Most members of the Greek community who study abroad stay connected through WhatsApp, taking scenic pictures in spirit jerseys and wearing letters in hopes of meeting brothers/sisters abroad.
For some, like myself, this is a bit of an adjustment. Even though I try to stay updated, it’s impossible to truly be in the loop. I have no idea what this spring jam name change drama is, even though I read the Panhel email that was longer than most papers I have written here. I no longer have “Vice President of Recruitment” proceeding my name, or a leadership position to define my place in the community.
And the shocking part is, I’m not sure I mind.
Last night, I ended up meeting someone from the U of M Greek community who was visiting Rome for the weekend.
Naturally excited, I inquired what chapter he was apart of. To my surprise, he responded hesitantly and said he didn’t want to say. My confused looks must have implied a need for more information, as he proceeded to hint at unflattering events/rumors that tend to be associated with his chapter.
After this little guessing game, he finally revealed his chapter. I could too, but it’s not relevant. To most of the world, greek letters look like weird shapes, and what I am doing in front of the Trevi looks like a gang sign. Greek is Greek.
I could’ve changed the topic, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Offering our new friend some PR guidance, I told him the next time someone asks what house he’s in, he can’t reply with “I don’t want to say.” If you don’t want to say, you shouldn’t be wearing those letters. In fact, you shouldn’t be Greek. There’s already enough people saying negative things, you don’t need to add to it. What you need to do is tell the stories that have become overshadowed- the ones no one seems to know. If you don’t believe in your chapter, no one will.
You don’t have to be halfway across the world to be removed or to be wearing letters you’re not proud of. What this all comes back to, is there shouldn’t be a chapter that needs to discuss PR strategies outside a bar in Rome.
We use these rumors as excuses. They become something to hide behind, a reason to give up.
Your school newspaper doesn’t hate your Greek community, your University has nothing against you. A newspaper is going to report on news, you have no one else to blame for the material they’re given. An argument regarding new University regulations tends to overlap with a conversation boasting about how Greeks are more responsible and prepared for life. It doesn’t add up.
Living in Rome, I am surrounded by Greek mythology, which inspired much of Roman history. What, and who, our community is named after is far more inspiring than what we allow ourselves to get away with. What each letter of our chapters represent is so much more than where exchanges will be held or what they’ll be called. Or at least it should be.
If these are the standards we continue holding ourselves to, there will be no reason to be in the loop.
Now, the chances of my new BFF remembering this encounter aren’t the highest. However, it made me realize that regardless of any title or role, I will always have a place in this community. Leadership isn’t only defined by exec boards and committees, but also by the times you decide to not change the topic.