Rensselaer Magazine
Feature Articles At Rensselaer President's View Reader Mail Staying Connected Alumni News One Last Thing
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Staying Connected * Greek Life
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The Circle of Greek Life
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Involved alumni are essential to the continuity of fraternities and sororities.
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By Roger Mike ’70
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Times change. Most of the alums receiving this magazine remember the days when the legal drinking age was 18 and beer flowed openly and freely on campus, especially at fraternity parties. Perhaps you remember seeing pledges running around during Hell Week in either sports jackets and ties or outlandish outfits. Hazing — what was that?

The reality is that these things that were once a common and expected part of campus life are now illegal in every state. Violating the laws that prohibit underage alcohol consumption and hazing can carry severe penalties, as well as a permanent criminal record that will affect an individual’s entire future. It can also get a fraternity or sorority suspended for many years (one of our chapters is currently serving a six-year suspension, another 10 years).

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Through the prism of age and experience, our plea to the young men and women who populate Rensselaer’s fraternities and sororities is the obvious: “It’s not worth the risk; there’s too much to lose.” But convincing all of them has been another matter — our enemies include the perceived invincibility of youth and the false belief that the bad stuff always happens to the other guy. Also, we’ve been up against the perception held by a few fraternities, their alumni included, that some traditions of alcohol and historic rites must be maintained at all cost. If there remain any holdouts, this rigid grasp of times past eventually will get these chapters suspended as well or worse.

After some drama last year, the good news is we’re on the right track. You may recall hearing about three directives introduced by Rensselaer in April 2006 pertaining to fraternity/sorority life, or “Greek” life. The three directives concerned the process for recruiting new members, the ban of alcohol in common living spaces, and a mandate that each organization financially support a live-in house director. The reaction by many students and Greek alumni/ae was significant and deafening.

Fortunately, cool heads on all sides prevailed. Largely through the efforts of Bob Forman ’61, RAA president at the time, the various parties came together in a legitimate spirit of cooperation to address the overall situation and develop a plan of action. The result was a long process of many, many meetings and a new policy that we all had a hand in creating.

Among those involved were members of the undergraduate fraternity and sorority councils, the Rensselaer Alumni Association, the Dean of Students Office, the Health Center, the Rensselaer Union, and an alumni organization of which you may not be aware, the Alumni Inter-Greek Council (AIGC).

The AIGC was formed about 20 years ago to act as an advocate for the Greek system. It comprises alums from the various fraternities and sororities. The AIGC has become increasingly active in, among other areas, providing educational workshops for both undergrads and alums, participating as a principal in crafting/preserving the Relationship Statement, and assisting with Student Orientation by speaking to incoming freshmen and their parents about the academic, leadership, social, and networking benefits of membership in Greek life. The AIGC legitimately has become one of the constants in the campus life equation—undergraduates are here only for a few years before joining the alum ranks; it is the alumni/ae who remain involved as mentors to and historians of the Greek community who provide a necessary continuity to protect that framework.

There is a continuum evident in every healthy fraternity and sorority: the past to the present to the future. All three are essential to a chapter’s well-being. Without the past (alumni/ae), the chapter has no historic identity, no lineage of those who came before to create what has been handed to you, no urgency to pass that on to the next generation. Without the present or the future, the chapter dies and the doors close forever — all that is then left is the past, which soon becomes irrelevant because the organization exists no more. All three are essential to survival. The lesson may be that we alums are much more important than we realize.

Involved alums are proof to our undergrads that being a fraternity brother or sorority sister does not end with graduation. Your undergrads would welcome a call to say hello and to reconnect. Support your chapter’s alumni/ae association, attend its reunion weekend, volunteer as an adviser, or assist with AIGC programs. And very importantly, please... encourage your members to protect your chapter’s future by not engaging in activities that could result in legal action — it’s not worth the price to be paid. In relating stories about the old days, throw in the cautionary note that times have changed because, in full truth, they have.

Roger Mike ’70 is the Delta Phi chapter adviser and AIGC vice president. For help in finding your chapter’s current contact information or to become involved with the AIGC, contact Roger Grice ’87 at rgrice@hvc.rr.com or Ray Lutzky ’02 at ray.lutzky@gmail.com.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.