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From the Editor

May 19, 2015
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Dignity over tradition

Public opinion of fraternities at an all-time low nationally, but we’re in a position to foster change

When several students and alumni voiced their displeasure for Campbell University’s decision to allow social fraternities and sororities back in 2013, their concern stemmed from Greek Life stereotypes such as alcohol abuse, a negative “party culture” and the poor grades that often result. It turns out, these should have been the least of their worries.

Greek Life’s reputation nationally has taken a wallop recently — and rightfully so — thanks to reports of racism, sexism and criminal activity so severe they’ve led to the downfall of some groups and have made our culture question whether fraternities and sororities are even necessary in today’s culture. Members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were caught on video using racial slurs and glorifying lynchings in a group chant on a charter bus. Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity was suspended for a private Facebook page that included nude photos of female students drunk or passed out. Closer to home, North Carolina State’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity was terminated after a book was left behind in a restaurant, revealing racially and sexually offensive notes written by fraternity members and pledges.

These incidents — all of which have made national headlines in the past few months — have peeled back the scab to reveal a dark culture that’s uncomfortably common in social fraternities (sororities aren’t immune, either) today. It’s left the future of Greek Life on some campuses in doubt.

All of this has made the uphill battle for Greek Life acceptance at Campbell University even steeper. Since 2013, Campbell has seen two fraternities — Kappa Sigma and Phi Delta Theta — receive their charters, as well as two sororities — Sigma Alpha Omega and Delta Phi Epsilon. Kappa Alpha Order is working to become Campbell’s third chartered fraternity. The tight leash these organizations were on when approved might now be tighter in light of the PR nightmares other universities are going through, cleaning up the messes left by young men and women who made terrible decisions.

And it pains me to say it, but the crossroad we now stand at — deciding whether or not the possible negatives of Greek Life outweigh the positives — was inevitable. I can speak from a little experience, as I was in a fraternity — a Kappa Sigma at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas in the mid-1990s. I have terrific memories and friends, but I can admit today that our group made its fair share of terrible decisions back then. Thankfully, we didn’t own cell phones that could video record our every move and word. Social media — the genesis of many of today’s controversies — was years away.

College students don’t have that luxury today. All it takes is one questionable act and WiFi access to take down an organization, ruin young lives and tarnish the reputation of a school.

But for those eager to lob “I-told-you-so” grenades at Campbell University for its recent acceptance of Greek Life, don’t pull the pins just yet. Being new to the party (pardon the pun), Campbell’s sororities and fraternities are in prime position to stand up for Greek culture and lead the way in changing the way these groups are run. In our Fall 2013 edition of Campbell Magazine, our article, “The Creek Goes Greek,” pointed out that Kappa Sigma and Sigma Alpha Epsilon far surpassed their philanthropic goals en route to earning their charter. Phi Delta Theta made waves in March when their national headquarters announced a ban on alcohol in all Phi Delt fraternity houses.

My challenge to Campbell’s growing Greek Life community is this — expand on these game-changing ideas. Make philanthropy more than a mask to hide the warts (or a way to the means of getting a charter), and make it a purpose. Be selective in the young men and women you choose to rush, pledge and join (quality over quantity). Most importantly, have a zero tolerance policy against actions that don’t meet your code of conduct. Understand that dignity trumps tradition, and your actions represent not only your organization, but your school and even your family.

If any school can lead the sea change, it’s Campbell University.

Billy Liggett
Editor, Campbell Magazine

Liggett Signature