Amidst a multicolored sea of dreadlocks, plaid, and Nalgenes swinging from carabineers, who would have guessed that Greek life flows within the fabric of our CC campus? These students are far from the boat shoe and polo shirt-wearing frat bros of American Pie or even other college communities. Ryan Looney, President of Kappa Sigma, wants this much to be clear:
“While I believe I am a stereotypical member of a fraternity here at CC, I don’t believe I fit the stereotypical frat boy image portrayed often in the media.”
The public perception of Greek life on college campuses across the nation has been stained through publications such as Rolling Stone magazine, which revealed the atrocious fraternity hazing rituals at big schools, including Dartmouth University. However, at CC, brothers and sisters are pledged through a process of acceptance that focuses not only on enriching a pre-existing community on campus, but also on developing relationships with the local community of Colorado Springs.
How does Greek life mesh with the rest of the Colorado College community? “The student body as a whole tends to have very hit or miss perceptions of CC fraternities… Kappa Sigma is really a group of friends who can bond over this group and try to embody the four pillars our fraternity was founded on: Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship, and Service,” Looney stated.
This kind of friendship, based on values similar to CC’s Honor Code, provides members with a nurturing resource of identity and purpose in the often-overwhelming journey of the college experience. In fact, contrary to the stereotype of the airheaded, party-animal, frat bro, Looney reveals that fraternities are actually beneficial to the community.
“Fraternities as a whole usually have a higher average GPA than the average male students, most fraternities require service work from all members each semesters, and they instill in younger members a sense of responsibility when they are pledges.” [RG1]
If Looney is correct, then fraternities foster a sense of responsibility in a community that extends toward a responsibility of self.
The aspect of community service as a part of CC’s Greek life is an important and impressive value to consider. Upon asking whether Kappa Sigma has provided him with a connection to the Colorado Springs community that other students may not have access to, Looney described an important fraternity member who has been a local brother for 20 years. Todd Martz, a 41-year-old Wooglins employee with Down’s syndrome, has outlived his life expectancy by 21 years, perhaps due to the compassion and brotherhood offered by Kappa Sigma members from 12-5 p.m., four days a week since 1994.
The fraternity is also organizing to write letters to troops this week, and they organize the annual chili cook off at Jack Quinn’s, donating proceeds to a charity of their choice.
Although I haven’t been able to get other fraternities and sororities on campus to comment, Kappa Sigma is not the only community on campus to use Greek life as a venue for enlightened mutual relationships between students and the communities that they both share and serve.
I have personally witnessed the Fiji brothers shoveling snow for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo alongside my BreakOut service crew, a productive part of their pledge process. Although the presidents of sororities Kappa Kappa Gamma and Panhellenic[RG2] society could not comment due to PR restrictions as a chapter in a broader society, Eliza Milliken, the CEO of the Beta Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, was able to contribute to the discussion.
“So many people do not know that much about [Greek life at CC], and it’s always good to get the word out,” she stated.
Should more CC students start lining up for rush week? Well, many current brothers and sisters were originally skeptical just like other students might be. However, Ryan Looney believes that more people should give Greek life at CC a chance.
“I would urge everyone who has an opinion of Greek life who has never actually seen it first hand to open their mind and give it a shot. 100 percent of our members today did not plan on joining a fraternity when they came to CC, yet every brother of Kappa Sigma would recommend it to others.”
Looking around your CC classroom, it could be impossible to differentiate Greeks from regular CC students. Apparently, on this campus, belonging to a fraternity does not have to define you. If you want to be part of an insular friend group, serve the community, and explore Colorado Springs in a special context, it may be worth looking into.