Sunday, February 27, 2011

Frat Life 101: Continued

There we were, a bunch of young guys fresh out of high school, trying to take advantage of what we perceived as our new found freedom, no matter how immature we really were. We were just attempting to have fun now that we didn't have to listen to anyone telling us what time to go to bed or what music we could listen to or anything as banal as that. So we went to that fraternity party at Sigma Tau Gamma and met another group of new people. Some of them turned out to also be future pledges although at that time I thought that they were already members.

It didn't take long for us to decide that we would all pledge but I for one did briefly entertain the idea that I would wait a semester so that I could concentrate on my grades. One look at my transcript and you would be able to see that I should have done that however, it was mentioned to me that I probably wouldn't want to pledge under my new found friends when they were members and basically they were right. That could have been hell. Sig Tau was different from any other fraternity on campus. There was one that was business majors, one that was for preppy rich kids and even one for redneck jocks (at least they were when they were still in high school). Then there was Sig Tau. They didn't care what kind of clothes you wore, what kind of money your family had, what your major was and they certainly didn't care what color your skin was.

The only thing that Sig Tau cared about was brotherhood. If you were out at the river at 3am and your car wouldn't start you knew that someone would come and get you. They might give you an untold amount of grief over it but they would come and get you. They wanted people who wanted to hang out together and be friends because life could suck pretty badly at times and is was better to be surrounded by like minded people who wanted to enjoy life in their own way. I'm not going to pretend that everything was always perfect and there were never any problems because there were, but the bottom line was that we took care of each other.

As pledges we were expected to learn about each others lives, your hometown, your major (if you had one which I did off and on), how many siblings you had and so forth. You also were required to learn about the members. Each pledge was assigned a member to be their big brother. This was the guy you would go to when you had problems, the one who would take care of you and make sure you were doing everything you were supposed to. At least that was the working theory.

One thing that was different about Sig Tau was that we had what no other fraternity or sorority at NSU could offer, we had a house. It was a rundown, beat up shack of a house but it was ours and we reveled in it. Parties were frequent occurrences and we did them well. The house sat on a rounded curve (instead of a regular corner) just off of the main thoroughfare and was a choice spot for us. It wasn't technically on campus but was just off of it and there was a convenience store about a block away which was, well, in a word extremely convenient. Okay that was two words. Plus the football stadium was very close and as pledges we were required to go early when there were home football games so that we could save seats for the members and any alumni who was coming to the game.

We were also required to learn about the history of the fraternity and once we did we were in for a surprise. Zeta chapter was significant in that history because we were the fifth chapter and it takes five chapters to become a national fraternity. This was great except that somewhere along the way Zeta had become the red headed, bastard, step child of the national fraternity. We were known for doing things our way no matter what nationals told us and we didn't care what the consequences were. During my second semester Zeta was chosen as the host chapter for the annual national meeting that most every chapter sent representatives to. Normally the host chapter is very involved in what goes on during the conference. Notice I said normally. A few members went out to the conference on the first day to touch base with the national leadership and to see what was going to be required of us. They came back and informed us basically that they were snubbed and our participation was not something that was being looked favorably on.

We did the only mature, well thought out thing that this slap in the face deserved. We said to hell with them and went on with business as usual ignoring the fact that the conference was even close by. Was it productive or smart to be this way? No, not even close but honestly we didn't care. That's just the way we were. We even pronounced the name of the fraternity different that any other chapter. Go figure. Despite all of this we soldiered on and wore this status (or lack of) like a badge of honor.

Towards the end of the semester a few pledges had quit and then another quit halfway through Hell Week (the final week of pledgeship) and yet another was blackballed. This is a process where the membership votes and if they don't want you in you are considered blackballed or dismissed. It's extremely rare to go into Hell Week with a pledge that gets blackballed as they are normally gotten rid of before then and the only pledges that go into the final week are the ones that you unequivocally want. There was some grumbling when this happened and some talk of demanding that this dishonored pledge be brought back or else all of us would quit but that nonsense was quickly squashed and soon the remaining pledges who had suffered through so much blood, sweat, tears and a lot of sleepless nights got our just reward. We became neophyte members.

Next time I will talk about the time honored tradition of throwing members into the river which we did as pledges and I also had done to me by later pledges.

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