Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, February 23, 2019

Straight from print: An open letter to fraternity men

Interfraternity Council President Tom Florczak urges members to live by one of Greek life’s core values: justice

Straight from print: An open letter to fraternity men

On December 5, 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the College of William and Mary as the first Greek letter fraternity. More fraternities were founded later, forming new fellowships to battle the injustice present in many secret societies. As time went on, most organizations centered around lofty ideals involved with the development of men for the betterment of society. Their roots were in Freemasonry’s desire to create positive action through enlightened fellowship and confident men. Part of enlightened fellowship is the creation and maintenance of certain values which members must uphold. One of the core values for most fraternities is justice, and it is imperative for fraternity men to live this value as individuals.

Every month, we hear about a different story of hazing, substance abuse or sexual assault involving Greek life on a college campus. While these issues are not unique to fraternities, there are too many examples from them. I hope future stories of these abuses decrease as the experts, the leaders and the achievers from fraternities step up.

Our own campus is sick, and it is time to lead dialogue and take the high ground. In the face of growing stress, we can provide a safe haven for our peers and be pillars of support for those we love. Our founders foresaw and intended for us to be leaders, whether by caring for our community through initiatives like the new Sobriety Support Group, which offers anonymous help and fellowship to those trying to resist addiction, or by taking a stand in preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors.

Our ability to help does not stop on issues commonly associated with Greek life members. We have further power through our amassed resources and social position. In response to recent issues of discrimination on campus, it is not my place to pick apart those situations or dismiss concerns. It is my responsibility to utilize the connections, skills and privilege which I wield as a leader to act in support to listen, fix and heal the AU community. Likewise, it is each fraternity member’s responsibility to engage in conversation and action on the real issues affecting real people, using the position that he has. And perhaps we don’t agree. I only ask for your participation to ally in the healing process — to come together to fix issues without malice, deceit or rancor.

My challenge is this: do not be a passive bystander in your community. Stay informed, listen compassionately and take appropriate action. People given so much should not hoard their treasures. Through sharing our talents and personal growth, we enrich our community. I hope we will stand together on issues as individuals; however, if we are ever on opposite sides, we must be ready to listen to each other. No matter your cause of interest, you must not stand idly in the face of injustice.

As fraternity members, let’s be known for our pioneering progress against our world’s problems. Let’s lead the movements, industries and efforts which relieve the world of discrimination, intolerance and other roadblocks to a happy, free and prosperous society. Let’s convince the rest of the world that fraternities’ educational value for men is on the intellectual, social, personal and moral levels.

If we live out our individual commitments, our passions and our beliefs, we can build a better world for our friends, family and loved ones. Small actions, interventions and larger social movements are places for our backgrounds, skills and talents to shine as we serve as leaders and support our peers. Today’s uncertainty is our test, and we must lead the way like our founders, creating a more just society for us all.

Tom Florczak is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the 2016 president of the Interfraternity Council.

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