A Greek Tragedy at the students’ expense

Breanna Brink, Staff Writer

 

Saint Martin’s University prides itself upon many things –its education, its morals, and of course, its community. Yet, not everyone knows the whole story about just how strong that community used to be. Most students when questioned about the idea of Greek Life on the SMU campus are entirely unaware it even existed, or what it is to begin with. For starters, when asked about Greek Life, people often think of a concept that follows the vein of sorority and fraternity houses that the media portrays. This is an unfortunate stereotype that has been propagated by comedy and occasional reality. However, the goal of a sorority or fraternity isn’t so much as to party, but to network, form close social bonds, and provide a campus with a student run group that can provide funds and fun to the students. Saint Martin’s used to have Greek Life, and while it was far more academic, as it lacked specified houses, and forbade drinking or partying, their goal was to develop contacts and focus on studies, all while connecting the student body in a celebration of culture and unity. What happened to the Greek Life on SMU’s campus? As one member stated, “I’m happy that our voice will finally be heard and hoping the current students will rise up and take back the heritage that was stolen from them.”

Greek Life on the SMU campus used to bring service and ministry, as well as bringing closeness to one another. April Jones and Dawn Cypriano-McAferty (both Lambda Chi Omega) were willing to discuss their experiences and the community service that the Greeks did on campus. Jones openly discussed that “I had an amazing experience with my Lambda sisters. I waited until my sophomore year to pledge because I wanted to see which sorority I felt I would be a better match with. I’m still in touch with many of my sisters and am still close friends with three of my Lambda sisters – one of which I wouldn’t have been friends with without Lambda.”

The Greek Life was not just a way to make friends, there was also a heavy community service focus within their group. McAferty states that “We were a community service based organization, so we volunteered at Bread and Roses, helping provide meals to the local homeless population. We also worked at events, such as the annual Governor’s Breakfast, SMU library fundraising campaigns, SMU new student orientation, dances and homecoming.” Not only did they help the community, but they also supported their Greek families. “There were also the non-formal functions, such as sister movie nights in the dorms, and a time when a group of us planned and hosted a wedding for one of our Lambda sisters, that bring back the happiest memories for me.” 

Those that do know of its existence mourn the loss that Saint Martin’s suffered when the administration deemed the college no longer suitable for a Greek Life program. The reason for this was left vague and the administration is left to blame in the eyes of those who used to be a close part of the Greek Life on campus. Angie Johnson, a member of Delta Gamma XI (from 1993-1998) resurrected The Belltower after years of being out of print. Johnson was able to fill in some blanks as to why the administration may have turned on the program, but inevitably it appears they used a simple, college-age mistake against a group of students for their own desires. One member said “I know what happened that ended the Greeks and know that it was a select few that made poor choices drinking and trashing a classroom in Old Main. These individuals caused damage and it happened during a time that several administrators wanted the Greeks banned.” She proceeded to discuss how several hearings were held, which ended in the disbandment of all the Greeks, however, as loyal and devout friends, they stayed together not allowing one to take the fall. She further went on to discuss “what I remember is Campus Life and Residence Life had some turnover and the old staff were more supportive of the Greeks. The new Campus Life Director especially had it out to end the Greeks, getting others on board.”

Ken Rich, a member of Alpha Sigma Chi further supported this idea, “It was wiped off on purpose. There was absolutely no valid reason for the school to disband the Greek system. School leadership waited for the perfect time. During my tenure, all Greek organizations and ASSMC were in lock-step working towards the benefit of each student on campus. A powerful voice that holds school administration accountable is not something that school leadership necessarily enjoyed.”

Some are still extraordinarily passionate about Greek Life, disheartened at the culture that was taken from the students. The fact that these students aren’t even aware of their own lost heritage is what makes the former Greek Alums the most upset. They pity the students who are unable to form lasting relationships through Greek Life. Rich was able to share more about his experience with forming lasting relationships through Greek Life. “Greek Life was the cornerstone of my time at Saint Martin’s. The friendships I formed are something I’ve cherished over the last 20 years. I’ve done a lot of things since graduating SMC – almost 20 year career as an Army officer and Ph.D professor. I have a lot of things I hang on my wall – and at the top of everything I have is my fraternity picture.” Saint Martin’s can no longer be responsible for these kinds of close relationships, because no one is even aware Greek Life had existed. It breaks my heart that current and former students at Saint Martin’s University haven’t shared in this rich history and have no idea that one of the most important things in Saint Martin’s history has been stolen from them.”

It is unfortunate that the history of the Greek Life has been calmly swept under the rug, and that no one has questioned why it can’t be resurrected. Rich discussed how “(SMU) has had Greek Life since the founding of the school. Sigma Mu Kappa and the history of SMC are intertwined. Just take a look at all of the historical pictures – you will see Sigma in almost every one of them. Delta has also been around a considerable amount of time. In 1990, AEX was formed. Lambda was formed by my wife in 1994/5 and was an awesome addition to the Greek system rounding out the Greek system family.” During his time at SMU, he recalled how ASSMC worked for the student body, not the school, and brought up how if this had happened while he was enrolled, a rally with the students would have occurred. He put out an invitation to the current ASSMC (ASSMU) president to talk:
“I would like to send a message to the current ASSMC President – rally the students and fight to  make the school accountable for this travesty. I don’t know the current way ASSMC does business, but I imagine that the school has convinced a generation of students that they are subservient to the ‘adults’ in the university. ASSMC only has one purpose – to defend and support the rights of students. All of you are elected by the students (and work directly for those students – not the administration as a school run club) – and I hope that you are strong and will fight for what is right and just. In 1994 – my first year as ASSMC president – I became aware of the retention of student activity fees that was used for the benefit of the school (interest income – and investment). We fought and won – and used student money for student activities. I urge you to rally alumni and current students and fight until our shared history is back on campus. A lot of us would be right alongside you every step of the way.”

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