use your voice

Are We Missing An Opportunity?

By Tina VanSteenbergen

We were recently asked to write pieces of “reaction” for the Phired Up Blog. We were given many prompts to react to: our annual Growth Survey Data, recent visits to campuses we work with, the upcoming recruitment season. All worth thinking about, all worth reacting to—at some point. But not this week. This week, this month, this summer, I’ve had trouble reacting to anything other than the current state of our world. One of fear, isolation, and hate.

How could we think or feel about anything else these days? We turn on the news, open the internet, visit our favorite social media platforms, and are bombarded by terrifying stories of needless murders, of peaceful protests turned deadly, of various identified groups separating themselves from one other based on religion or race, to terrorist bombings killing hundreds of people at once.

(Well, everywhere that the Pokemon pictures aren’t. But that’s a whole other blog.)

The only real place I haven’t seen these stories of danger and despair is on a feed full of fraternities and sororities. Our headquarters are putting up beautiful photos from Conventions and Leadership Conferences. Recruitment Counselors are excitedly deactivating Facebook until after formal recruitment is complete. Fraternity Rush Chairmen are sending out invitations for events happening in the fall. Members are relaxing by the pool with some of their local bothers and sisters, counting down the days until they can be reunited with the rest.

Let me say this first: this is not necessarily a bad thing. In the middle of a bombardment of genuine terror, it’s nice to have fun photos and posts that bring a smile to my face.

But I think we’re missing an opportunity.

When I tell people what I enjoy most about working with members of fraternities and sororities, I tell them about the impressive amount of leadership we possess in our members. Our leaders are powerful. We’re motivated, capable, passionate, committed, and intentional. And in this moment, this week, this month, this summer, we’re missing an opportunity. To share our power. To direct our passion. To use our privilege.

We have a voice, and a loud one at that. And in regards to the current state of our world, we’re not using it. We’re not talking (loudly enough) about the fear and terror. We’re not sharing the messages of love and kindness our organizations were founded upon. We’re not vocally opening our doors to people in our communities who may feel lost, scared, or unsupported, offering the brotherhood and sisterhood we hold so dear. Our company co-founder Matt recently shared his reaction to the current state of the world and put out a call to action for us to use and amplify our voice.

Some of us are using it. Some of us desperately want to, but don’t know how. Some of us feel the pull, but are afraid—afraid to use that voice too loudly, afraid to use it in a way that hurts others, or afraid to use it in the wrong ways. That fear or concern is natural.

But when you feel it, I want you to remind yourself of this: your founders were probably afraid too. Afraid to step up. To be different. To advocate for others. To use their voice.

I love Convention photos. Seeing Recruitment Counselors give up social media to help PNMs find their homes makes me smile. Hearing Rush Chairs planning for their newest members gets me excited. I’m not asking that we stop celebrating, planning, or growing. But in a space of “reaction,” here’s mine:

Our organizations were created to build communities. Many of them were built as reactions—to experiences of dissonance on their campus, to moments of injustice, to feeling isolated or different. Now, hundreds of years later, it’s our turn to REACT. To stand up. To open our doors. To choose love. To be kind. To be brothers and sisters to everyone. To use our power, our passion, our privilege for good. To lead.