Fraternities and sororities at Jacksonville State University collectively volunteered 25,983 hours in the community and raised $191,144 for charitable organizations in 2019, an 86% increase in both categories compared to 2018.
With National Hazing Prevention Week behind us, celebrated at JSU from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, it’s important to maintain continuous awareness of the danger hazing poses, both to communities and an individual, in order to spread resources and knowledge about the risks of hazing.
It’s that time of the year again, people. The time of the year where window paint and streamers decorate cars of young women who have just been invited to join a strong sisterhood that aligns with her values.
That’s right. It’s Big-Little Week season.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, Big-Little Week is something primarily Greek organizations will do to shower their newest members with love and gifts. Here, the “Big” is an older member that is their to mentor the new member throughout the rest of their time in the organization. They remain anonymous until a specific reveal day, usually three or four days after gift-giving.
Considering the fact that, at the time this article goes live, I would have been revealed to my first sorority “little,” my second over two organizations, I figured I would let you in on how I prepared with three thoughts I had going into the week.
Keep in mind, if any of these sound like I am complaining, I am not. Getting a little is one of the most special times you could ask for in college. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But I would not trade it for the world.
I am probably a terrible liar.
I have not been that bad at it, honestly. I didn’t tell my first little I was his big until five months after I found out I was his big. Two weeks didn’t seem like that major of a deal, in hindsight. However, I believe I have been successful thus far. At the time of writing this, on the first day of our Big-Little Week, I am proud to say that I am “two for two” in this whole lying game. Typically, this is something I shouldn’t be proud of, but considering that I am the world’s worst at keeping secrets, it is a personal win.
I never want to see a paintbrush ever again.
With Big-Little Week, one of the main presents littles will get is hand-painted canvases. There’s usually 10 to 12 given throughout the week. This may also include more crafts which require, you guessed it, more painting. Fun fact: being left-handed and painting is not really the best combination. I can not tell you how many canvases I had to restart on because my hand kept smearing the paint. I will say though, I forgot how relaxing painting could be. That is, until my hand smeared the paint for the third time on the same one.
This is truly the best time of the year.
In this moment, I do not know how my little is going to react to their gifts. I have not given her anything yet at the time I am writing this article. However, with the excitement she has gotten with every anonymous text I send or post I make on the Instagram I created as her big, I can only imagine that this excitement will carry over for the rest of the week, and the rest of her time in college.
“Greek Life” is something that is an apparent staple on most college campuses nationwide. Many people don’t realize that there are a few different categories of what we know as Greek Life. Jacksonville State University has roughly 40 different Greek lettered organizations on its campus that are separated into honor, professional, service, and social categories. However, the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) office at JSU only actively recognizes the sixteen social organizations in the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), National Pan-hellenic Council (NPHC), and North American Interfraternity Council (IFC). There are those who don’t believe that professional fraternities and Greek honor societies should be involved in the FSL because they are not strictly social organizations specifically set within their specific councils. However, many students, myself included, wonder why those social Greek organizations not under a specific council are not treated with the same standards or respect as the council members.
A primary example is the organization Sigma Alpha Omega. This organization is a social sorority that also has a Christian focus and background. However, while a recognized organization by the Student Government Association, they are not recognized or supported by the Fraternity and Sorority Life office.
In the past, comments discussing Sigma Alpha Omega have been deleted from the JSU Fraternity and Sorority Life social media, which has raised red flags for many students. A member from the JSU Panhellenic Conference said it was done because Sigma Alpha Omega was not on one of the social councils. However, at the time, the FSL social media and JSU website stated that the Fraternity and Sorority Life pages were for all social greek organizations. It has since been updated and changed.The professional fraternities and Greek honor societies are also facing a disadvantage when it comes to recognition and support on social media outside of their individual profiles.
“Our campus is very biased when it comes to the social organizations. We have no representation outside of our personal pages. It is only about their councils,” said Noelani Haberlin, who recently finished serving as president of the Tau Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. This fraternity is professional-based fraternity with a business focus.
“Marketing from inside our personal organizations is important, but when students come for things such as preview days or orientations, [social organizations] are the ones who get the resources from the school to look better, which gives them an upper hand when it comes to their recruitments. If they would help promote us, even in the slightest bit, it would help us so much. Incoming freshmen have no idea that we exist most times. They are told about IFC, Panhellenic, and NPHC, but they aren’t told about us.”
One of the more concerning issues regarding equal standards with all Greek organizations is in regards to hazing. While at anti-hazing events this fall semester, which are mandatory to attend for all organizations under the Fraternity and Sorority Life office, the administration acknowledged their awareness that some organizations outside of the FSL office have been known for hazing. They encouraged students to speak up if they hear about any incidents, but a big issue is that groups outside of the FSL office are not given the same prevention and awareness training. Some say it doesn’t even matter.
One student who has served with the JSU National Panhellenic Conference this past year said, “I think it is similar to how the D.A.R.E. [America] program works. We can tell people not to do it, but you know. For instance, after the hazing prevention video, I heard some of the fraternity guys saying how they thought that it was all just a bunch of crap.”
At the same time, FSL believes that all the organizations should be held to the same standards. “If one of our social organizations has an incident, we would be in serious and immediate trouble, would be put on probation and would be dealt with immediate consequences. It is mandatory for our organizations to go to these prevention and awareness events but not for professionals or honors. All of these groups, social and professional, are supposed to be brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and it is hard if you don’t feel safe in the organizations, or you aren’t properly trained.”
A prime example is the recent situation surrounding the organization Kappa Kappa Psi, which is a service fraternity. According to members and the administration, the organization has recently been dealt a blow with hazing allegations against the chapter. Due to the incident, JSU has suspended the chapter from campus until the year 2025. As stated previously, administration has acknowledged that hazing has actively occurred in other areas of campus.
If administration knew that this was happening outside of the social FSL organizations, why was nothing done beforehand to help curb this issue affecting outside organizations? FSL is always trying to improve themselves, even more so in the last few years. Due to this, why has no one in or outside the office looked into this sooner.With negativity towards “Greek Life” nationwide increasing due to hazing incidents, high prices of dues, sexual assault allegations and other factors, it has become extremely important to show incoming students, families, and the local communities that people in Greek lettered organizations are not just stereotypes.
This is something that JSU FSL has been trying to curve with the #knowgreek campaign started by Fraternity and Sorority Life Coordinator Josh Robinson. When the campaign began, some of the professional organization members and leaders also started using the hashtag to help raise awareness about their organizations and issues that are regularly overlooked. They were asked to stop by a member of the JSU National Panhellenic Conference and have since been mostly using #gogreekgoprofessional.
Many people don’t realize that professional fraternities and the Greek honor societies face most of the same issues as social organizations. Regardless of professional, social, honor, or service status, all of these organizations use the Greek letters the same.
“When I see [Greek] letters, I honestly just see them all as Greek life,” said JSU student Dejah Estes. When she first arrived at JSU as a freshman, Estes was heavily interested in rushing for a social sorority. Unfortunately, due to funds and time she was unable to rush.
“I think either social or professional would have been beneficial. They all have their own things that make them good choices. If I had the time and funds, I would even consider joining both a professional and social organization.”
At this point, there are many issues that Greek individuals face. Many students, especially those involved in professional organizations, have voiced their concerns, but they unfortunately have not been fully heard. One suggestion has been for the university to hire someone who is solely dedicated to supporting, promoting, working with, and tracking the progress of professional fraternities and Greek honor societies. Not only would this help give the non council and professional organizations the support that they have been asking for and need, but this would ensure the organizations have someone to report to who could make sure that all groups are following standards and are given proper training to prevent hazing.
Could this not be accomplished by the Student Government Association Vice President of Organizational Affairs (VPOA)? On one level, yes, but Haberlin explained why, overall, this doesn’t work.“The VPOA is an elected position. They are elected by the students, and they cycle out almost every year. It isn’t a permanent position like the Fraternity and Sorority Life coordinator. There isn’t that same type of accountability. It is always changing while the social organizations have a constant dedicated person from the university whose paid purpose is to work with them.”
Another flaw with the VPOA position being the only coordinator is they are also responsible for keeping up with all the other organizations on campus. If the non-council, professional and honor organizations were held under the same umbrella, or if they had someone to act in the same capacity, it could alleviate many of the issues. There is another reason to hire a person to act in the same capacity as the FSL coordinator or bring the outside organizations under the umbrella: looking at the membership numbers of the sixteen or so social Greek lettered organizations in FSL, there are roughly 1,200 members between the three councils. The remaining Greek lettered organizations have 1,459 members combined. Some of this is overlap but not as much as you would think. It is important to note that the numbers for ten of the professional/honor organizations have not been counted as there is no official record with the school containing the numbers. The missing ten organizations have not yet responded and were not able to be factored into the professional/honor organization count. This also does not include social organizations not on councils or the new organization Pi Kappa Alpha, also known as “PIKE”, as Pi Kappa Alpha is still in their colonization process.Taking into consideration the numbers so far, we can see that there are almost 300 more members than those registered under FSL and twenty-three unaccounted-for organizations compared to the sixteen organizations that the Fraternity and Sorority Life office recognizes.
With so many skill, networking, service, and development opportunities within the Greek community, it is a shame that not only the Fraternity and Sorority Life office but also Jacksonville State University do not acknowledge these organizations along with their social council counterparts. So, again, why treat them separately? Why not represent all sides of the Greek community on this campus? While I do not personally have membership in any of the social organizations, it cannot go without saying that these groups have merits that help students just as much as the professional groups. That is why they have lasted as long as they have. However, many feel that it is time for the rest of these organizations to get the due credit that they have been missing. Most the professional and honor organizations have start dates from the same years or earlier than those of some social groups. They are nothing new and should not be held at a lower standard or recognition than they deserve.
Whether it’s picking up a chainsaw to cut trees or bringing people food at a restaurant, everyone has different ways of helping the city of Jacksonville and the surrounding communities following the devastating tornado last week.
For Savanna Parsons, she is just doing what she’s good at and that’s talking to people and making connections.
Parsons, an Alexandria High graduate, has been a waitress at Heroes: An American Grille on Highway 21 for the last eight months while also juggling multiple other jobs and being a student at Jacksonville State University.
Less than 48 hours after her friends and sister, Olivia, were displaced because of the EF3 tornado which struck JSU’s campus, Parsons took to social media to announce her way of helping:
“(I’m) Donating all of my tips made at work (Wednesday) through Sunday to my people in need! I work at Heroes in Jacksonville! Stop by for a drink, food, or just to donate.”
But the helpfulness doesn’t stop there.
Parsons is also a member of JSU’s Alpha Xi Delta chapter.
Last summer, she went to a conference and made connections to many other chapters around the country. When those chapters heard about last week’s events, they immediately reached out and started donating clothes and other necessities.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not because I didn’t want people to think I was wanting it to all be about me,” Parsons said during a brief break Sunday evening before an expected party of 30 people arrived. “I’m really just trying to help people. Like, there’s a girl in my education department who has nothing now and is about to graduation and I really just wanted to do something.”
Prior to her shift Sunday, Parsons said she has earned over $1,300 in tips after working Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. She went on to say she’s planning to share it with anyone who needs help.
“I really want to give it to anyone who has been affected,” Parsons said. “We have a guy here at work and I plan to give him some because he found out his apartment is pretty bad. There’s another girl who lost her entire house but doesn’t go to JSU, so a lot of people aren’t talking about those areas that need help, too.”
Parsons said she’s able to do this, because she’s budgeted her money months before and is months ahead on her monthly rent payment. A combination of “probably the highest paying night of the year so far” on St. Patrick’s Day just a week ago and not going on spring break also helped her out.
“I believe we are a really small community and everyone knows everyone,” Parsons said. “Since we are a small school, it’s easy to find out how to help and what people need, so that’s what it’s all about … helping one another.”