I was reminded today, while reading an article by CampusTalkBlog “Is It Really Like AnimalHouse’? What to Do When Your Kid Joins the Greek Life” about some recent conversations I had during the University’s Family Weekend. I was fortunate to get to talk with parents about a variety of things, including Greek Life at Southeast Missouri State University. I always enjoy talking about Greek Life, even though some of the issues are not pleasant. As I reflect on these conversations, I am struck by the two types of parents I most often speak with.
First are parents who are Greek; they often assume the Greek Life of 2013 is similar to their Greek experiences, which in many cases are three decades old. For these parents, I am always thankful to get to share the changes that have taken place in Greek Life over the past three decades, including significantly higher grades, stronger integration of philanthropies, and stronger policies in place related to risk management.
The second group of parents I speak with are those who have either no previous Greek background or one limited to just what they see in popular culture. Often these parents have a mix of concern for their student and a desire to let their student make their own decision. Conversations with these parents regularly involve trying to explain the basics behind why someone would join Greek (see my previous posting for my thoughts on this) and how safe their student will be.
For both sets of parents I would offer these thoughts about Greek Life at Southeast:
- Please ask your student questions! Someone joining a fraternity or sorority is joining something more than a club. Ask them why they want to join a specific group, what is it about that group that makes them a better fit than others, what the people in the fraternity or sorority are like, and lastly, ask them if they know what financial commitment is expected of them.
- Any chapter your son or daughter joins should have details for parents on their website, either local or national, and they should be hosting events throughout the year designed for parents to participate in.
- Encourage (DEMAND) that if they are experiencing hazing or some other kind of abuse they report it. All our new Greek students are educated through programs and other events on hazing, including the multiple ways to report this.
- Find out who the fraternity or sorority advisers are—your son or daughter should be able to share this tidbit without even thinking about it. Each chapter selects advisers that are in most cases not University employees. In many cases, they are alumni of the chapter and play a critical role in the operation of the fraternity or sorority.
- Greek Life at Southeast is not “Animal House.” Your son or daughter is joining an organization that has expectations of them in terms of grades, community service, financial, attendance, and a variety of other commitments. These expectations are important, but not more important than their education. There is no Greek Life “major” and, on occasion, some students need to be reminded that you are a student first and a member of the Greek Life community second.