Sep 152011
Authors: Sean Reed

As an alum of both the Collegian and Greek Life at CSU, I’m glad to see a healthy level of dissent still exists between the two communities. I’m sad, however, that the Greeks haven’t stepped up their rhetorical game.

James Stewart’s piece, I’m afraid, is yet another example of the Greeks taking themselves a little more seriously than anybody else does, and responding to criticism in a manner that undermines
the redemptive purpose of said response.

Sure, people target Greeks. Fairly or unfairly, I’m not settled on that one. My fraternity was not involved in much ‘controversy’ – a claim I’m sure almost every Greek makes – but I heard enough
rumors through the grapevine and saw enough fraternities and sororities lose their charters or affiliation with campus to know that, yeah, some Greeks behave stupidly. As do people on campus at large.

Of course, as Stewart points out, this is, at most, only half of the Greek Life story. Actually, probably even less than half. Greeks are engaged in the community in many positive ways, raise
money for foundations, and, to paraphrase, forgo their booze money to help needy kids. It happens. Really.

But sorrowfully, when Stewart brings this up, it’s an ancillary point.

Which brings me to the central problem with Stewart’s argument, one oft-repeated by the Greek community at large – the part that makes Greeks, even if you accept Stewart’s claim that they aren’t as bad as the rest of campus, look like gigantic pompous jackasses.

I’m referring to the Greeks-as-distinctly-oppressed-student-body-group complaint, which Stewart phrased in a particularly silly way.

“How are her assumptions and labeling of Greeks here at CSU any different than assuming all Asians are good at math, or all Muslims are terrorists?” Stewart says, referring to claims made by Collegian columnist Morgan Mayo that Greeks are, inter alia, drunk, elitist, and brainless herd animals.

Good question, James. Allow me to enlighten you.

The key distinction here is that Greeks – as in people in fraternities and sororities, not those from the Hellenic Republic – know of these stereotypes before they join and still choose to become members of Greek Letter Organizations. Let’s be real, some choose because of the wild-party stereotype. Some, not all.

I haven’t done any serious research on the subject, but I suspect the same is not true of Asians and Muslims. So, then, the stereotypes in those circumstances have a slightly different and more invidious effect, because you’re not targeting people for something they’ve done, but for how they were born and/or raised (the latter acknowledgement is for those of you who will argue that religion is not an immutable characteristic; Fair enough, but I think it’s a hard one for many people to change).

This distinction is important because people can control the their actions, and hence avoid demeaning stereotypes, but can’t control who their parents are.

The not-so-subtle point here, of course, is that there is a difference between stereotyping Greeks (again, in the campus activity sense) and ethnic or religious groups. The comparison between the two, then, doesn’t fit.

All this is not to say, of course, that Mayo’s stereotypes of Greeks are fair. But they have some validity, I guess, and are kind of funny in a cute, poor-dearie’s-never-been-exposed-to-people-with-different-values-and-thus-feels-the-need-to-mock kind of way.

Are Greeks elitists? Some. Drunks? Even more. Spending an unnecessary amount of money to be part of a boys’ or girls’ club? Probably. Told how to dress, act, and who to hang out with?

Only during Rush, really.

The real question is: does Mayo really know anything about the Greeks beyond what she’s seen in movies? Likely, but probably not much.

And whose fault is that? I venture it’s the fault of the Greeks themselves.

Stop whining about how unfair stereotypes are. Talk about why they aren’t true. Or, even better, show campus they aren’t true.

When experience reveals them to be false, the stereotypes will take care of themselves.

_-Sean Reed
CSU Alum ’09; Former Collegian editorials editor; Former President, Alpha Kappa Lambda

 Posted by at 11:55 am

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