For Administrators: Our Leadership's Take
"If you're doing the job the right way, it should be the hardest one on campus" -Sigma Nu National Fraternity Conference on fraternal leadership
Leading a fraternity presents a significant challenge -- one that, if not met effectively, can easily result in the abuse and misuse of the Greek system. Animal House and hazing incidents come to mind. Ills like these have resulted from fraternity leaders not "doing their job the right way," and perhaps that's occurred precisely because doing things the right way is so hard. But why is that? Simple: social and values-based fraternities have sprawling, poorly defined mission statements: we're supposed to cultivate ethical and intelligent leaders who excel with honor, add value to the broader student life landscape, and connect our members with positive opportunities in the job market, charitable initiatives, and academia. Good luck finding the right way to tackle that behemoth. With ambitions related to everything, fraternities sometimes end up doing nothing, subjecting themselves to harsh criticism. Making things even more difficult, at an amazing institution like Columbia, there are plenty of other student initiatives that fulfill the traditional roles of Greek Life on other campuses: networking, philanthropy, and student leadership.
However, just because doing the job the right way is hard doesn't mean it can't be done -- and where better than the best university on the planet to carve out a 21st century niche for two-century-old Greek Life and start bringing down our mammoth of a mission statement? The way we see it, Greek organizations offer four unique value-adds to Columbia and her students -- ones that tie back to fraternities' broad, but noble ambitions:
(1) Functioning as a platform for broad-based student involvement on a campus where students must often select to be part of only a handful of narrow student initiatives. In other words, fraternities help their members receive the comprehensive student life experience while also partnering with other organizations in ways that bring their operations to new heights.
(2) Allowing students to tap into network of diverse interests. Despite the hype around "exploring" their passions, most Columbia students pigeon-hole themselves within their major or career interest during freshman year. Suddenly going to school with the most talented people in the world becomes pretty useless. At Sigma Nu, we gleaned a broad set of skills and experiences from my brothers that I would have never had access to otherwise -- and without sacrificing focus in our academic, professional, and extracurricular pursuits.
(3) Providing superior peer-to-peer advising services and the resources of a trusted network. Brothers' diversity in ages and interests, along with the bonds of brotherhood, mean that members have access to a rarity at Columbia: good, comprehensive advice from peers who want to see you land that job, get that 4.0, and succeed. Moreover, at a school that becomes unhealthily competitive, you'll always have players on the same team at a fraternity.
(4) Cultivate meaningful pride in Columbia and its history: As historic institutions, fraternities can help Columbia find that (highly) elusive sense of deep history and pride, helping students and the university connect to alumni and one another in unprecedented ways.
So how are we realizing these niche characteristics at Sigma Nu? For starters, check out the events that we've held over the past 2 academic years. These aren't your bread-and-butter philanthropy and social events that your grandfather's fraternity at (heaven forbid) Dartmouth or Cornell hosted; these are a broad variety of events that leverage strategic partnerships with all sorts of groups: cultural, dance, environmental, athletic, and educational organizations, along with businesses and alumni. We're helping launch start-ups, teach dance, and host NYC-wide reuse and recycle fairs -- we're allowing our members to reap the benefits of the broad Columbia experience while helping student organizations and campus life along the way. Also check out the Sigma Nu Historical Initiative, established in the summer of 2012, which is set to feature a series of Columbia-related historical items that the fraternity has gathered, in addition to a lecture series on the history of CU.
In sum, we're doing things the hard way - the right way - at Sigma Nu -- we're carving out that new niche for Greek Life and positively impacting our members, CU students, and the University that we all love. And, of course, we're having a good time, too. If you have any input, feel free to drop by the house at 556 West 113th between Broadway and Amsterdam or shoot an email to President William Ruff at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to join us, email our Recruitment Chair, Alex Jackson, email@example.com.