can we talk

Can We Talk?

by Jessica Gendron Williams

Dear Fraternity Man,

It’s been a bad year – maybe even a couple of bad years.  This thing called fraternity is under so much scrutiny and sometimes it feels like that scrutiny is heavier than ever before.  As an outsider, an adult, a professional in the field, I need you to hear me say:

I don’t have any idea what your experience is like right now – or what it’s like to be a fraternity man or fraternity leader in today’s world.  But I know this:  It’s hard.

I know it’s hard.

I believe it is harder than ever to be a fraternity man, especially to be a fraternity leader.  I know there’s a lot of problems we you are facing that aren’t unique to fraternity but are amplified by the light shined on fraternity.   I know there has to be so much you are dealing with, struggling with, coping with.

Please, let us help.

I don’t want to ruin your fun.  I don’t want to make fraternity boring.  I don’t want to take away your identity, values, traditions.  I want to help you.  I want to help you make fraternity safer.  I want to help you make fraternity a place where you can have fun, work hard, challenge each other, explore what it means to be a man, learn, grow, and make memories and friends that last your lifetime.  I want to help make fraternity relevant to you.

I can’t help but feel like you’re afraid to talk to us about what is really going on.  Most of the conversations my colleagues and I have had with you in recent months seem guarded, like you might be choosing to say what you think we want to hear.  It feels like lip service.  It feels almost robotic  - like you are intentionally saying all the right things on the surface – but the statements are hollow.  I can see it in your eyes.  I know there is more there.  I see the pain, anxiety, stress, and denial you’re hiding.

I need you to hear me say this:

I don’t care how bad it is.  I don’t care how dark the story is.  I don’t care how deep the problems are.  I want to hear it.

I want to listen.  I want to understand.  I want to support you.  I want you to disagree with my ideas.  I want to hear yours.  I want to understand your reality.  I want to have a real – and honest conversation – no matter how hard it might be to hear.  I want to help.  We want to help.  We can’t help however without real conversation about what’s really happening – and understanding what the fraternity experience is really like right now.

I’m We’re ready to listen.  Can we talk?