Sig Stories Series - Growth & Maturation
Friday, March 2, 2018
My time at Sigma Phi has been one marked by incredible growth and maturation. When rushing fraternities my freshman year, I was looking for something to replace my athletic teams in high school. I wanted to find an organization on campus the best mimicked the comradeship and brotherhood I felt on the football field or in the wrestling room. Throughout high school my teammates were my brothers. We relied on one another, we pushed one another, we socialized together. I loved my wrestling team, mainly because even in Middleton, Wisconsin, I could find diversity in thought, experience, and perspective. Wrestling was my teams common denominator. It was something that without opening your mouths, you knew you had shared strife because of the sport. Wrestling brought us together, but it was what we did not have in common that fostered growth.
My wrestling coach, oddly enough, was a 5’4” parole officer, looked mean as a snake, but was willing to give anyone a first, second, third... twentieth chance. My junior and senior year, coach and I focused on recruiting athletes that have never played any sports mainly because they had transportation issues or financial strain that made varsity athletics low on the list of priorities. My coach recognized the inherent benefit of exposing any student to an environment that is strictly disciplined and regimented. Having people on my wrestling team with different ethnic backgrounds, races, first languages, and religions, encouraged the entire team to challenge the way we conventionally thought about lower income students at our school. There was so much we had in common but that was only the foundation for growth. If you live in an echo chamber where you surround yourself with people that have the same perspective and thought process, you’ll never have your beliefs challenged, and you’ll never truly be able to see yourself in someone else’s shoes. Embracing differences and diversity is something that wrestling began to expose me to, but I finally understood the true benefits of having my ideas challenged when I joined Sigma Phi.
An inherent flaw in the fraternal system is the reliance on superficial similarities to guide your choice in fraternity. Some houses rush exclusively in Wisconsin. Some take it a step farther and rush exclusively affluent suburban teens from the Chicago, Long Island, and Orange County. In these large fraternities, differences are seen as divisions within the active chapters. They serve as secondary cliques where groups from similar regions maintain a form of hegemony. Because larger models of fraternities encompass a broader range of rushes, similarities are first and foremost. A deciding factor in rush is knowing if people share your major, hometown, or some other interest. The apparent goal is to rush the fraternity with the members most similar to you. Sigma Phi has no room for cliques, as a twenty member chapter, we expect the entire active body to socialize and interact regardless of interest or major. Our goal is to rush only the finest gentlemen. Students that add to our society. What we have in common is a great foundation, but it’s just a starting point for something much bigger. What I’ve found most important during my time as an active is understanding that what I do not have in common with my brothers is incredibly valuable. Being a part of this fraternal society means placing friendship, love and truth before anything else. This brings meaning to calling members brothers. We are in the same society because of shared interests, yes that is true, but the value in being in sigma phi is being challenged by those that do not share the same perspective. In this society, I know that I can speak my mind, share my honest perspectives, and expect for someone to disagree with me and challenge my thought process. The inherent value of always having a critical voice questioning a decision, makes an active in sigma phi a stronger leader and critical thinker.
In our close knit fraternity, unlike the popular models today, we celebrate diversity in thought, opinion, and perspective. It is what we do not have in common that keeps us bound together. In our society, every active is expected to contribute to the organization, but also contribute to the actives within the chapter. Learning in sigma phi that differences in opinions and perspectives should be welcomed and encouraged. Being exposed to a critical perspective has helped me develop rational discourse and problem solving. These skills will be invaluable to me as I continue my pursuit for a law degree. I thank sigma phi for being diverse and celebrating, on a formal level, what brings us together as well as what makes each active unique.
Sean Benedict F'16
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