In 2014, I walked onto the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an eager freshman. I knew I wanted to get involved on campus and with something meaningful, but didn't know exactly what that would look like. Coming from a rural town, Greek life was not something I thought about initially. Because of the negative stereotypes associated with it, I was planning on staying away. After I got on campus, I discovered that Greek life immediately checked lots of the boxes I was looking to fill and shortly after, found myself pledged to Sigma Chi.
While some may try to stereotype fraternities as purely social organizations, those inside and outside the Greek community should try to understand the true purpose and lasting benefits it provides. Specifically in Sigma Chi at Nebraska, that true purpose is centered around our three great aims of friendship, justice and learning. Those of us who partake in the process not only find those perceptions untrue but find the experience and affiliation to offer much more than we ever anticipated.
However, Harvard recently played into this stereotype. Harvard implemented sanctions – which took full effect with the Class of 2021 – that banned single-sex organizations. The sanctions threatened that any student who participated in a single-sex organization would be disqualified from holding any campus leadership positions or getting endorsed for outside scholarships.
Harvard taking away an individual's choice to join a fraternity sets a dangerous precedent and takes away student's ability to participate in something with national and lasting benefits.
My time in Sigma Chi has brought me so many benefits, but the most important of these must be the life lessons. Being in a fraternity has taught me how to work with a team toward a common goal, challenge my brothers to be the best version of themselves, and how to be the best version of myself I can be with their help. Although these lessons started within my own chapter, they were amplified through my involvement on the international level. Serving as one of Sigma Chi's two undergraduate representatives to the executive committee has showed me what it means to be a fraternity man on a macro level. Constantly, we're looking at ways to not only improve our members and communities, but how to do so in a safe and inviting manner. Without fraternities, none of this would be possible. My fear at Harvard and other colleges/universities is that by setting this precedent, many bright, young leaders won't have the opportunity to have these life lessons and be prepared to serve their communities.
Recently, a collection of sororities, fraternities, final clubs and a few unnamed college students filed two separate lawsuits challenging the sanctions. They allege that Harvard's policy violates a number of laws and policies, including federal anti-sex discrimination laws, Title IX and the United States Constitution.
Fraternities give us the opportunity to be a part of a lifelong commitment to develop leadership skills, grow intellectually, give back to the community and cultivate lifelong friendships and networks. By joining a fraternity, a person is committing be held to the standards of their Greek organization and uphold those standards for life.
Sigma Chi has touched my life at the deepest level. Many brothers and mentors within the Sigma Chi world are responsible for the man I am today, and I owe them greatly for that. Although I will never be able to repay the debt I owe to them, my hope is that through serving as a mentor to undergraduate brothers while an alumnus, I can at least have an impact on future fraternity members. Whether it be by serving as faculty for our leadership training conference, assisting my local chapter as a chapter advisor, or simply making myself available to the organization at large, my commitment to Sigma Chi is of life-long duration. The same can be said about every one of our brothers.
Harvard's actions take away an otherwise positive opportunity for men and women to find an organization that they can thrive in.
Calen Griffin is a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity, serving as the undergraduate representative on Sigma Chi's Board of Directors and has served his chapter as its Scholarship chairman, Treasurer, Vice President, President and campus involvement chairman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.