This article has been edited to reflect a correction.

Fingers snapped with aggressive persistence.

“I want my cigarette. I want my cigarette.”

The freshman scrambled for it. Next, the lighter. An unsteady hand reached up to light it.

“Stop!” The attempt got smacked away. Repeatedly.

As a group of 1,586 bid-receivers, Greek life soon-to-be’s are pegged to be dedicated. It is as if some of these forms of “dedication” appear only in the fine print of the binding membership agreement. The cost to join — ranging from Theta Chi’s $300 to Alpha Phi’s $947 — is not the only price to pay for acceptance and a network of new brothers and sisters.

The other dues come in less tangible formats, namely obligatory activities and outcomes of those experiences. Booked-up schedules hit active members and pledges in the a.m. and the p.m. The constant time together has newly-initiated freshman Joe* declaring, “I have never grown closer to a group of individuals faster at any point of my life.” And like any tradition-driven involvement at Miami, participation is expected.

The historically unbreachable door of Greek events is navigated with personal freedoms trumped by pack mentality. Whether tackling public serenading fears or following color-coded dress policies, groups act as homogenous units. Whether obliging to chores like chauffeuring or approving of your big’s tenth outfit change, seniority is alive and thriving. So, get him his cigarette?

Freshman Elli McHaffie, a new member of Phi Mu, named a drawback to the otherwise overwhelmingly gratifying group experience: not being yourself.

“Guys are rushing to be in the social fraternity to make friends, lifelong connections and then they’re being treated like straight garbage. Because it’s like becoming brothers by going through hell together,” said McHaffie.

Formal traditions like Greek life spur informal traditions. The game changes when such traditions are big hits. In 2017, Miami ranked third out of 1,426 for top party schools in America and first out of 62 in Ohio, based on the college-ranking site Niche.

Institutionalized habits of our Greek organizations exist to socialize and engage members with their surroundings. Virtually any time together works to fulfill those roles as agents towards more comfort in the greater Miami community. Under the pillar of brotherhood, groups take pride in instilling honorable qualities in all of their members.

“The pledging process teaches you that you are not the superior on campus and teaches you to be more open to others,” a first-year pledge of an off-campus fraternity shared.

Though that mentality is glorified, is it upheld? Are the highest of standards demonstrated at all times?  Were the members brainwashed into the not-so-noble aspects? Other rituals reign. Returning to the idea of the high level of dedication, consider a predicament this lifestyle may pose.

What if a pledge chooses to voice unorthodox or even resistant opinions on such eminent practices like drinking? Joe had the answer. “There’s a good chance they’d drop [him].”

Or the outspoken soul could choose to drop on his or her own. A pledge is unfairly left with a black and white decision when just two options usually are not compatible with an area defined by gray and implicit standards.

The same member admitted concern. “In a way, I wish I could change the culture but unfortunately as 35 freshmen I don’t know how big of an impact we’d have on a school of 16,000 undergrads.”

Whether up for the task or not,  opportunity for a tradition alteration rests in the hands of first-years.

With this campus-wide narrative so warmly embraced, Miami socialites believe that party-heavy students feel untouchable — whether affiliated with the Greek system or not. This can be attributed to the easy access to alcohol, the Good Samaritan policy in place, the relatively disposable incomes of much of our student body and even the school’s geographic position.

Sophomore Emma Reed, a former Phi Mu member, shared a theory on what contributes.

“We’re cut off from everything, so there’s this feeling that you’re untouchable when you come here. ”

Under the impression that we are the only inhabitants of the town “leads to this false idea that Oxford is our playground,” Reed explained. Longworth added, “You don’t think anything bad is going to happen to you.”

That is not the real world. That should not even be Miami’s world. Coming to terms with our adult responsibilities is the most prominent task at hand.

Although many are conscientious of scrutinous eyes, the eyes’ power seems to have paralyzed the decision-making ability to advocate for personal choice.

The next tasks at hand should — but will turn out not be — the student body redefining popularity and celebration. Greek members: Challenge yourself to act individually rather than collectively and, when possible, to start more sentences with “I” rather than “we.” Think for yourself before thinking with the group in mind. Otherwise you are another pretty face in the masses.

*Names have been changed.

newberbm@miamioh.edu

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