Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Not To Behave

Some of you have read the crazy email floating around the 'net from a University of Maryland sorority chair decrying her crew's "weird" and "awkward" moments during a Greek Week matchup with a fraternity. I am intentionally not linking to it, choosing to spare you from the possibility of an accidental click which will end up aging you five years prematurely.

I read the profanity-laced, rant-infused, venom-spewing epistle in its hyperactive entirety. "Shocking" fails to describe it. "Insane" comes closer. I'm wondering why I volunteered my eyes to ingest this steaming cesspool of hate after I got a tip-off about it. Now I have a theory: negative reinforcement.

Sometimes the best primers on how to behave come from the reverse psychology of witnessing how not to conduct ourselves. The Crazy Sorority Girl email tops the list. Without sourcing the letter for examples (and trust me, you don't want to read them anyway), here's what I took away:

  • Incessant complaining about others' failure to follow makes me wonder if there's a failure to lead. Or to put it bluntly, the fish stinks from the head. I don't find a lick of proactivity in this email.
  • Mocking, insulting and inferring your sorority sisters are brain damaged for not showing the desired level of enthusiasm and hospitality will only guarantee more awkward moments.
  • Using the f-bomb at a pace exceeding that found in the movie Casino does nothing to endear you to prospective pledges, well-adjusted frat brothers, or the general public.
  • Sororities and their male counterparts already have a bad reputation. This deranged email just wiped out months, if not years, of any goodwill generated by community service projects -- which college Greek organizations do but are never remembered for.

In full disclosure, I never belonged to a fraternity in college. I didn't have to. The 7th floor of Hatch Hall at the University of Missouri had enough antics to qualify without anybody pledging. I also knew I wasn't fraternity material, being more worker bee than social butterfly.

I will advise this to the future freshman lords and ladies: think carefully about the Greek organizations you rush. Don't be conned by fears of dorm life. If you are doubtful in the least about the social dynamic you are injecting yourself into, turn on your heels. Great people come out of great sororities and fraternities, and the prospective organization must exist as a vehicle for developing yourself beyond a token service requirement. The brotherhood and sisterhoood must function like a family, not Mama's Family.

The sorority's national office is quickly distancing itself and investigating. A head may roll, or it may not. National offices deal with these issues and are done with them. No broad cultural shift is attempted or expected. We've come to accept Greek-letter organizations as Animal House. And if that's good enough for the rest of us, it's good enough for them.

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