I read the Greek Life supplement in the April 15 edition of the Daily Trojan and appreciated the candor with which the writers were able to tackle some of the goings-on within the fraternity and sorority community. As a volunteer for a national fraternity, I spend much of my spare time mentoring Greek leaders and helping develop positive values-based leadership skills. One of the areas I spend time talking to students about is stereotypes within the fraternity and sorority community, and how such stereotypes impact the community. So I was surprised to see the assertion of one of the sorority members that negative portrayals of Greek members are “often based off false opinions from those outside of the Greek system, as well as media coverage that only highlights the negative.” If this is believed to be a problem, then how can it be solved?
Mr. Horton presented the answer to addressing the need to change perceptions about the Greek community: involve more non-affiliated members so they realize how good the community can be. As an insider, it’s often hard to imagine how people don’t know about the good things that fraternity and sorority members do for the community. But how many non-affiliated students are invited and involved in the chapter-based philanthropy events? Or participate in off-campus service events? People’s negative assumptions about Greek life change when they witness values-congruent behavior and negative assumptions are reinforced when they witness incongruent behaviors. If we truly want to change perceptions, then more events need to involve non-affiliated students. When I look around campus in 2014, it feels much the same as 1994, when only Greek members wore t-shirts for the various philanthropy events held throughout the year. Imagine the positive opinions formed if 10,000 more students attended these same events and then wore their pride on their sleeves?
We can’t ignore the very real negative behaviors that impact all of our chapters, regardless of council, that get highlighted in the media. I always tell students that it is not news when people live up to their values, it’s a basic expectation we have for our Greek community. If we want to change negative perceptions, then we need to recruit members who won’t engage in those behaviors. Then, the media will have to focus on something else. So until we present behaviors that can truly counteract false opinions, that honor the rituals of our organizations, we should care less about whether opinions are false or true and instead look to improve every organization that sports Greek letters. We all benefit from reinforcing values congruence and sharing these behaviors with all USC students.
Class of 1997, psychology