Greek Orgs: Opportunities for Service and Fellowship, or Excuses to Party?

Author’s Note — The following was submitted to (but declined for publication by) The Spectrum in St. George, Utah, which is also home to Dixie State University (formerly Dixie College).  Because St. George is somewhat more temperate than the rest of Utah during the winter months, it is a magnet for people seeking to escape the harshness of Utah winters — as well as a magnet for high school and college students looking to “party,” especially during Spring Break.  The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a story about the reluctance of Dixie administrators to permit the formation of a Greek organization (see the story here, last accessed today: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56826014-78/dixie-students-state-university.html.csp) and this is my analysis of the situation.  And my answer to the question posed above is, “It depends on the Greek org in question.”

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Let DSU students start Greek org

By Ken K. Gourdin

I attended then-Dixie College for 2 ½ years and received my associate degree here.  I have fond memories of my experience both inside and outside of the classroom.

Perhaps my experience qualifies me to weigh in on whether Dixie State student Indigo Klabanoff and her associates should be allowed to start an organization identified by Greek letters.

Neither I nor most of my friends and associates were attracted by Dixie’s alleged reputation as a “party school.”  I was searching for a smaller, more intimate setting in which I might get more one-to-one attention from faculty and staff, along with a more temperate climate.

It’s said that one finds what one is seeking.  I didn’t find a “party” at Dixie because I wasn’t looking for one: it’s that simple.  I did, however, find a smaller, more intimate setting that was conducive to academic achievement and social development.  Why?  Because that’s what I was seeking.

If one wishes, for example, to find a “party” even at Brigham Young University, which has had a virtual lock on the Princeton Review’s “Stone Cold Sober” award for many years, one likely can do so.  He’ll simply have to go off campus to do it.

It’s true that many fraternities and sororities are associated less with the noble ideals of service, scholarship, and fellowship than with drunkenness and debauchery.  Whether it’s fair or not, anyone wishing to dispel that notion faces a high bar (especially in the minds of parents).

Still, Greek letters alone aren’t some kind of signal to parents and students about an organization’s aims and ideals.  This is so whether the behavior of the organization’s members matches its purported noble aims and ideals or whether that behavior matches that which prevails in the “stereotypical” fraternity or sorority.

As a Dixie student, I, too, was a member of an organization identified by Greek letters. Its identifier was Sigma Gamma Chi, which stood for “service to God and country,” and it was sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Church is well known for the fact that its members eschew alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, harmful drugs, and sex outside of marriage.  My fraternity brothers and I didn’t throw any “parties” (at least, not if a party is defined by the prevalence of those behaviors and substances).  But we did have plenty of good, clean fun.

I have not had much contact with my fraternity brothers over the years since our time at Dixie.  Still, I treasure the associations we had then, the lifelong bonds we forged, and the service we rendered together.

If Klabanoff and her fellow students want to start an organization identified by Greek letters, let them.  “Partying is as partying does.”  Time will tell the behaviors and ideals with which they wish that organization to be identified, whether it has Greek letters in its name or not.

Ken K. Gourdin lives in Tooele.

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About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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