Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reflections from UIFI: Megan McMichael

This summer I was incredibly fortunate and able to attend the Undergraduate Inter-Fraternity Institute at Indiana University. The 5 day-long institute brings together Greek students from across the country to discuss and analyze the issues facing the Greek community. My experience at UIFI allowed me to step outside of my own chapter, as well as my own university, to see the similar problems and different approaches we had as Greek students.

One of the things that struck me most upon my arrival at UIFI was just how many Greek chapters there are in existence. There are hundreds, yes hundreds, of Greek organizations on college campuses today. This led me to ask the same question that I have been asked by my non-affiliated friends: why so many? Why are there so many different organizations to do essentially the same thing? What makes my chapter different from another, besides the women who are members? This “why” was essential to the UIFI experience. UIFI taught me that to do something meaningful and effect positive change, it must be done with intentionality. The “why” of anything is just as important, if not more, than the “how” or the “what.” So why does my organization, and Greek life in general, exist?  The facilitators of UIFI posed this question to us all, and it was almost disheartening to see how long it took for us to come up with the answer: our ritual and our values. Yes, the tried and true four or five words that everyone recites during recruitment and when explaining to your parents and job interviewers why being in a Greek chapter is so important. But, if we were to look beyond the marketability of these terms and really understand how they apply to our lives, we can see the individuality of each chapter and how their values shape their organization.

Different chapters were formed because their founders had different values than those of other organizations. This can be seen in the way chapters have split off from one another, the way chapters have been created in direct response to other chapters, as well as the parts of ritual that are essential to other chapters, such as singing to Beta Theta Pi (having a talented Beta in my UIFI family was incredibly entertaining). The great thing about these values and about your chapter’s ritual is that it doesn’t always mean the same thing to you. Being one of the older attendees of UIFI, I saw the way in which these discussions and revelations affected younger members differently than myself. When you’re a first-year just joining an organization, these values can represent a goal, a model, a person you want to become. In your second and third years, they can be a seemingly unrealistic and unachievable standard. But, after attending UIFI and being on the cusp of my senior year, they are a reminder of a promise I made to become the best version of me that I possibly can be. And while every Greek student has made that oath, we are all going about it a different way. While myself and other Thetas are focusing on finding faith, hope, and love all around us, the members of Alpha Chi Omega may be trying to find the symphony of life. While it is the constant struggle to better ourselves and the world around us that unites us as Greek students, the existence of so many different chapters reminds us that there are so many different ways to tackle a problem.