Monday, August 7, 2017

Reflections from UIFI: Molly Bankuti, Panhellenic President

Thanks to Molly for sharing her thoughts about her recent UIFI experience!

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI) at Indiana University with 70+ Greek Leaders from across the country. UIFI was a chance to connect with people who are leaders on their campuses and who have taken advantage of all the opportunities their communities have to offer, Greek and otherwise; these people have the capacity to incite positive changes at their schools through their continued campus involvement.  At UIFI we spent 5 days talking about ways we, as Greeks, can do to leave a stronger, positive impact on the surrounding community -- and what changes we want to bring back to our own campuses.  

On the third day of the conference, the group came to realize that the benefits of Greek life, both to ourselves and to our communities, are no longer outweighing the negative repercussions of fraternities and sororities at schools.  It was tough to recognize that “not in my chapter,” “not in my council,” and even “not on my campus” is no longer enough to justify being a part of a community that contributes to increased deaths, sexual assaults, and high-risk alcohol and drug consumption on college campuses. It was discouraging hearing about the poor reputations being built up and portrayed in the news and the media.  It was also hard to share stories from Lehigh’s campus and see people visibly cringe, shake their heads, or wish us luck.

When you take a look at all the negative aspects of a community, though, it forces you to revisit why you would want to join Greek life in the first place. During the last few days at UIFI we reconnected with the reason our chapters were founded and the history of our organizations. We revisited the opportunities our chapters provide to our members, the support system so many people gain from fraternities and sororities, and the personal development that comes with being involved as a Greek student. We talked about areas to educate our members, and opportunities to have a more profound impact on the community than our organizations are already having on the communities and philanthropies surrounding us. I think when most people hear the word “ritual” they think of the long ceremonies, the words people have to memorize, and the required dress. But what UIFI helped me realize is that our ritual really doesn’t have much to do with the physical ceremony -- the word “ritual” refers to the higher standards and the opportunities that you are able to take advantage of as a part of a Greek organization.  “Knowing your ritual” is knowing that when you meet someone else in your chapter, or someone else in the Greek community, they’ve committed to holding themselves to a higher standard, and living up to the ideals of friendship and achievement.

It’s not a coincidence that some of the most successful people I know were leaders in their own Greek communities when they were in school -- but we need to recognize, as a whole community, that “not my chapter” isn’t enough any more.  This year, both within and across councils, my hope is that we can start reconnecting with why we joined our organizations in the first place. We need to start thinking less about the physical ceremony and more about what it means to be a brother or a sister of our chapter, and to the other members of the Greek community.  I’m looking forward to what the year brings, and could not be more excited to see Lehigh Greek life continue to grow and strengthen our community.