Words of Wisdom in Sigma Pi’s First Issue of The Emerald

Several weeks ago my fraternity (Sigma Pi) made the entire history of our national magazine (The Emerald) available online. For those who enjoy reading about the history of our organization and learning more about the true foundations of the fraternal movement, this online database is a treasure trove of great reading. As soon as the database was made available I looked up those issues of the magazine which were published after my chapter was initially chartered in 1969 and then rechartered again in 1991. I made electronic copies of the relevant pages related to those charterings and shared them them with my chapter brothers.

As I read through some of the old issues of the magazine I noticed a distinct tone in many of the articles. The tone that many of these articles are written in is much different than what we encounter in today’s writings and discussions in the Greek world. The tone of these articles is stronger than what we read and hear today. It is not an inherently weakened tone nor an apologetic tone. The early writers in our fraternity were strong in their convictions and proud of their membership in Sigma Pi. I imagine that the men who wrote these articles would give a passing chuckle at the heavily biased, anti-fraternity, anti-male drivel that many extreme sources are publishing these days. They’d read an article that talks about the “dark power” of fraternities and pity the writer – not attempt to glean some greater bit of wisdom from this obviously biased perspective.

My long-time readers know that I remained engaged in my fraternity beyond graduation by serving as a local, regional, and national volunteer. And during the 11 years that I’ve spent as a volunteer, I’ve seen and heard a whole bunch. When I began as a volunteer, I joined a national association presumably focused on providing assistance and guidance to fraternity advisors. My membership in that organization lasted about two years. I left that group when I realized that it was not an organization focused on building and strengthening Greek life at the chapter-level, which is the area that interested me the most given my volunteer position at the time. Rather, this was an organization focused on providing university employees working with fraternities and sororities different methods of controlling their students, limiting their university’s liability in worst case scenarios, and implementing more “campus progressive” policies on Greek organizations (i.e. policies that clandestinely break down traditional gender roles by forcing fierce repercussions on men who act masculine as well as women who act feminine).

In short, the strong, masculine perspective that is evident in the writing of my fraternity’s early leaders is absent today. In fact, it’s not just gone – it’s blasphemous on today’s hyper-sensitive college campuses.

I’ve written a commentary about how and why the “campus progressive” mentality was formed and is now spreading in Greek Life. And I plan on publishing that commentary in the near future after I’ve revised it some more. But I thought it would be useful to show you one of the early writings from my fraternity’s magazine to serve as baseline for that future commentary. To that end, I downloaded the first issue of The Emerald and I couldn’t stop reading it. After the opening editorial, I was hooked by the first opinion piece which followed. This piece was titled Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution and was written by Brother Ralph Stanley Bauer of our Phi Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For those of you who are highly engaged in fraternity and sorority life, I think you’ll enjoy reading Brother Bauer’s thoughts which were first published 102 years ago. It is amazing that over a century later, many of the same criticisms stand against our organizations. The difference between today and back then is that the “muck-rackers,” as Brother Bauer calls them, are now empowered and working on college campuses! These muck-rackers are quick to throw away over a century of history in an effort to reprimand college students for a perceived deviation from their strict, mucky definition of Greek values.

Again, I’ve written more on this which I’ll publish here soon. In the meantime, though, I’ll end my thoughts here and yield this space to Brother Bauer. I hope you’ll find his commentary as satisfying as I did when I first read it.

Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution

WHEN a modern and practical man of affairs desires to know whether it is best for his son, a freshman in a university, to become a member of a fraternity, he is likely to ask two questions. One is: What is the demeanor of “frat men” during their careers as undergraduates? The other question that he will ask is: “What do “frat men” amount to after they leave college?” Of these two, the latter question is of the more practical consequence. Fraternities mould men. As they do this work well or poorly, they are successful or unsuccessful. The efficiency of a factory is never determined by the appearance of its product in its unfinished state and when it is only half way through the factory; only the finished product of the factory indicates whether the establishment is serviceable. Moreover, it is not usual to judge the usefulness of a factory by the poor quality of a very small portion of its products, but it is customary to study rather the average quality of the entire output.

Yet there are certain “muck-rakers” who are criticising college fraternities in a manner in which they would not think of criticising other organizations. They forget that the test of the efficiency and usefulness of a college organization is not to be found in the conduct, appearance and demeanor of the student members of the organization. They fail to remember that the test is to be found in the finished product and not in the half-finished material. They say that fraternity men are more attracted by outside amusements than by their studies; that they do not have time to do their class work because of fraternity activities, and that fraternity men are, as a class, sporty. Suppose that, for purposes of argument, we grant all these allegations to be true; does it indicate anything if they are true? Do not these same boisterous, rollicking, fun-loving students become real, live, industrious, useful citizens. In the modern university there is no place for a man who is slow; other students may sympathize with such a man, but they have very little patience with him. Real strenuosity is a part of college life, and it is also a part of business and professional life. What appears to some old fossils to be a sporty and wicked atmosphere is just the kind of an atmosphere that said fossils need to live in for a short time, in order that the stale and sour gases of musty antiquity may be met by a suitable antidote.

These old-time traducers of college fraternities go still further and say that the lives of some college men have been wrecked because of associations formed by them in fraternities during their careers as college students. But suppose even that we grant that this is a fact; have not some persons ruined their lives by forming evil associations while attending Sunday School? Yet, who would dare to argue that, for this reason, the Sunday School should not be accorded a place among our useful institutions?

Educators are agreed that a child is not a small adult and therefore should not be expected to act as an adult would. Neither should the same conduct be expected of young men of ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-six as one would expect of men of forty. Young men of student age need more of recreation, amusement and diversion than do older men. Many of the best forms of wholesome enjoyment are supplied to the student by the fraternity. All this aids in the development of the individual and makes him better fitted to “mix” with other men and take a real place in the world after he leaves college.

We trust that no one will take what has been said concerning recreation and amusement to indicate that the writer has any inclination to believe in the absurd and vicious doctrine that a college man must “sow his wild oats.” No more pernicious proposition was ever put before young men. It is difficult to understand how so base a view of life should ever have gained a footing anywhere in a civilized and Christian country.

If the writer had the space necessary, he would be glad to go into a somewhat full discussion of the reasons why a fraternity man, upon graduation, other things being equal, has received a better training than has a “barb.” Many reasons might be given to show why so large a number of our most successful business and professional men have sprung from the ranks of the college fraternities. Surely, organizations that have produced nearly all of the recent presidents of the United States cannot be wholly bad.

Results count. Vague theories and gloomy foreboding about the “cussedness” of the whole situation cannot impress a man who thinks. Let the great college fraternities of America stand upon their brilliant record of past achievement, and let us hope that the future will equal or, if possible, surpass it in glorious results.

We need more people with this mindset working on our campuses! This is the perspective that our young men and women need to understand. The angry muck-rackers should be shunned from our movement, not employed and empowered by our campuses!

For Those Of You Who Enjoy Playing Around In The Outdoors

One of my friends loves going camping. She and her husband are constantly going away on vacation to exotic places and spending their time away from the office sitting in snowy mountains, tropical jungles, amid the ruins of ancient civilizations, or just hiking the trails along some of our own country’s magnificent natural environments. When you stop to think about it for a moment, America really does have a beautiful landscape which is comprised of a variety of diverse landscapes. We have majestic mountains, grassy plains, scorching deserts, beautiful forests – heck, we even have a volcano over in Washington state!

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed seeing pictures of these places instead of getting out there and experiencing them. And I think the reason for that is because I generally have never had the proper equipment to actually get out there and enjoy the experience. When I see my friend come back from her trips she has bags of hiking equipment and different gear that she uses to make her time in the wilderness not just enjoyable, but safe and productive, too. Even her camera is a top of the line item!

And while anyone can just go to a random store to buy outdoors equipment the truth is that you really need to get high quality gear in order to make your excursion worthwhile. The savvy shopper will find a high quality store like The Clymb and see what they have on sale in their camping tents department. The next step would then be to find the items that work best for the experience that you’re attempting to create. For a guy like me, I’d be focused on my feet. I find that if my feet are getting battered and bruised out there, then I just can’t enjoy myself. I’m sure that many of you are the same way.

I wouldn’t be opposed to even getting a higher performance pair of shoes to spend some time out in the wilderness. So I’m sure it’s no surprise that my first purchase will be from The Clymb’s trail running shoe section! It’s really all about quality for me – particularly when purchasing equipment that is going to have to stand up to the elements.

Since I’m not teaching during the coming semester and since I will have a little bit more free time, I fully expect that I’ll schedule more time to enjoy the wilderness. And with some high quality gear backing me up, I’m sure that my experiences will be just as exciting as my friend and her husband’s experiences!

A Few Words on Treating Drug Addiction and Alcoholism in New Jersey

One of my best friends in the world is a drug addict. Without going into personal details about this person, they came from a home where the parents were divorced. The mother had (and has) a drug addiction and the father likes to drink. The stepmother didn’t have either of those issues, but in the end wound up turning on this person. Through drug addiction, this person wound up turning their back on almost everyone that they knew so that, today, this person sits along in a jail cell without a strong life to return to once the sentence is up.

Why is this person one of my best friends? Well, I don’t really know. Sometimes you just see through all of the addiction and all of the drama that surrounds it and find that you like a person for the human being that they are, right? I guess that’s the root of my friendship with this person – after it’s all said and done, I just like them because they’re a good person at heart.

Stories like this one abound in suburban America. And as a guy who grew up in suburban America, I always wished that there was some type of avenue or route for so many of my friends to have their addictions managed and cared for when they became major problems. And that’s where a group that I recently learned about comes into play: Advanced Health and Education in Eatontown, New Jersey with a specific focus on providing heroin addiction treatment and alcohol rehab, among treatment for other services.

Having a group like Advanced Health and Education in New Jersey is a great option for those of us who know people that really need this type of service. Heroin addiction is running rampant in suburban New Jersey, but particularly in the Jersey Shore area (where I currently live).

Just as Governor Chris Christie mentioned the other day – we need to find ways to help those people in our lives who are addicted to drugs – not continue to lock them up without providing any treatment. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of my friend had they been offered the type of treatment that someone can find at a drug rehab center like Advanced Health and Education. At the very least, that person may not be sitting in a jail cell right now without being provided any treatment for the very real addiction that they suffer from on a daily basis.

If you’re suffering from addiction or if you know someone suffering from addiction or who needs treatment for alcoholism, then consider giving a place like Advanced Health and Education a try. Lord knows it beats the alternative that my friend is suffering through right now.

People Should Not Fabricate Reality To Create A Personal Pity Party

There are few things that I find more irritating than people who just blatantly lie about reality. I’m not necessarily talking about people who need to be medicated because they’re delusional, but rather those people who inflate otherwise ordinary circumstances in an attempt to garner pity for their perceived plight. I had a firsthand view of such inflation a few months ago when I was in line at the local Chipotle.

This woman was in line ahead of me at Chipotle.

This woman was in line ahead of me at Chipotle.

There was a woman standing in line in front of me who appeared to be a little bit hot and bothered by the whole ordering process. She didn’t understand how to order or what to order or how the process works at Chipotle. And that’s fine with me – I just figured that she was new at the whole thing and that this was probably her first time in the store. Everyone has a first time at a new place, right?

Well, this woman proceeded to order a burrito with nearly everything on it. And even though she was a big woman, I have no intent to get on her case about her weight in this post. As you might imagine, while the girl who was making the burrito was stuffing it full of just about everything, the wrapping burst open. The girl behind the counter looked up at the woman and asked if she’d like a newly folded wrapper or just a second burrito wrapper folded over the first one. The woman became somewhat distraught and said to just wrap the burrito in a second wrap.

The young girl behind the counter says okay in a cheery voice and begins wrapping the first, broken burrito in a second wrap. Then, randomly, the woman in line ahead of my screeches out, “You know what? Forget it! I hear what you’re saying! I can hear you talking about me – I’m standing RIGHT HERE! Forget it!” And she stormed out.

As the next guy in line, I was standing about a foot away from this woman and I was shocked. The people behind the counter were shocked. The people standing behind me were shocked. Not only did the young girl behind the counter not say a word about the second wrap, but nobody said a thing about the entire process as it unfolded.

Maybe the pressure of holding up a 25 person line so she could select every single topping and have it shoved into a burrito finally got to the woman who was standing in front of me. Perhaps she heard voices in her head mocking her for getting a quadruple-sized burrito when a regular-sized Chipotle burrito is more than adequate. Who knows what set this woman off, but set off she was and she made a scene as she exited the store.

The story goes on…

I finished getting my order and walked out to my car. As I’m walking towards my car I hear a hysterical person crying and screeching at someone. It turns out that the crazy woman was parked about a car length away from me and bawling her eyes out on the phone with what must have been her husband or boyfriend. Seeing an opportunity to eavesdrop and thus create content for this blog (and here we are!), I rolled down my window and sat in my car as I made it appear like I was looking for something on my phone.

What I heard was amazing. The crazy woman was angry and said some “snotty” little girl was talking about her after the burrito wrap split. She told the guy on the other end of the line that she “didn’t need this today” and that she was “having a really bad day.” Now I’ll write this upfront – I don’t know whether or not she was having a bad day. What I do know, though, is that the girl behind the counter was as pleasant and charming as any customer could ever ask for from Chiptole.

While I sat there and listened to her recount the lie about what actually happened, I started to get sick to my stomach for two reasons. The first reason was because I could never imagine being the guy on the other end of that phone. I have issues with contemporary ideas around marriage as it is, but imagine if you were the guy on the other end of the phone with a hysterical woman who was lying to you? Would you even know that she was lying? Would you be sitting at home or at the office and thinking, “Ugh… here she goes again. Fabricating another false reality. Tonight is going to suck when I get home.”

Who wants that hassle? Who wants to be with someone who needs so much attention that they lie about what is real and what is fake?

If you’re the guy on the other end of that phone, I have to imagine that you’re banging your head into the wall.

The second reason that I became sick to my stomach was because society has allowed a person like this to think that her bellyaching, bitching, and lying are acceptable behaviors. They’re not. They’re never going to be acceptable behaviors. You don’t cry and whine and fabricate reality when things don’t go your way.

And you especially don’t act like a spoiled child when your burrito wrap bursts.

My suspicion is that the crazy woman saw how nice and pleasant the girl behind the counter was and had a momentary mental break. That break pitted her unappealing attitude, bad hygiene, poor physical state, and increasing age against the otherwise very charming young girl working at the Chipotle. The utter clash in realities between what that young girl experiences in a day and the misery that the crazy woman encounters in a day was, I think, too much. I think that clash elevated the crazy woman’s level of self-loathing to a breaking point and her reaction was to storm out of the store and seek consolation from whoever was on the other end of that phone.

The moral of the story (if there is one) is that we need to make sure that we ground ourselves in reality. This woman made up an accusation to fit the story that her mind needed to create to get away from hating itself. Get over your misery, people. In the end, no one cares about your fabrications and falsifications besides yourself. Stop it! Take charge of your life and change those things that you hate about yourself! Nobody is going to do it for you – so get up and start doing it. Right now!

And for the love of all that is good, don’t go crazy inside the Chipotle store. People stand in that line way too long as it is without your mental break adding to their wait!

Moving From a Dorm-Like Lifestyle to a “Grown-Up” Lifestyle

Even though I may be closer in age to 35 than 30 years old, I don’t feel like a grizzly old man yet. In fact, most of the folks that I know who are in their late 50s, 60s, and 70s, still suggest that to me that people my age (I’m 33, by the way) are still “babies” or just “young kids” getting started in life. And I tend to agree with their assessment, but not because it helps me feel young! No, I tend to agree with their assessment because when I look at the maturity levels and “grown-up” like abilities that some of my contemporaries possess, there’s no way you would ever want to consider these people adults!

A typical dorm room picture that I pulled off of the interwebs

A typical dorm room picture that I pulled off of the interwebs

I bring up this discrepancy in age versus real-life experiences because of my recent purchase of a new home. I have yet to write about the purchase, though I’m working on a blog entry that describes much of my reasoning for buying a home. More on that to come. In the meantime, though, I didn’t want to miss out on sharing some of the great experiences that I’ve had getting used to my new place. Take this post, for example. I’ve noticed that since I now own and live in a three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhouse (complete with a living room, dining area, kitchen, another eat-in dining area, and garage), that I’ve been living a very dormitory lifestyle up until this move. In other words, my prior apartments – and pretty much my living arrangements since I moved from home to go to college back in Fall 1999 – have been either directly in dormitories or closely resembling dormitories.

And that got me to thinking whether or not that was actually a true statement/thought and – for better or worse – it really is true. Just thinking about the last place I lived before I bought this place, I lived much of my life in my bedroom. This was easy to accomplish because my bedroom had a large walk-in closet where I could put all of my stuff and a master bathroom where I could use the facilities if necessary. I never spent any time in the living room because it was filthy (the rug was a disaster and the landlord refused to change it, plus the furniture wasn’t mine or my roommates’ so we didn’t have any connection to anything in there) and I never spent any time in the kitchen because it was an extremely dated room with a dated feel to it. The interior of the place I just moved out of was pale and drab – my roommates and I didn’t really paint the place because we didn’t own the house. The carpets were old and cruddy throughout the house, but I was able to salvage some semblance of normalcy by restricting my “living space” to my bedroom alone. I had a small office area set up in one part of the room, all of my clothes crammed into the closet, and a small entertainment center area next to the office area.

It worked.

I didn’t realize until I moved into my new home and started to make the new place my own that I had been restricting myself to living in a dorm-like lifestyle by staying in the old townhouse as long as I stayed there. Just to help provide some substance to the time I spent as a renter in the old townhouse – I moved in there in July 2008 and I moved out in May 2014. That’s nearly 6 years living as a de facto prisoner in my own bedroom!

Now that I’m in my new place, I’ve painted every room in the house except a half-bathroom on the first floor. I’ve started to fill my garage with my belongings with plans to retrieve more of my belongings from my Mother’s house and bring them down here so I have them in my possession. I’ve started growing vegetables and herbs in the area outside of the sliding glass doors in my eat-in kitchen. I’ve purchased brand new furniture and furnished my living room with a brand new coffee table, two new matching end tables, two new lamps, a brand new sofa, and a brand new loveseat. I’ve outfitted my dining room with a brand new dining room table with six chairs (and plans to buy two more dining room chairs). I purchased a brand new bedroom set complete with two end tables and a dresser for my bedroom. In my master bathroom, I’ve laid down new carpet runners along the jacuzzi and outside of the double sink and I also installed a brand new shaving station mirror as well as a deep medicine cabinet. I also installed my television above the gas fireplace in my living room, which sits in front of the new area rug that I bought from IKEA along with a very large piece of art for the wall from the same store.

The point here is that I’m living in the entire house versus living in one room of a house. At the end of the accounting, it is more expensive to buy and live in a house by yourself versus living with roommates in a shared house or townhouse. However, the ability to customize the space you live in to turn a house into a home is priceless.