On Jan. 17, as a form of promotion for their fraternity, Theta Chi posted an Instagram story of Martin Luther King with the words “RUSH INTEREST FORM IN BIO” emblazoned across the screen. The accompanying post, with both a black-and-white photo of King and a similarly-shaded photo of some of the brothers, bears this caption: “Our brothers here at Theta Chi continue to lead with love and follow Dr. King’s philosophy as we extend a helping hand to all who seek it.”
In just a couple hours, the story was taken down prematurely — the post still stands. So, why might it have been taken down, and is it smart for anyone to use a beloved political figure’s designated national holiday for their own potential gain?
Let’s address both points in one: The story post directly uses PC culture as an attempt to curry favor with potential rushees, and as a result, it just ended up looking like a haphazard attempt to incorporate current events into their own personal agenda.
Ever since the mass disaffiliation from UR sororities during the start of the pandemic and UR’s version of the Abolish Greek Life movement coming to fruition online, Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council (IFC) chapters have had to work hard to regain a positive reputation. Despite this added pressure, it isn’t the direct responsibility of each member in a Greek organization to push towards reform — inevitably, even if it were, there will always be members who don’t end up pulling their weight.
Is it their fault, though? The marketing of fraternities and sororities is focused on this idea of brotherhood and sisterhood, not political activism or social reform. It’s not their job to address world conflicts or work to solve them. Without any of that effort, though, the promotion in Theta Chi’s story could easily be seen as a mockery of King’s work. With no activism to reinforce the support specifically being mentioned in their post, that support is hypothetical at best.
To clarify, this isn’t really about Theta Chi. When the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation at the start of the pandemic, UR chapters of all affiliations voiced their support, but in different ways. Some posted a statement voicing support, others posted Linktrees and sources to sign petitions and get more involved with the movement, but all seemed to be received with a general lack of criticism. It’s certainly possible that brothers and sisters in these chapters chose to donate, chose to march, and chose to fight actively for this cause, but it isn’t reflected in their general promotion. There’s obviously a fine line there — ideally, nobody would support a cause just to aid their reputation. Even if so, those actions still have a positive effect, intentions be damned.
No chapter should feel forced to bend to the political climate — it’s not the reason for their organization’s existence, and outsiders shouldn’t force that expectation upon them, especially without taking a look at their own efforts first. However, if they decide to use current events to market themselves positively, that should be backed up by legitimate action. In the same way, no one person should feel obligated to support a movement, but if they choose to simply post about it and move forward, that cannot be enough. There are two options: back a cause you publicly choose to care about in a tangible way, or say nothing.