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Fraternity. Sorority. Humanity.

by Matt Mattson

Look at your brothers and sisters. I mean, really look at them.

Look beyond their major or their year in school. Look beyond whether they’re a new member, a chapter president, an officer, a leader.

Look past the letters. Look past the house, the events, the colors, the outfits, the nonsense.

Look for what we really are. Look at the people. Look right at them. Look at their potential. Look at their longings. Look at their scars. Look at their desire to love and be loved. Look at their need to connect. Look at their brokenness and strength. Look at them the way their family sees them. Look at them the way you wish your family saw you. Look at them. Look right at them.

There is something so stunningly and exasperatingly human about fraternities and sororities. Our organizations are somehow centuries strong yet fragile enough to crumble at any moment. Our histories are full of triumphant stories yet mostly made of regular, everyday, forgettable-to-the-history-books, plain old college students.

Our organizations are complicated, just like us. Our organizations are capricious, just like us. Our organizations are filled with drama, just like us. Our organizations are beautiful, just like us. Our organizations are powerful, just like us. Our organizations are difficult to understand, torturously messed up, and intrinsically flawed just like us.

Fraternities and sororities are so damn human, aren’t they?

So, it begs the question, why do we do so many inhuman things?

Why do we boil down a PNMs worth to her looks?
Why do we make the most vulnerable among us prove themselves worthy of our approval?
Why do we determine a chapter’s success by their size or their power instead of the life stories and transformation of their people?
Why do we leave a drunk brother lying on the couch to die?
Why do we make recruitment about how impressive our stuff is?
Why do we abuse each other?
Why do we excel at objectification, appropriation, and intimidation despite our organizations commitment to individual edification?
Why do we display our trophies, our photos, our flags, and our paddles instead of our kindness, our willingness to care, and our surprisingly common stories of individual members who have emerged from our chapters as a completely new version of themselves?

Our fraternities and sororities are humanity embodied. We are microcosms of the human condition. Our oaths and initiation rites are attempts by our founders to name the highest ideals of our species.

Our best defense against the evil sides of our organizations might just be to focus all our energy… not on better events, better programs, better themes, better initiatives, or better policies… but instead on better interactions. If we could clean up the space between our members and other human beings, maybe we could clean up everything else.

If we saw each other as humans. If when we encountered another member, new member, potential member… if we saw the full humanity of that person. If we could see their longings and losses. If we could sense their struggle. If we could imagine their potential (not their potential as “an asset to our chapter,” but their potential contribution to the world). If we could just start to notice who they truly are or might be… and respect them fully because of it. Isn’t that what sisterhood and brotherhood looks like in practice?

As fraternity humans and sororitiy humans we’ve taken an oath to be more… human. Our founders declared for us what that means. We are challenged to be the best examples of humanity, not the tragic bastions of inhumanity too many of our chapters have honestly become.

Fraternity. Sorority. Humanity. These words are synonymous. The human condition cries out for sisterhood and brotherhood. From the moment we are born, and all throughout our life, humans are constantly and instinctively driven to seek the warm embrace of fellowship that our organizations excel at.

We are called to be the best examples of humanity. Individually and as organizations. That is what the modern fraternity and sorority must become.

Look at your brothers and sisters. I mean, really look at them.