Greek life has many benefits to offer it’s members, but there are also unique challenges involved in such an organization. In my Greek experience, many of those who opted out of their membership stated that they didn’t feel “part of the group” or that “they didn’t feel welcomed.” I recently got to thinking about these reasons and wondered- whose responsibility is it to develop the relationship, the new members or the actives? The answer is, both.
There is always so much talk about how tight the Greek bond is. I believe that this can lead to a misconception that when you join a sorority or fraternity, you don’t have to put forth some sort of effort once you’re in (or for the actives, once the new members are initiated) that it just happens. This could not be further from the truth. The relationship is a difficult thing to explain so perhaps an analogy would be best. Say your parents buy you a new car- it’s exciting and gives you the ability to go anywhere you want! In this case, your GLO would be your parents- the variable that makes things possible. The actives are the car. They are there to be the means and the tools. New members are the fuel, the last piece of the puzzle, and the component that sets everything into motion. GLOs provide an underlying bond that is unique to any other. However, just as cars and fuel work together to function, so must actives and new members. Without the car or without the fuel – your relationship will not go anywhere.
What does this mean for actives?
Actives- you know the ropes and you are settled in and comfortable with your brothers/sisters. Make sure that new members feel comfortable approaching you and let them know that you WANT them to be there and you WANT to get to know them. Keep in mind that non-verbal cues are incredibly important. Even though you might not be trying to exhibit an intimidating façade, your gestures may be doing just that. For example, I am a big arm crosser and not a big smiler* (Bear with me as I make up my own words!). It’s not that I am trying to act stand-offish, I just cross my arms because I find them awkward and don’t know what else to do with them and I don’t smile all the time because I am usually concentrating on what is coming next! However, I completely understand how this could convey to a nervous new member that I am not interested in them. Try to observe yourself and see what habits you have- then decide if/ how you need to alter them to be more approachable. *Tip: If you can’t think of any habits you have, ask your friends or parents- we all have habits and they can tell you what yours are!
What does this mean for new members?
The rush/ new member experience can be overwhelming at times. Information and activities are flying towards you at super-speed and it can make you a little uneasy. Remember that all of the actives have been through the same experience and can totally relate. Use them as resources if you start to get flustered. Ask questions and familiarize yourself with all of the members. Also, try to find connections with them. Find similarities in your families and friends, find activities that you both like to do or that you have always wanted to try! Trying new things together is always a great way to bond. Keep in mind that they could be nervous too. Not everyone is good with new people and they may be a little shy themselves. You will get out what you put in, so put yourself out there a little more than you normally would. *Tip: Ask them about themselves. Recruitment tends to focus heavily on the new member but get to know the actives as well.
It all boils down to meeting each other half-way. Neither the new member nor the active should have to do all of the work. If meeting new people comes easily to you, seek out those who think may be struggling a bit. For those of you who don’t find it easy to put yourself out there, challenge yourself and take this opportunity to grow as a person. Allowing myself to be more outgoing is a skill I have NEVER regretted learning! Have fun!