Columns

Anthony Staehelin ’10: Frat life no ‘Animal House’

By
Friday, March 6, 2009

This past Tuesday night, some underclassmen went to Wayland Arch and turned in their bid cards, thereby taking the first step towards becoming a Greek brother or sister. Although Greek life at Brown is noticeably less prominent than at many other schools, Brown does have somewhat of a Greek presence with fraternities, sororities and co-ed houses, also known as frarorities.

Yet most non-Greeks have preconceived notions about fraternity life that are far from accurate. At all levels of the University, people tend to dismiss or mock it, thinking of fraternities as testosterone-laden party centers and sororities as image-driven social clubs.

Initially, I, too, was disdainful of fraternities and would never have imagined joining one, despite the fact that my own brother (in the familial, non-Greek sense of the word) was in Sigma Chi. Coming from Switzerland, all I knew about fraternities was what I had seen in American movies: beer, push-ups, beer, paddling, beer, parties, beer, etc. Today, I have a much fuller and more accurate understanding of Greek life. (I should specify here that obviously I am an expert only on my own fraternity, Sigma Chi, but I believe that most of what I have to say is applicable to other houses as well.)

Greek houses at Brown are extremely valuable to students. They are character-building institutions that encourage commitment and dedication, spur creativity, hone leadership skills and promote growth. At a time in life when men and women are going through a determining phase of development, when they choose who and what they will become, Greek houses provide the perfect base for excelling at Brown and in life.

If you take a look at the different members of the Greek houses on campus, you will see some of the most accomplished and dedicated students at Brown. These Greek brothers and sisters would tell you that their fraternity or sorority has helped them and continues to help them achieve their goals by providing them with a strong foundation and a structure of reciprocal friendship.

Though entertainment is an important element of Greek life, it is only the celebration of our brotherhood, not the cause of it. The rest of campus solely witnesses a minor part of Greek life – the partying and drinking side – because most other social events and gatherings are private. In reality, Greeks spend their time like every other Brown student: work, activities, sports, etc. The rest of the time is divided between some ritual activities, running the house and managing the day-to-day tasks of an organization of 80-plus people.

Additionally, much time is spent trying to give back to the community. Some houses host events and give the proceeds to charity; others participate in activities such as Relay for Life that raise awareness or funds, and still others work directly in the community. Last Halloween, for example, all of Wriston opened its doors to young children from a local school who spent the afternoon going house to house and listening to ‘horror stories’ or walking through haunted rooms.

This is the Greek life I know, and the Greek life I wish more people on campus acknowledged.

Anthony Staehelin ’10 is political science concentrator from Geneva, Switzerland. He can be reached at anthony_staehelin(at)brown.edu.