On Facebook over the holiday weekend, a Facebook friend posted the following:

it absolutely burns me up to see a “brother” buy a new vehicle and the first thing put on it is a fraternity tag. Mind you, these same brothers won’t come to meetings, pay dues, or support any cause of the fraternity. If you’re not about what you’re advertising, don’t advertise. I’m tired of these letter wearers.

First, a fact:  A majority of initiates into my fraternity are currently inactive.  That is probably the case for every fraternity. Let me underscore the fact that the judgment of inactive members is a huge pet peeve of mine.  I have been inactive and I have been active.  I went from neophyte of the year to inactive member the very next year.  And when I came back to activity, I became a national committee chair.  And I am currently inactive again. This does not stop me from wearing paraphernalia.  My ‘nalia reminds me of good things and of friends I made.  It allows me to connect with people I wouldn’t ordinarily connect with, even if only fleetingly.  And I look rather good in black and gold. For me, my current reason for being inactive is financial.  I just don’t have the $150 to pay the fraternity for the benefit of a magazine that is consistently late, if it comes out at all.  That’s pretty much all I would get. I haven’t been a member of a chapter for many years.  I wasn’t a member of a chapter when I was a national committee chair, either.  Rather than go into those reasons, I want to share with you a list why people might be happy to represent their membership but loathe to become an active member of a local chapter:

  • The members of the chapter aren’t nice.
  • The grad chapter/grad members had an adversarial relationship with the undergrad chapter.
  • They are tired of being hit on at fraternity functions.
  • The local chapter is just wack/socially awkward/inept.
  • Tired of the scandals at the national level.
  • Don’t want to be begged for money at every chapter meeting.
  • Extremely difficult to be a leader in the chapter due to cliques or generational differences.
  • The chapter treated them poorly when they were a member – before you even joined the chapter yourself.
  • Don’t agree with the direction of Greek life as a whole anymore.
  • The local chapter is homophobic.
  • The local chapter is full of closet queens who won’t change the status quo.
  • The member is an introvert.

But none of those reasons impact the fact that said member’s life was changed when they became a member of the organization.  Becoming a member is a rite of passage to be proud of and a symbol of prestige in the community.  It’s possible to be proud of what you are and hesitant to be engaged at the same time. Nobody wants to be around smug people who think they’re better because they have the money and the time to be engaged.  And perhaps that’s what some of our organizations have become.   There are some people that I look at and praise their activity because they really do enjoy it.  Quietly, I am placing bets on when they, too, will be burned out from the drama and foolishness and become engaged in something else. A radical change in the culture of Greek life has to occur before the majority of the inactive members come back.  So long as the leadership and the rank-and-file alike are harping on this sense of “obligation” to be active, we will stay away, our time will go to other endeavors, and our money will go to other causes. Having been both engaged and disengaged, I can’t say that the inactive brothers have it wrong.  I’m proud to BE… and I’m happy to stay away from the mess I have encountered inside chapter walls.