This past year has been a big one for me and SAE. After being initiated into Michigan Delta Omega’s chapter of ΣΑΕ last fall, I have been elected to the role of Member Educator. Within this role, I am responsible for understanding curriculum set by our National Educators and organizing different workshops and meetings that ensure every active brother of the chapter is meeting these national expectations. It’s called the True Gentleman Initiative. This Initiative replaces a pledge process, a model used by many other greek organizations, and instead incorporates lifelong learning throughout each members time in the fraternity. The curriculum varies depending on age of the brother, but for the most part it can be completed as an entire chapter.
In this position I work closely with our President, Vice President, Diversity Chair, Newly initiated class of brothers, and CMU’s Interfraternity Council Educator.
A big part of this position is ensuring that newly initiated brother classes acclimate to the fraternity and learn the basics so they can build a firm understanding of our values and operations. I do this through facilitating meetings where we talk about different aspects of the fraternity, including national and local history, leadership opportunities, and campus involvements.
Greek life at CMU is incredibly valuable. The way this University encourages each chapter to collaborate and do good for the community is outstanding. Greek Week, a competition between chapters that happens each spring, is one of CMU’s most impressive and constant philanthropic events ever. Between each organization, our greek communities raised 50,000+ Dollars for “Angel Wings,” a nonprofit that raises awareness for and supports families that are battling breast cancer. Being a part of a community that wants to make positive impact is incredibly empowering, and I hope to continue being an integral part of that here at CMU. Our chapter came in second overall for Greek Week in 2015, was voted best chapter on campus in 2013 by our campus newspaper, “cmlife”, and has had one member spotlighted as “Greek of the Week” since that recognition piece began last fall (it was me!! I’m truly just a lucky guy).
But it truly isn’t all fun and games.
The biggest challenge of being a part of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been the negative attention brought on us by chapters across the nation. In less than a year of being an active brother, incidents like the Oklahoma Racist Chant and other stories became prevalent parts of my daily conversations. I had serious doubts about remaining a part of this organization, because I struggled to justify labeling myself amongst these men I never met. I struggled to justify being a part of something that, in some places, held racist beliefs. While I knew that the climate of ΣΑΕ at CMU was very different than that in Oklahoma, it pained me anyhow. How do we appropriately react as a chapter? How do I explain this to my friends and coworkers who are a part of the black community? How do I live with myself knowing that the letters SAE will only ever be a synonym for racism to hundreds of thousands of people?
After lengthy conversations with our diversity chair, who is one of my best friends, brothers, and most reliable confidants, we concluded that we have to stay and fight for change. We agreed to remain in the fraternity knowing that the best we could do is continue to encourage our brothers at CMU about how to enter an inclusive mindset. It’s been about a year since the incident, but I’m proud of what we’re accomplished so far. We’ve incorporated diversity lessons into chapter meeting, encouraged involvement and support to the NPHC Inc., and most importantly, opened the conversation of race and privilege in a way that all of our brothers can participate in. We didn’t want to just say that racism isn’t happening on our campus, we wanted to make sure it was obsolete.
So shout out to Bellal for being so encouraging and wise; your help has been so valued. And thank you to our chapter, who has responded so well to our plans. This is an ongoing effort; one that can feel tiring and hopeless at times. It starts with acknowledging the problem for what it is. It tarts by having the conversations people typically avoid. And hopefully, with continued effort, it will end.