“You’re just buying your friends!” That was my friend from home’s reaction when I first told him that I was joining a fraternity four years ago. It was the first time I heard that protest regarding my decision, but it certainly has not been the last as I’ve heard that same sentiment from friends both at other schools and even friends that I’ve made here at Rochester. In some regard they are right, a significant portion of the money that I’ve spent while here at college these last four years has gone towards dues for my fraternity or towards activities I’ve participated in as a result of having joined the group. But does that mean I bought my friends? I wanted to tackle the misconception that going Greek is equivalent to buying your friends. The way I see it, I’ve joined an organization, like having joined a club in high school, and any club I’ve ever joined has dues because every club I’ve ever joined has operating costs. It costs at least some money to organize just about anything any club is going to do, the Greek organizations just happen to do a lot, and it adds up. Looking back over these past four years though, I know that what I’ve gained from being a member in a fraternity are experiences that I could not have found, let alone bought anywhere else in my college career. For my last column before I graduate – and hand this column over to capable younger hands – I want to take a look back at what being Greek has meant to me in college, and hopefully in the process dispel the idea that all going Greek means is that you are buying your friends. Call it “Reflections of a Greek” if you want, but just read along and hopefully by the end of the column you’ll see what being Greek means to those of us who are Greek.

When I first joined my fraternity, I didn’t join because I was looking for friends. I was a second semester freshmen and I’d actually already developed a solid group of friends, many of whom I’m still very close with today as a senior. I wasn’t looking for a group to join – I was already a member of the men’s ultimate frisbee team and a few of the guys on the team had a house off campus that we’d go party at most weekends. In retrospect, I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for when I showed up at rush at a friend’s behest, but I soon found a place that just felt like a second home. What made me decide to join was when I’d come by the floor I’d swear I was going to the library at a certain time so I could do work and two hours past that time I was still there at the door with my bag over my shoulder. It’s been four years, and the group that I’m a part of now is very different from the one I first joined, but the house still functions as a place where time just disappears. And it’s between the walls of that house, and not in any classrooms, that I’ve learned some of the most valuable lessons I’ll take away from college.

I learned how to interact in a brotherly manner with a diverse group of individuals, not all ones that you are going to get along with at all times, in both group and individual situations. I’ve learned how to properly tell an embarrassing story so that it’ll get a good laugh at chapter. I’ve learned how to grimace and laugh along with everyone else when someone tells an embarrassing story about me.

I’ve learned how to motivate a group of lazy, apathetic male college students – one of the most difficult tasks I ever encountered at school. I’ve learned how to plan large events by planning my fraternity’s formal last spring.

I’ve learned that playing Beirut till 8:30 in the morning every weekend is a good way to get fat and a good way to get good at Beirut. I’ve learned that living in a house with 22 guys means that someone is always up to shoot the shit at 5 a.m., or up for a Jay’s or Sal’s run. I’ve learned how comforting it is to have a house to walk into, a couch to plop down on to and a big screen to watch, in a place that feels more like a home than any dorm room ever could. I’ve learned when to fight for something that I believe is right and when to shut up and trust that a group of 40 or more brothers might know better. I’ve learned all it takes is 31 brothers to eat Buffalo Wild Wings entirely out of wings. I’ve learned that I’ve joined a group that has had over 100 brothers pass through since I’ve joined and that I feel that I could call any one of them in 20 years, even if I haven’t spoken to him in a while, to tell him I’m in town and coming to visit.

I’ve learned what it is like to be a part of and contribute to a living tradition that predates me by over 160 years. And while my experience of being Greek may not be exactly that of everyone on campus who is part of a Greek organization, I’m pretty sure that any member of a Greek group graduating this spring would agree that they’ve learned the same thing as me – that being in a Greek organization enhanced their college experience, and that college most certainly would not have been the same without it.

Chesney can be reached at gchesney@campustimes.org.

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