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An Open Letter About Greek Life, Integrity, and Doing What Is Right

Gus Sevastos

Editorial

            This is not going to be an examination of the incident at the Gobbler house on Halloween. This is not going to be an article defending what may or may not have happened, or even defending Greek Life as something that people outside of it may not understand. I’m not going to justify anyone’s actions to you, and I don’t have to. A majority of you have made up your mind on how you feel about the situation and what you perceive the truth of the situation to be. This is one of those moments in life where things can get out of hand and we can slowly go overboard, filled with emotions. I feel the same shock, anger, betrayal, confusion, disenchantment, disenfranchising, hatred, disbelief, shame. All these things come to mind when I have read about the incident, or seen reports on the news. It burdens my heart to know that when people hear about Wilmington College, many of them for the first time, they won’t hear about our amazing community, our rich history, or our academics. Instead, they will be hearing about this tragic event. It breaks my heart to know that our college may have now, become that story of hazing other colleges use as an example when they have their pledge education meetings. My goal isn’t to condemn or defend what may have happened at Gamma Phi Gamma over a week ago. That isn’t my job nor has my right to do until all the facts about what happened have been presented. However, in light of the allegations and what seems to be an attack on all Greek life, I realize that this is something that I, as a member of the Greek community, cannot live with, and cannot abide by.
            I am a member of Tau Kappa Beta, and one of the beliefs my organization holds true is integrity, and it is something I feel holds true in this situation. Our belief of integrity is tied to a quote, one that I find very fitting in this situation: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have. I must stand WITH ANYBODY WHO STANDS RIGHT, STAND WITH HIM WHILE HE IS RIGHT, AND PART WITH HIM WHEN HE GOES WRONG.” That last part, the part I capitalized, is the most fitting. As a Greek community, we have a feeling that people outside of us cannot understand the appeal, why we do what we do, why we pledge, why we choose to become a part of something. I can’t speak for everyone, and I can only speak from my own experiences. However, that is just one perspective, and even then it doesn’t do the Greek community enough justice. The true strength of the bonds of Brotherhood or Sisterhood cannot be worked down into words; it is something that has to be felt, something that has to be experienced to be known. But as a Greek community we can’t shut ourselves in and try to defend our lifestyle in light of this recent event without admitting that there is a problem at some level of the system.
            To my fellow Greeks, I say this: We are part of we may need to admit is a flawed system. Some of you are reading this right now and immediately disagreeing. “No, not my organization, we don’t do that, we’re different.” This is not the time to stand apart: THIS IS THE TIME TO STAND TOGETHER. A whole way of life, several generations of tradition are threatened by this one incident that casts so many positive experiences and moving testimonials aside and shows a negative, dark underbelly to our Greek culture. We need to begin to hold ourselves accountable. I realize some of you may also be saying: “No. This is how things are; this is how things need to be. If people cannot understand it, if they cannot deal with it, then they are too soft to be a part of our community, our culture, our way of life.” We need to be able to look at ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. We need to be able to tell one another when lines have been crossed, when we have gone wrong, when things need to change. It seems, more than ever, that the time for change is now. This doesn’t mean that we need to change our entire history, change our beliefs, our values, or how we interact with ourselves and our alumni. It may mean that we need to change our fundamentals, or the way we do things. We may have to change the way we think, not only about other organizations, but about the way we do things, and why we do them. Tradition is an amazing, often powerful thing. However, this is the time for common sense, this is the time for action, and though tradition may be strong, for some actions, it is not enough to justify the events that have happened. We need to keep an open mind and be willing to look at ourselves and our community and admit that maybe we do have some problems, and if we do, we need to work on fixing them. We need to not only fix them immediately, but we need to fix them TOGETHER.
I have mentioned togetherness and community throughout this article when I talk about Greek life, but that does not mean it only applies to the Greeks, it applies to our whole college. It hurts when I hear stories of students threatening retaliation against members of the Greek community in light of the incident, simply because they knew them to be Greek. This is not the answer to how this problem gets solved. I have also heard rumors that there have been people calling for the removal of all Greek life from this campus. This is also not the answer. I realize that I can’t tell everyone what to do, and because of horrifying allegations against one organization, the group as a whole will suffer. This is human nature. But I ask that you don’t condemn our entire community and shut us out. Instead, what we need right now is to come together as a community, as a campus, and work on making things right again.
            I wrote earlier this semester about how this isn’t just a campus, but rather a home. This is our home, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We ALL need to come together and work together to make our campus a point of pride again, not the shameful laughing stock it has become to outsiders. It hurts to know that that’s all we are at this point to some people of the outside world: a joke, a lesson, a warning sign. We all need to join together in what has become one of our darkest moments on this campus. All of us need to unite: Students, both Greek and Non-Greek, Faculty, and Administrators need to join together. We need to keep an open mind and an open dialogue between all of us to make our campus whole again. We all need to work together. When all the facts have been presented, we need to make sure we get it right, but only after ALL the facts have been presented. All I ask is that everyone join together in this dark time on our campus. I’m not asking non-Greeks to try and understand Greek life, or for the Greeks to change their entire series of traditions and customs. What I’m asking is that we all be able to sit down together, put aside all our differences and animosities and start to work together, and do whatever is necessary to make sure our campus can be our home, our part of the world that we can look at and say with pride: I AM A PART OF WILMINGTON COLLEGE.

  

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3 thoughts on “An Open Letter About Greek Life, Integrity, and Doing What Is Right

  1. Aletheia

    I don’t think at the present time, being a part of the Greek Community at the college, that you have any valid argument right now to call an assembly of everyone at the present time. Honestly, right now Greek life NEEDS an outside perspective. A break from the current “tradition” that you reference to in your article. Think back to your own organization being founded. I was under the impression that Tau Kappa Beta was founded as a result of a disagreement with values of Gamma Phi Gamma, one of them being integrity. I wonder how your founders would feel about the argument that rather than promoting a change of culture via a drastic course of bold action you would voice an opinion of quenching the situation and upholding “tradition”.

    If I apply the sentence prior in your statement of belief “I am bound to live up to what light I have” Instead of standing up as a whole community you might want to assess your inner light as individuals first.
    In the spirit of Prof. Rembert’s revival of Plato, let’s use a classical line of approach to our thinking…after all “an unexamined life, is a life not worth living.”

    First ask yourself, was what they were doing right? What is right? If you cannot define right, then begin by defining what is wrong.

    Would you support look like if they were right? As an individual? As an organization? As a community?
    And if they were wrong, how then should you respond? Should you go on a campus witch hunt inspiring fear within all the organizations as you conduct an institutional wide assessment on hazing? Or should you be confident in yourself first, as an individual. Then, gentlemanly or lady like as an organization. If you find differing opinions within your own group should you splinter off as you have in the past? Or work to resolve the issue to present a (Quaker value spoiler alert!) consensus?

    Speaking of Quaker values, how does the response that you present compare with the mission statements of your organization and the mission statement of the college? If you are a bit “Hazy” on the details some of the points of the college’s vision statements are “peace and social justice, and respect for all persons into their lives, communities and workplaces and creating an environment of civility, respect, and trust.”

    I personally do not see how the incident conveyed peace, respect, civility, respect, or trust for either the individuals involved or the community at large. I also cannot see how your supporting arguments would encourage respect or trust of any of the members involved. By uniting as a singular entity and being even closely associated with them, even if they are a small fraction of a larger community.

    My suggestion would be to offer you your own advice, but instead of coming together as a community, maybe in this case you should, as you stated earlier in CAPITALIZED print. “Stand with anyone who stands right…and part with him when he goes wrong.”

    1. Insert Name Here

      Ok Paul McCartney, Live and let die may sound like a great idea. But I think you missed the point. I think what Gus is trying to say is that open discussion needs to happen, plain and simple. Both within and without individual frats, as a community as a whole, and as a campus wide discussions need to be had. It is a time to trim the preverbal fat. Your “stinging fly” seems more like an annoying gnat or internet troll. I think we can agree that for now let’s just all wait and see. Stay quiet about things until it’s all said and done. Then, and only then, can anyone proceed.
      I like the idea of coming together, but it has to be done without ANY defense. Just sit there and listen to what people have to say about both your individual orgs. and as a part of the community as a whole. Right now that’s all you can do.

  2. Gus Sevastos

    Alethia, I think you miss the point of what I was trying to say here. I am not justifying nor standing by the actions of Gamma Phi Gamma. You do know your history of TKB, in that we were founded due to a break of belief with their traditions. However, that aside, what I am saying is that we all need to come together as a campus community and not let this tear us apart. I am more than happy, and I think we should, convene open forums allowing people to express their concerns with Greek life, and have meetings with the administration of this campus looking into how things are run and deciding what needs to be changed. Because changes do need to be made! However, when I wrote this article, it was before the affidavit of the incident was filed and when everything was rumors and speculation. The rumor I had heard, and was most concerned about, when I wrote my article was that there was a push to get rid of all Greek life on campus, which I do not believe is the answer. I know it is hard to justify in light of recent incidents, but this is not an example of what all Greek life on this campus is about, nor does it show all the good that our organizations can do, have done, and continue to do. I can only speak from my personal experiences, but a majority of them are positive. However, I will admit that there is a problem with the system as a whole, and in light of what has gone on, we do need to make changes. This article was calling for Greeks to be open to these changes, the student body to suggest and inform these changes, and the administration to help us in enforcing and making these changes. Only when we have done this can we start to rebuild the relationship and the trust between the Greeks on campus and the Wilmington College students, administration, and community at large. This is about all of us joining together to make this happen, and keeping an open mind while we do, in order to rebuild our college’s reputation in the face of what has gone on. This isn’t support of what they did, and this isn’t an article condemning them either. They have enough of that from a majority of the student body and the outside community. True change comes from within, and this article was to remind everyone to be open to that change and not fall apart in light of what has happened.

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