Wednesday, March 2, 2011


We’ve come to that time of the academic year when chapters begin preparing in earnest to initiate its newest members.  If your university is on the semester system, perhaps you are nearing the end of your 8-week new member process; if you’re on the quarter system Initiation may still be a few weeks away.  It’s always been my contention that the Ritual is not simply a ceremony that we dust off 2-3 times a year, but rather something that, if internalized, truly becomes a tool to help us navigate our undergraduate careers and beyond.

So why the # sign (hashtag, in the Twitter vernacular) in the subject of this post?  The value of the hashtag on Twitter is that it keeps a conversation going, or simply tags a comment along a continuing theme.  #livingtheritual can be used as a way to point out when students or staff exemplify their chapter’s values and Ritual.  Sometimes, it is used to identify a situation that runs counter to those values.   It’s a small way to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the things we all swore an oath to live up to.

#livingtheritual isn’t always easy.  I suppose if it was easy, every organization would have a Ritual.  But our letters, for better or worse, set us apart from other organizations and hold us to a higher standard.

The challenge (and reward) of #livingtheritual lies in a recent comparison I heard from a UIFI graduate: Ritual is not a wedding, it’s a marriage.  Simply put, the real work of the Ritual begins after the ceremonial initiation of each new member.  Once the symbols are revealed, badges are bestowed, and mysteries are explained, the hope is that we walk out of the ceremony with a renewed sense of what it means to live as a man of honor, a woman of virtue, or whatever language your own ceremony employs.  In marriage, the work begins after the reception is over, when the gifts are opened and thank you notes sent.

Serendipitously, I’ve been fortunate to be a Greek member as long as I’ve been a husband, with just over two months separating those two important ceremonies.  I try to live as a good husband every day.  Some days are better than others, like when I volunteer to cook dinner when my wife gets home from work late.  Some days are worse, when I have unfair expectations of my wife’s ability to read my mind and know why I am upset or frustrated.

Similarly, there are days when it is easier to live up to my fraternal oath, and days when I rely on my brothers to assist me.  But just as marriage includes the good days and bad ones, so too, does our Ritual.  If your brothers or sisters hashtagged your actions with #livingtheritual, would it be because more often than not, you exemplified your chapter's values, or because you failed to do so?

Just because many of the elements of most Rituals are secret, doesn’t mean that that how we live out those values should be a secret. 

Congratulations to all new members who will start their Ritual journey in the coming weeks; I look forward to seeing how you all #livetheritual.

Jeff Pelletier is a 1994 graduate of Boston College, and a 2006 Initiate of Delta Tau Delta at Ohio State University, where he currently serves as the chapter advisor.  He works for the university on the staff of the Ohio Union, managing budgets and operations for the student organization community.  You can follow him on Twitter @JeffBC94

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