Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 3

Day 3 Tuscaloosa means our third day of work, our third day of rebuilding and our third day of experiencing Tuscaloosa. After meeting with multiple residents of this truly fantastic community during these past few days has really been able to help me see what the tornado did to community. It took down many buildings, houses, trees bushes, but the storm did not take down this community. The storm that happened just over one year ago tore through the areas of Rosewood, Forest Lake, Alberta City and others but it has not been able to tear apart the people and their spirit.

It is truly inspiring to see a community that is well on its way to bouncing back to not just where it was before, but to improve and expand and learn on what life had to offer from them. While many citizens are still rebuilding their homes, businesses and hearts, volunteers are here to help. With a common bond of changing a wonderful Ms. Robinson’s home so far, 10 different fraternity and sorority members have been able to come together and learn from other to grow, not only on Tuscaloosa but each other. And Tuscaloosa has taught me even more about what it truly means to serve others. Giving back goes simply beyond fixing a fence, painting a house or clearing debris…here it is truly serving the community to assist them as they get back on their feet from their worst disaster in history.
This trip was simply about service in the beginning, but now for me this trip is about the ability to want to never stop growing, to always take a moment to appreciate what is around you because it could be gone at any moment and lastly to appreciate who is around because true friends can come from anywhere across this great nation and true friends have the ability to share a common bond and make a positive impact about what is around them no matter where they may be. All I can say is thank you Tuscaloosa for everything you have helped me see and helped to grow and everything else you will continue do for me in the upcoming days. Pi Kappa Phi ‘til I die and as always Roll Tide.
Colin Engel is completing his fourth year at Western Michigan University and is a member of Pi Kappa Phi.


Inspiration! Community! Immersion! Change! Taking Action! And Roll Tide! These are the words that began my day. The one word that stuck out to me the most was COMMUNITY! The feel of the community here is so prevalent and know I understand how they are getting through the disaster that occurred. Everyone is so friendly and the southern comfort here is amazing. I felt the vibes from everyone in the community and the people we came with, it made me smile all day while I was working. I will never take anything for granted anymore and I will continue to grow and never plateau. Everyone we have met in the community and on this trip have inspired me even more to help out in community and throughout the world. I never really felt immersion or knew what it meant until this trip and I have realized that if you want to experience anything in life you need to immerse yourself to get the full understanding. AFLV and Tuscaloosa have changed my life for the better and made me a better person. I vow to continue to BE THE CHANGE in a positive way and live my values to the fullest each and every day. ROLL TIDE!!!

Anthony Castro graduates from California State University Northridge this spring, and is a member of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Our Communities Can Learn From The Avengers

Fraternities and sororities have a lot to learn from the blockbuster that grossed $200 million in its opening weekend. For those of you out there who think you are allergic to all things nerdy, put your Benadryl away and buckle up.

We’re not here to discuss green meatheads or gods of thunder, but the way the masterminds at Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures persuaded a national audience to love characters most people who don’t own pocket protectors had no clue about five years ago. We’re talking about building brand familiarity. About cultivating trust.

So how did they do it? How did they take a few well known and several other obscure characters and weave an ensemble adventure even people who watch The View buy tickets to see?

Marvel blatantly rejected a model that many student affairs professionals, fraternity and sorority leaders, and alumni wield like Thor’s hammer. It’s a theory supported by Greek Weeks everywhere, by joint recruitment events and homecoming parades that present fraternities as a collective body of awesome. It’s the base assumption we’ve all made: Presenting a united front, a collaborative face to those who don’t know us, means they’ll see how cool we are.

Wake up, we’re wrong.

It’s important to remember that The Avengers, with its ensemble cast of geniuses, berserkers, primadonnas and egotists, was not the first movie ever launched with these characters. Before it, Marvel slowly and carefully introduced each character in their very own movie, one by one. Presented with the origin of a single character, we were able to carefully digest their flaws, insecurities, character, and strengths. We were confronted with both the good and bad, up close and personal.

And what effect did it have? We loved it. Even though we might resent the ego, the rage, and the recklessness, we saw vulnerability and humanity. We saw people doing the impossible because of belief. We saw the values that each character holds dear in a unique, intimate way.

And by the time Marvel decided to say, “Surprise! All of these heroes are part of a mega team,” we said, “Yes, please. That’s awesome.”

If you’re skeptical, ask yourself this: Do you find it easier to introduce yourself to a crowd or a single person?

We thought so.

Like Marvel, we need to realize that presenting a mix of semi-confused, sometimes values-driven or abrasive personalities to the masses all at once is confusing. How are they supposed to easily digest what we all stand for as a community when it takes tons of focus just to figure out what the heck one of us is talking about?

It all comes down to sharing the message of our founders in an intentional and meaningful way, without rushing into collaboration for its own sake. Instead of asking your entire community to reach out to all of non-Greeks at once, consider understanding the strengths each of your chapters and individual community members bring to the table.

Suggest that your members or organizations who get scholarship reach out to those in the community who are invested in it, such as faculty members, or parents. Delegate tasks like residence hall move-ins and meet-and-greets to those individuals who are warm, honest, and genuine. If a chapter doesn’t register for your Greek-wide service event where you partnered with other campus associations, don’t fret: You are better off without sending a confusing signal about our commitment to our community.

Basically, we’re saying let your Iron Mans, Black Widows, and Hulks do what they do bet best first, and then resolve to show how those individual strengths support one another.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Values-Based? Or Just Hypocrites?

“We are hard pressed to find a setting where the risk of an alcohol related injury is more likely than from underage drinking at a university fraternity party the first week of the new college year.”


Many have been sharing the link to this article that was recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle is kind of a big deal. To put it mildly, a lot of people read it.

We’ve been doing a lot of posting about hazing lately and while this article makes us think about the topic further, we’re almost more interested in the tales of hypocrisy this brings to light. Not that it’s the first time we’ve ever thought of it, but – let’s be honest - it hits the tiniest bit harder when a giant news icon brings it to light.

Consider this:

What is Said What is Real
The University of Florida Office of Sorority/Fraternity Affairs’ FAQ  list includes:  “What are the rules regarding hazing?” The response includes: “Hazing is contrary to the purposes of the Florida Greek community and the University of Florida.”Nine members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were recently charged with paddling five pledges and hitting them in the chest during a hazing ritual known as “thunderslaps.”
Cornell’s Office of Greek Life website reads, “Cornell’s Greek Community is among the best in the nation. There is no better example of student organizations that work to enhance their members’ collegiate experience.”Complaints of hazing were increased from 15 in 2006/2007 to 31 in 2009/2010. One alleged incident involving George Desdunes resulted in his death.
Penn State’s website for the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life reads, “Building lifelong friendships thorough collaborative and meaningful relationships is a key component to the fraternal experience at Penn State.”“Little sisters” were allegedly tortured and beaten by older members of an auxiliary group associated with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. So badly beaten the women required treatment at a hospital.
The mission statement of the Radford University fraternity/sorority community includes, “The Greek community of Radford University will aspire to the high ideals, tenants, and traditions of the founders of their respective organizations by instilling amongst its members the true meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood…”Members of Tau Kappa Epsilon allegedly forced pledge, Samuel Mason, to drink an entire bottle of alcohol resulting in a .48 Blood-alcohol level and his death.

We’ve all been involved in conversations about integrity: the concept of doing what we say we will do. There are many things wrong with the events noted above – and others like them – but what if we simply had integrity. We see two options:
  1. We stop hazing, misusing alcohol, killing people, and so forth. 
  2. We continue to haze, misuse alcohol, kill people, and so forth but just own up to the fact that we sometimes do it. 

What if we did option two? What would that look like? Instead of what’s currently in the first column maybe there would be statements like this:

University of Florida Sorority/Fraternity Affairs’ website would read, “Some of our chapters haze. We think it's wrong, but that's the reality that you should know. If you join, you may or may not be paddled to the point of being assaulted.”

Cornell’s Office of Greek Life website might read, “Here’s the deal: A large majority of our chapters are good, but some haze. Some haze so badly they’ve killed people in the past. Just putting it out there.”

Penn State’s website for the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life might include, “We don’t endorse little sister groups, but they’re out there. Watch out, many of them haze pretty badly. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

And Radford? Oh, Radford. Maybe they’d just say this: “Yes, some of our chapters haze. If you’re hazed, you’ll more likely be made to drink yourself to death than be beaten up or forced to swim in a pool of vomit.”

It sounds kind of ridiculous, right? Who would publish these kinds of statements? You know what's even more ridiculous than these statements? THE FACT THAT THEY'RE TRUE.

Think about it. What activities does your chapter or community engage in that you would never admit? If you did admit it, how would the headline read? How embarrassing is it?