Letter to the Editor: Greek Life

Phi Gamma Delta at GVSU. Courtesy / Phi Gamma Delta twitter

Phi Gamma Delta at GVSU. Courtesy / Phi Gamma Delta twitter

Tyvin Jay Whittaker

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Tyvin Jay Whittaker

IFC V.P. Of public relations

Sophomore. Double major in legal studies and philosophy.

Brother in Phi gamma delta.

On Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, The Lanthorn ran with the headline “Hung out to dry: GV imposes sanctions on Greek life, cite issues within the community.” This article mirrored similar headlines that have spread like wildfire over the past few days. These articles all have led with the indefinite alcohol ban as their headline.

If you ask any Greek member at Grand Valley, these articles and news reports spread a false narrative that Greek Life is full of irresponsible behavior and reckless, out of control students. The headline itself is not false — indeed, the university has enacted an alcohol ban on Greek organizations — however, the circumstances of this ban have been misconstrued.

Had the university delayed its decision by even a single day, the headlines could have instead read: “Greek Life organizations vote to go dry as they address a way to break the national trend” or “Fraternities, Sororities at GV self-impose sanctions as they take time to address alcohol abuse within their community.” The town-hall meeting where the Assistant Dean of Student Life Bob Stoll announced the sanctions was originally intended to be a meeting addressing a proposal for a self-imposed alcohol ban by these organizations. Presidents and members had gathered to discuss what steps should be taken and what the best strategy moving forward should be in addressing the issue of alcohol within our community.

This would have been a proactive movement from a self-governing body that GVSU never let self-govern, but instead, they stepped in unexpectedly and left the organizations to pick up the pieces. The shock and anger that followed is of no surprise. It seems that whenever a negative event occurs, the media swoops in and covers it with zeal, yet the same people are nowhere to be seen covering stories about the incredible amounts of money and time these organizations donate every year for charities and social causes. These people are nowhere to be seen covering positive examples of brotherhood and sisterhood within the Greek community. The hypocrisy is evident and is frustrating for all of us who feel attacked and labeled as the “trouble community.”

Yet, something about the reaction from my fellow Greek brothers and sisters disturbed me. The passion and drive I was seeing from people promoting the positive effect Greek Life has was amazing; however, it illustrated a bigger problem within my community. We clearly do not know how to market ourselves effectively. Twitter was a firestorm of snarky responses from those of us who felt personally attacked. Tweet after tweet was thrown at the university and media outlets, tagging them in philanthropy events and statistics. Very few of the responses went without some sort of attitude or angry undertone.

Responding in an entitled and victimized manner after losing our ability to party achieved exactly the opposite of what we wanted to do. I do not believe for a second that Greek Life is about partying, but when we respond most strongly and passionately after losing that ability, it adds to the exact stereotype we’re trying to break.

The Greek community at large is stuck in an echo chamber. We know how much good we do and what we bring to the community. However, we often find ourselves in rooms full of other Greek members and we forget the need to illustrate this to the other 90 percent of the student population, and to our broader community. When you form a community that prides itself on moral values, you are also creating a standard of character for yourself and your fellow members.

The Greek community reacted the way anyone with strong values would react when attacked. We acknowledge that there does exist a culture of drinking not only within our own community, but within our generation and our university as a whole. We also understand that we have a higher standard for our behavior, both because there are more eyes on us and because we hold ourselves to higher expectations.

Nevertheless, we make mistakes, we learn and we grow. I do not doubt for a moment the passion and drive my fellow Greek members have to make our community prosper and to promote a safer and healthier environment for all. We see the issues within our community more than anyone, and we are the best equipped at fighting it.

I’m not perfect, nor are any of my fraternity brothers. What we are is a close group of men who are willing to accept that we don’t do everything right, but are still actively working to improve ourselves and become the leaders of the next generation.