Wrote this feature story for Ed Rice's feature writing course:
For the past five years the brothers of Mu Sigma Chi, "MEX", have put on a Super Bowl Party in the Furman Center for all the students to attend, watch the game and enjoy some free food. People showed up and were served meatballs, hot dogs, chicken, jalapeño poppers and baked goods provided by their sister sororities Delta Sigma Delta, "Delta" and Epsilon Tau Epsilon, "ETE." There were many people in attendance, some part of Greek life, some came because they were interested in Greek life and some people showed up just to watch the game and have free food.
During the halftime show Madonna performed on the television and Second Vice President Andrew McQuinn talked about how important the fraternity is to him. It really changed his life for the better. He has a second family that he can go to at any time day or night, a support group of people who will do anything for him.
"The difference between brothers and friends is that brothers are there for you for life but friends come and go. My brothers are going to be there for my wedding and the birth of my first child; whereas friends can dissipate."
Andrew emphasizes that MEX is much more diverse than any of the other fraternities at Husson University featuring an eclectic group of guys with lots of different backgrounds and personalities.
MEX won the Community Service Award in 2011 and does many specific things for the community such as the annual 24 Hour Relay for the United Way. In 2011 they raised just under $1000 toward the United Way. They help out the Manna House by doing various volunteer work such as serving them dinner and helping them move food into different storage areas so that they would have food for their food drive.
MEX President, Bernerd Cannavan pledged in the Fall of 2009 with three other guys after his roommate had pledged a different fraternity the semester prior, he says, "We are all Greek when to comes down to it."
"We're not drunks, we're not all about paddling each other's asses."
Looking at the MEX sweatshirts there are three colors that are most apparent and consistent on every article of clothing red, black and silver. Those are not just colors, but they represent the values of the fraternity.
"Red stands for courage, black stands for honesty and silver stands for loyalty. They reflect life, because you always have to be honest, you always have to have courage and you always have to be loyal. We upholds those. Brothers have the same values and have gone through the same experiences."
This is Bernerd's final semester and he hopes that he can accomplish a lot being President of the fraternity. He hopes to bring the fraternity closer together, reinforcing the bonds of brotherhood and strengthening Pi Rho Zeta.
There are currently six groups of Greek life on campus which collectively have less than 100 active members currently. The first fraternity at Husson University is MEX and was founded in 1931 by Mr. Chesley H. Husson senior chief. MEX is part of Pi Rho Zeta, which is a Greek family which also consists of the two sister sororities ETE and Delta. ETE was the first sorority on campus, created in 1933.For the past two years ETE has earned the highest GPA award at the annual Greek Banquet. Delta was originally established in 1956, but was later reopened in 1971 under PRZ.
The three other Greek organizations are nationally affiliated. This means they have higher dues to pay and are recognized nationally. They also have stricter guidelines, but nothing that would restrict anyone from joining. They also must regularly report back to the national board and are able to attend national conventions. Kappa Delta Phi NAS (national affiliated sorority) Lambda Chapter is the sorority and there is a Kappa Delta Phi fraternity, and Alpha Phi Omega is the newest addition to Greek life on the Husson University campus.
The newest fraternity on campus is Alpha Phi Omega, APO. It was founded December 16, 1925 in PA. APO came to Husson in Spring of 2010 when former APO President Nick Godfrey went down to a school which formerly had an APO chapter to meet up with some friends that were in the APO fraternity there. He discovered he really enjoyed APO, and after having pledged a fraternity previously and quit, he decided he would start the APO Chapter at Husson with his friend Colin Bruce. They were easily approved by the administration due to the club status they had.
APO is currently the smallest Greek organization on campus with currently three active members, but Colin hopes that by promoting APO more and getting the name out there that there will be more community involvement and campus interest, they are very into community service and help boy scouts in the area. This year the group is planning a big collaboration project with the chapters in Farmington and Maine Maritime Academy to go to the local boy scout camps to help out, as well as having time with the boy scouts to be like mentors.
The Kappa Delta Phi fraternity has major chapters all over New England and even the country. There are seven or eight in Maine (some of the current brothers didn't necessarily pledge at Husson), they have chapters in Pennsylvania an are looking to expand even farther.
Many of the buildings on campus have been donated from Greek alumni, such as the Swan Center from Clara Swan, ETE alumni who is turning 100 this year, the Dyke Center, the Dickerman Dining Commons, the Bell Tower and parts of Peabody were all charitable donations by PRZ alone.
HELPING THE COMMUNITY
The Kappa Delta Phi fraternity is known for their Troop Greeting at the Bangor Airport. The brothers will shake hans with the US troops as they are either heading overseas or coming back home, a very humbling experience as expressed by Phil Finemore, Philanthropy Chairman of the fraternity.
Phil is well aware of the stereotypes that come with being part of a fraternity, but he knows that if people got to know the brothers they'd realize how far fetched those stereotypes really are. He also addresses that people may not find the fraternities and sororities on campus to be legitimate because of their lack of housing, but he encourages people to realize that back in the day Husson had Greek floors in the dorms, but with the growing population in the dorms that went away, there are still some halls dedicated to certain Greek life organizations, but anyone can live there.
"They think all we do is drink and party and date a bunch of chicks like in Animal house, and maybe the fraternities at the bigger schools are like Animal House, but I know that all the fraternities on campus, especially Kappa, are set out to help the community in Bangor."
Delta helps out the community with events such as an "Earth Day" clean up, participating in the MS Walk, Breast cancer Walk and helping out the Ronald McDonald house for children. They also donate to the Manna house in times of need.
The Kappa Delta Phi NAS helps out with the Macy's Believe Campaign for the past years. Students in the campus center write letters to Santa on behalf of children and Macy's matches the amount of letters with money that go towards helping children that are in need. They also have helped the Ronald McDonald house as well as the Bangor Humane Society's March of Dimes.
ETE also volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, does the Relay for Life, MS Walk, Out of the Darkness Suicide Walk, Autism Awareness, Susan Komen Race for the Cure and Shiner's circus.
There are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about Greek life. Those not affiliated with Greek life are called "independents" by those who are Greek. There's a web site called "God Damn Independents" where an anonymous group of Greek life members talk about all the annoying things independents do at their school, based on the content it's safe to say that the contributors are probably from California, but the actions that one Greek organization does can reflect upon the entire Greek community. There is also a site called "Pledging Sucks! - It's not hazing. It's brotherhood," which was created by a fraternity brother to explain Greek life in an anonymous way, and it jokes around a bit about Greek life. They do have an article called "God Damn Independents" where they least top reasons "why fraternity guys hate GDIs" which include the way they dress.
Stephen Grima, a NESCom student who is an independent, recalls being very turned off by Greek life after an incident in Orono:
"My friend's guitar was stolen out of his car on the UMaine campus. Shortly afterward it showed up in a frat house and a dear friend of his was able to identify it down to minute details in the finish and wear and tear. When security was brought in they took the word of the Greek member that it was indeed his and that of course he could prove it with a receipt and papers, which he was never asked to produce. "
Michael Bridges is also a NESCom independent who feels similarly:
"Personally, I think that the frats and sororities at Husson are a joke. I've been bombarded with requests to join after repeatedly expressing my lack of desire to join. I think that it might be a good option for someone who is from out of state and having trouble making friends. But I don't agree with the arrogant attitude that comes along with the membership. I've heard they do community service. I think it varies from person to person but some people use the frat to improve the social standing which is I don't agree with."
Kappa Delta Phi president Mike Falter actually thinks that some of the stereotypes that people have for Greek life are well deserved.
"On some campuses the 'misconceptions' of Greek life aren't that far off. Some fraternities have an issue with their members being sober, some sororities have issues with their members remaining sober. Drinking is a huge part of American college culture and has been for quite some time. I can only speak for Kappa Delta Phi and my brothers, but we know there is too much liability when it comes to involving certain things with our events or even the pledging process."
Mike emphasizes that one of the biggest rewards of being part of Greek life is the networking.
"It is possibly the most important thing about Greek life. Unfortunately, in today's economy and job market, it's not what you know, it's who you know. I have been able to help out and get help from my brothers with various things for the past four years."
Matthew Teague is a new brother of APO and he remembers going to his first fraternity party in Orono, because it was the only fraternity party he ever went to in Orono. He admits that what he saw was almost like the movie Animal House, without it being funny.
"It's the the saying 'you should experience everything once.' I experienced it and realized that it was entirely for me. Yes, it was fun to hang out and be part of the crowd, to see what their typical weekend night was, but at the same time it's like 'why?' There's a lot of heavy drinking, loud music, dancing, and it was also conducted in a fraternity house; it's almost like asking the police to show up - in fact, I found out that after I had left the part the police showed up within 15 to 20 minutes. The place itself smelled of a giant bar and was really worn down. Honestly, if I want to party with friends, I will do it at my own place where I can make sure I have a handle on the situation."
Dating within the family, dating outside the family every couple has their own problems, but when Greek life gets added into it, the problems can double - or it can make life easier. For some couples that have one member in Greek life and one independent the independent will feel pressured to join or feel left out of things and not understand why; in some instances independents may become close to other Greek members and choose to be part of Greek life, and for some people dating outside of Greek life isn't that difficult, every relationship is different.
Stephanie Luzaitis is a sister of ETE who is dating an independent and has no desire for him to be part of Greek life, the only time it really had a strain on their relationship was during the three week pledging process.
"It's amazing, there's no drama and people don't know what I do. When you date within the fraternity everybody knows your business, and I like that I have more privacy."
Bernerd, MEX President, suggests that the reason that dating someone else who is part of Greek life is easier is because they are more understanding of the scenery and values that come along with being part of Greek life.
Kelly Rosado is an ETE sister who has dated a MEX brother and is now dating an APO brother, and she really emphasizes the fact that PRZ is one big family.
"Dating someone in PRZ is cool because they know a lot of the same people and are familiar with all things PRZ. I've known many people who have had relationships within PRZ. Some have succeeded, some have not. I've noticed that the ones who started their relationships prior to joining seem to be the strongest, but that's not always the case."
Kelly recently had to go through some dramatic times when she and the MEX brother broke up and then she started dating someone who was outside of the family, but it has all worked itself out.
"I prefer dating someone outside of the family. Dating in is almost like mixing business with pleasure. If, God forbid, you ever break up in PRZ there's always the awkwardness of get togethers especially with pledging events. I like to keep my Greek family separate from who I'm dating, but I know people who feel completely different. I always felt like I was second banana to [my ex-boyfriend's] brothers, and that dedication is wonderful, but not what I wanted. In my current relationship I don't feel that way at all…
You have PRZ couples that are on-again-off-again, soon-to-be-married, one-night stands and never-should-have-happened. It depends on the people involved and their commitment to the relationship. Don't get me wrong, dating someone in PRZ can be wonderful, but it can also suck."
The most controversial part of Greek life would be the pledging process - the process by which those interested in being part of Greek life go through three weeks of pledging and earn their letters.
Andy McKenna, MEX Alumni and current NESCom employee, makes it very clear that MEX does not haze, but that the pledging process is secretive as well as important:
"Hazing has a very broad definition, which allows each individual to interpret a different meaning. Pledging is a necessary process in Greek Life in which all members experience. During pledging, you will not have to experience something unless the active brothers/sisters have done the same. Pledging consists of relationship developing, team-building activities that allows each member to build trust, push themselves mentally, and begin developing strong connections with all members. Nobody has had to tie their genitals to a cinderblock (Old School) or gotten tased and blindfolded (American Pie: Beta House). "
Some people have better pledging experiences than others, to say the least.
Janelle Nelson's life changed for the better when she became a sister of ETE. She never gave Greek life a second thought - during her freshman year she lived on the same floor as two girls who were pledging ETE at the time and her Resident Assistant was the president of the sorority, and by the time her sophomore year came around her friend dragged her to ETE's rush.
"I saw the closeness between them all. One of the biggest things that stuck out in my memory looking back at freshman year were the signs and posters on the dorm doors during their three weeks of pledging. Each one was decorated with different words of excitement and encouragement counting down how many days were left."
As Janelle sat at her rush in fall 2009 she sat back and listed to six sisters talk about why they choice to join the sorority and what it meant to them. She watched a slideshow of countless inside jokes, silly faces and a group of girls who genuinely loved being around each other.
"I looked at them and I knew why I wanted to be part of Greek life and more importantly, why I chose Epsilon Tau Epsilon. I wanted the bond of sisterhood that I never had during childhood and the closeness of my true best friends I relied on in high school. Somehow, I knew I would fit in. The sisters of ETE were exactly who I wanted to spend my college years with, each down to earth and unique in their own way, now that I have been a sister for almost three years, I can still stand true to that. Each sister is unique in her own way but somehow, we all fit perfectly together."
Janelle recognizes that many people have negative perspectives on the effect of Greek life. She truly believes that being a member of a Greek organization on campus helps her grow as a student, philanthropist and a person.
"My ETE sisters and PRZ family give me support unlike anything else. Whether I need a pick me up or hug on a bad day, or a boost for my cat at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning - they are there for me. The bond that I share with my sisters is something different than what I share with anyone else. "
Becoming a sister of ETE empowered her as a person more than she imagined.
"All of my experiences throughout pledging and sisterhood have given me more self-confidence than I ever had. I became a better student starting with the first week I began pledging with four mandatory study hours each weekday."
Janelle recognizes the common misconceptions about Greek life, because she used to be one of those people who did not think highly of Greek life. She believed that sorority girls were all ditzy and conceited - thinking only of themselves.
"I heard UMO horror stories of girls standing on chairs in their undergarments during pledging while having each flaw on their bodies pointed out."
After she pushed aside the negative thoughts she quickly learned that in her experience, none of the negative things she had once believed were true.
"Overall, pledging was one of my favorite memories. I learned so much about myself and my sorority and the bond that I share with my pledge buddies is indescribable. One of my favorite things is when I am with my PRZ family and our PRZ song comes on. Everybody stands side by side singing and dancing."
Sierra Blanchard's rushed a sorority and received a bid - she continued onto the pledging process and almost made it all the way through, but she quit just three days before pledging ended. She pledged with her roommate at the time, who quit, as well as another friend, Rachel Clark who later quit and pledged Kappa Delta Phi NAS. She made it the farthest, but going all the way wasn't worth damaging her personal relationships.
"I got really sick and all of my relationships were falling apart. One with my roommate, my boyfriend at the time and even my sister. My actual sister. She is more important to me than anything and when she's sad because I don't have enough time for her I'm sorry, I'm going to make time."
After her roommate and Rachel quit she was left with two other girls in her pledge class and her relationship with one of the girl's she pledged with helped solidify her decision that this wasn't the right choice for her.
"She made my life miserable. Part of pledging a fraternity or a sorority in general is teamwork. We didn't work well together. It wasn't going to work - it's time consuming which is why my other relationships started to crumble."
Her former pledge buddy, Rachel who pledged Kappa afterwards says that it is expected for pledging to be a difficult process; people need to work hard and really earn the letters that they wear.
"I had a very positive experience with Kappa. Pledging [the other sorority] was hard, but I could see a point in everything they asked us to do. I can't say what they had to us do, obviously, but I saw points in what they asked us to do. if one stops and thinks about it while going through the pleading process, they'll usually be able to come up with reason behind everything they're doing. Pledging is touch, because it's meant to be that way. Otherwise fraternities and sororities may as well just give their letters away. Some programs are just tougher than others, it depends upon the fraternity or sorority you're trying to get into."
Matt of APO and he admits that APO does not haze. but he knows that he can't say the same for Greek life outside of Husson.
"Over in Orono during pledging, expect to see a lot of hazing. It's almost as obvious as it can get. I'be heard stories, and yes, stories may not be true, but for the record from what I have seen, as well as knowing some people in those fraternities, it matches up. We respect all of our members and everyone who is looking to going our fraternity. We can get the same amount of out someone without demeaning them as a person. Why make them carry around a log when we can make sure they know our rich history?"
Kaleigh Morneau pledged Delta not only to be part of that sorority, but because she would be able to be part of the bigger family of PRZ.
"This is our family and is the largest organization on campus. By having these other organizations around, it is a large moral support group for anything that goes wrong. I know that I trust my life with any of the brothers or sisters, and know that if I ever needed anything, they would be there for me."
People may think that once college is over being in a fraternity doesn't stay relevant, but to some that couldn't be more far from the truth. The Greek alumni are very important to the active members and there are many alumni who choose to stay involved with their organization even on a day to day basis.
Steve "Belushi" Ferris pledged in the Spring of 1982 with 15 other young gentlemen, after the pledging process 12 of them made it through and became brothers of MEX. Belushi has stayed connected with the fraternity ever since as a very active alumni who has always been able to rely on his brothers.
"I can't remember a time when they weren't there for me. I remember when my wife passed away all the active brothers came down to see me with red roses and it showed my immediate family and wife's side of the family how the fraternity really cares."
James Pickle pledged over a decade ago and realizes that the misconceptions and stereotypes of Greek life have changed through the years:
"Misconceptions differ by generation, but during the 1990’s, many viewed the fraternities and sororities as heavy drinkers, recreational drug users, and general miscreants that happened to throw a good party on the weekends! This is probably is the biggest misconception of all time. I actually observed many non-greek students doing more drinking, drugs, and crimes than I did Greek members of any organization. The fact that the Greek organizations are a family, makes it much more difficult to get carried away and allow a member to self destruct their college education. MEX would self police its members, and would have a personal discussion with its member if they felt their behavior was affecting their college studies. There were mandatory study hours for all members during the weekdays, and because of these structural underpinnings, MEX had the highest GPA of any Greek organization during the 1990’s."
Being part of Greek life has really benefited him - James started his own Physical Therapy clinic eight years ago and he knew how to be a Physical Therapist thanks to his education at Husson, but he knew very little about Marketing or Business Planning. However, he had fraternity brothers with the knowledge of the aforementioned and they helped give him trusted advice about how to proceed which has made his practice quite successful.
"The bonds you form through brother hood are life-long. I regularly chat and assist other brothers who are in my area, whether I actually attended school with these people or not. I stay connected with brothers and sisters from my Greek family more than I do others I wet to Husson with. I know that if I need advice or assistance they are willing and able to assist me if I choose to request it."
One of Andy McKenna's favorite memories is, like so many of the others, earning his letters:
"Finishing pledging an putting my hands on my very first letter shirt would probably have to be my most favorite memory as an active brother. I remember my adrenaline pumping, being congratulated by brothers and having the biggest smile on my face. I was speechless and it is the very moment where all my hard work and determination paid off. It is the moment that me and my pledge buddies will take with us forever."
GREEK LIFE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
Every single person who is in Greek life will say this time and time again, and it is worth repeating: Greek life is not for everyone. Some people are content having their own group of friends and don't feel a need to join a group on campus, but there are those who may be interested and may be wondering how to get involved.
So how would one join a sorority or fraternity at Husson University? There's no such thing as "joining" a sorority or fraternity. It helps to become friends with the members of the organization of interest, and even if the person doesn't end up becoming part of Greek life, people in Greek life are still friends with independents.
Most Greek organizations will have an Info night where all are welcome to come and learn about the organization as well as do activities (ETE is having a Tie Dye night for example). Then afterwards there is a rush sometime the next week. At rush all those who are seriously interested in joining will attend the rush and find out more about the organization and hear speeches from those involved as well as alumni.
Jeff Perry is very interested in becoming part of Greek life; he was in the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army and feels as though the brotherhood in the army can be comparable to that of a fraternity.
"The Army is all about the bond of the unit and the ability to work, move, live, and act as a team, which is why Greek life to me is essential to how I operate as and individual. I feel like I'm out of my element because I'm not part of a team or current band of brothers, to contribute to and also gain from. I feel that through pursuing Greek life I will achieve this desired bond."
After attending the rush the members of the Greek organization come together and discuss each person that attended and whether or not each person will be receiving a bid. A bid is given to someone who has been chosen to pledge the Greek organization, there are also "interest bids" which go out to those who the organization would like to get to know better before deciding whether or not that person will be chosen to pledge.
Janelle explains that there are different ways of determining who is actually eligible for a bid.
"After rush the sisters decide who is eligible to receive a bid, which is a formal invitation to participate in the pledging program of that semester. Determining who is eligible is based on many factors, some of which are set by the school such as a GPA requirement."
When someone receives a bid and they choose to accept the bid they become a pledge. As a pledge they will go through a secretive pledging period where they will learn about themselves and others by doing team building activities and more. Pledges are given "bigs" which is an older member of the sorority or fraternity who is there for moral support and helping get through the pledging process. Janelle explains what she can about the actual pledging process.
"Each Greek organization's pledge program is private to the organization and unique in its own way. ETE requires each person to attend mandatory study hours each weeknight for four hours, which is one more hour than what Husson's policy requirements. Everybody takes something different from pledging and has a different experience. After completing the three week program, the final day comes. That day, when I received my letters, was one of the best experiences of my life."
After the pledging period, if the person has not quit and has done all the duties of a pledge, the person will receive his or her letters.
For Danielle McConnell, First Vice President and Co-Historian of ETE it's her favorite memory.
"Getting my letters is my favorite memory, you will never know how good it feels when you first get your letters!"
Many of the other members of Greek life would agree that the best memory is finally getting their letters.
Rachel acknowledges that after college having earned these Greek letters will benefit her in her future endeavors.
" I find that being part of Greek Life can look very good on a resume. It almost forces you to do community service which looks very good to potential employers and it makes your college/university look good as well. It also allows you to emerge as a leader. Having leadership roles within the sorority can help build those leadership skills and if you state those leadership roles you held to a potential employer, it looks even better because if you can run a sorority, you can potentially help run a business."