from where I sit. It is difficult, too, to see the value added to the University. This is not just a Trinity issue, I might add.
But then again, there are times when it is abundantly clear that Greek life is something that is absolutely crucial to the students who join in, and thus to the University. Bid day is one such example. Current members assemble by the Miller Fountain on campus and as new members learn of their inclusion in the club, they joyously run up the hill from their dorm rooms to meet with their new mates. It is impossible to see bid day and not be caught up in the excitement of it. See the videos posted below to see firsthand what it was like this year (February 6, 2009). See the bottom of the Blog for a full slide show (click on the image to enlarge and play as a slide show). I should note that when I went out to see the frivolity, it was merely to take one picture for the parent newsletter. I got swept up in the excitement though (obviously) and kept on clicking.
Unlike years past, bid day has grown to be a non-alcoholic event (as far as I know). The students are extremely well-behaved and spirited, and don't seem to mind the intrusive lens of the Dean. Also unlike years past, I have less of a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that new members will go out that night and be hazed. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I am just hopeful. Maybe times are changing.
It has been a long transition, but today's Greeks at Trinity have been better educated about hazing, about risk management, and about safety for all members. This has not been easy and has come with the hard work from the likes of Pete Neville, Marcella Leung, Becky Spurlock, Katie Jundt, and Josh Beebe. And it has taken open-mindedness from some Greek leaders to see that changes were needed. Getting the general membership on board has not always been easy.
At the alumni dinner on Friday night a former Chi Beta received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Even there, the value of Greek life was apparent, as a group of Betas-past were at a table to support their former sorority sister.
So what does Greek life at Trinity really offer? Is it the lifelong friendships, the community service, the allegiance to the University among alumni, and the excitement of shared experiences? Or is it the parties, the problems, the risks, and some adversity between students and faculty/staff/and other students?
It is probably a bit of both. And one thoughtless or careless act can reverse any positive feelings in a hurry. But last Friday anyways... the pictures don't lie: It all seemed pretty good.
You Tube links:
Bid Day Excitement One
Bid Day Excitement Two