Thanks to the generosity of our alumni funders, Brothers William Brandt ’13 and Jon Simmons ’13 attended the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI) at the University of Indiana earlier this summer at no cost to the students.
The NIC describes UIFI as, “UIFI is a five day institute that brings together fraternity men and sorority women from across North America to create opportunities to explore, define, and enhance their leadership skills, personal awareness, commitment to their fraternity or sorority, and grow to expect values based action from themselves and those they lead. ”
Reflecting upon their experience at UIFI, Will and Jon write,
This June my fellow DEKE brother, Jon Simmons, and I attended the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute held at Indiana University in Bloomington. For five days between the 20th and the 24th we stayed in a sorority house with fellow Greek life leaders from across the country. The Institute focused on building our leadership skills and, more importantly, on how to bring positive change to the Greek community nationwide. You see, for decades Greek life has increasingly developed a negative stereotype in the minds of those who are not involved. When I first arrived in Indiana I strongly believed that this was due to the media portraying our faults, rather than all of the good Greek life provides its members and local communities across the country. Although I still believe this to be partially to blame, the Institute helped me realize that there is far more to the problem.
Through an intense series of large general discussions, intimate group discussions, debates, and presentations, combined with team and leadership building activities, Jon and I came to realize that the problem stemmed from the Greek community itself. Greek life was originally intended to promote strong values and grow leaders for the future. Individual chapters were founded based on ideas such as scholarship, philanthropy, activism and respect. However, today, many chapters have lost sight of their founder’s original visions. All too often they have become closed-minded and centered around the social aspects of living in a fraternity or a sorority. After spending time with members of Greek life from across the nation I have come to realize that issues such as binge drinking and hazing are real problems that need to change if the community is to survive.
Although I still believe that the media has unjustly overlooked many of the benefits provided by the Greek community, such as leadership development and community service, they are not wrong to point out the mistakes that many chapters are making these days. For a while we asked ourselves, how could we possibly maintain the positive aspects of the Greek community as a whole when there are some truly misguided chapters out there?
My hope was restored during a large general session at the Institute, when everyone stood up to recite what they pledged to do upon initiation of their respective organizations. More and more it became clear how similar all of our values were, even though some of our chapters were thousands of miles apart. Spending the week with the rest of our eclectic class, it became clear that everyone in attendance was not only a leader, but is also willing to fight for their chapter and the values they swore to protect.
Though the task of changing the face of Greek life across the country is certainly daunting, I now know there are many willing to do whatever it takes to keep this tight-knit and good-intentioned community alive. I know that Jon and I are more excited than ever to get back to DKE and spread all that we’ve learned to our chapter, hopefully instilling our own excitement and optimism in others.
We look forward to helping Jon and Will take up their challenge to strengthen the fraternity and sorority community at Lafayette College. The students posted some pictures from UIFI at the undergraduate website.
Stuart Umberger, Lafayette College’s Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, encouraged us to invest in this opportunity for our students. Especially because Lafayette College uses a delayed recruitment model, it is imperative that we continue to provide these focused, intensive personal and social development opportunities for our Brothers. The College recognized and advertised this investment through the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life in this news post.