I did not know what to expect when I walked into the Alpha Xi Delta house at Indiana University. After being president of Phi Kappa Theta and being involved in a variety of leadership roles throughout my life, I have observed the highs and the lows of different leadership styles and techniques. I had attended many leadership conferences and retreats throughout my college experience to where I felt like I was more qualified to write a leadership enhancing curriculum than most of the hosts of such workshops. I was ready for a relaxing week, in a new place with similar people. I served my term in my fraternity. I knew the ins and outs of everything that has to do with Greek Life and the important people who are involved. I was all-knowing. I knew what Phi Kappa Theta was about, I knew what Lehigh Greek Life was about, and I knew the direction that I wanted to take it. I didn’t need a leadership conference to help influence me and my future actions. I knew all there was to know and I knew how to accomplish it. There is only so much that leadership workshops, retreats, and conferences can teach you. I assumed UIFI was the same. I assumed wrong.
Nowadays, people use the phrase “life changing” out of context. Is that new car, dress, or Chipotle near your house truly changing the momentum of your entire existence here on earth? It’s not. A life changing event needs to be so profound that it pokes at our emotions, pushes us to reminisce what we stand for, and makes us question our values. It completely changes our outlook on life. We often don’t think about the underlying values that make up who we are and we are out of touch with what we truly believe in. These values and beliefs are what make us who we are. They differentiate us, yet bring us together all at the same time. I had lost my connection to the foundation of what I live for and UIFI brought me back to where I belong.
Greek organizations are nothing other than tangible morals and values. Every order of a fraternity or sorority is built upon a foundation of beliefs and ritual that are similar to one another. They strive for life-long service, commitment, and brother/sisterhood. They give to those who need it, they cherish their moments together, and they fulfill their personal and fraternal goals as a passionate organization. All of these values are held under something that we all know as Ritual. Notice the capital R. Ritual is old, it is historical, and it is what is in writing that encompasses the beliefs and values in which our organizations stand for. Some may be shared and some may be secret. Yet, Ritual always upholds the values in which each order is built.
As flourishing organizations, we strive to keep alive these Rituals. Whether it is out of some unknown respect to our forefathers, or whether we feel pressured by our National Headquarters, we make sure that our history is never lost. Our Ritual is personal to us, and we do everything in our power to keep alive the annual habit of hosting it. Pledging, Initiation, Oaths. The Rituals that we see every year are being repeated because we know it’s the right thing to do. We love them, just as our forefathers did, so we feel some sort of connection with them. We practice them, imitate them, and hold them dear to our hearts for a few days each year.
There is a significant difference between Ritual and ritual. We all know what our organizations Rituals are as they’ve been passed down since the beginning. Our rituals, however, are the things we do every day without even thinking about them. Running our toothbrush under water before applying toothpaste, putting our right leg into our pants first when getting dressed, saying grace before dinner and the list goes on. These are our rituals, our habits that we do every day without even knowing or realizing. We’ve come so accustomed to them that we have no problem carrying them into everyday life. We live by them and we are as much a part of them as they are of us. But what makes a ritual? Consideration, belief, and practice. The men and women who built our organizations had rituals too. Their rituals were in line with their values, just as ours are, and they lived with them every day. In fact, their rituals were so strong, so powerful, and so inspirational that they built chapters with them. Their rituals were so incredible that they motivated millions to take part in sharing what they believed in by joining their brotherhoods and their sisterhoods. The Rituals that we keep alive today are indeed what is left of our founding fathers’ and sisters’ ritual. It is their values and beliefs that are exhibited through our initiation ceremonies and it is their ritual that we vow our allegiance and our actions for the rest of our life.
UIFI taught me how out of touch we are with our supposed values. By accepting a lifelong Oath to an organization, we are expected to live by the words that are said before us in our ceremonies, as that is what our founders intended. They aren’t just words, they are our Ritual. And it is our duty, as fraternity men and women, to align the true purpose of our Ritual with the ritual that we live every day.
-Miles Bailey, Phi Kappa Theta
Phi Kappa Theta President 2012-2013
IFC Secretary 2013-2014