Are you thinking about joining a fraternity? Of course, you are! You’re new to the school. You need to make new friends and get into parties somehow. Besides, what can you lose? Well, before you decide on anything, think long and hard about what your definition of brotherhood is and what you’re willing to put yourself through to attain that. The process of joining a fraternity can be eye-opening, but it can be just as equally traumatizing.
Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into beforehand, or you may not be able to handle the outcome.
Temple University happened to be my very last choice for where I wanted to attend college – my safety school. I’m from right outside of Philadelphia, so it only made sense for me to apply somewhere close to home just in case nothing else worked out. I hesitated for the longest time to even consider applying, although I wanted to explore the world. I never expected that I would attend Temple, but eventually, something changed that hesitation.
After that, I talked to a close friend’s cousin, Mitch, a second-year Temple student and member of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEΠ). He offered to let me tag along the next time AEΠ threw a party, a proposal that I enthusiastically awaited. A few weeks later, I found myself outside of the AEΠ mansion, a massive, sixteen-room Victorian-style house that smelled heavily of cheap beer. Even more prominent – the abundance of decisions undoubtedly regretted the next morning; I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect. Fast forward half a year and I’m moving into my dorm at Temple University.
Freshman year was like no other. The immense amount of freedom that one feels when living on their own for the first time is almost unbearable. No more parents bugging you constantly about smoking weed in the house; no more high school drama that ends up leaving you eating lunch in the bathroom for the entirety of senior year; and no more bullsh-t. Just sweet freedom. But with that vast amount of privilege, combined with the heavily prevalent, childish mindset that infects the youth nationwide that “nothing can hurt me” and “I am invincible,” you can only imagine the consequences that awaited.
I got into contact with Mitch again and expressed to him that I would absolutely love to join AEΠ which led to another invite for their next party. This party seemed different than last time and not because there were fewer people or because pretty obscure music played. No, this time, I actually met some of the other fraternity brothers. I specifically remember one guy, a short, muscular dude named Ronald. I watched as he took an obviously drunk girl into his room and closed the door behind him. Right before it shut, he looked me dead in the eye and winked. I knew a couple of girls who were assaulted by guys in high school, but before I could say or do anything, some of the other brothers ushered me back downstairs, far away from Ronald’s room.
I vowed to never return to that mansion.
The next night, my roommate and I wandered the streets of North Philly hoping to find a new place to party. We stumbled upon a grey/blue house that had a massive Zeta Beta Tau sign hanging right under the second-floor window. Another fraternity. Unsure whether or not to even consider knocking after what happened the night before, I decided to go against my better judgment. Or so I thought.
I walked up the six cement stairs and knocked on the door, expecting to be told to f-ck off immediately or receive no answer at all. To my surprise, as the door opened, I realized that I recognized the dude standing there. Steven Golden, another second-year Temple student from my hometown! He immediately pulled me and my roommate into the house, treating us as if we were both brothers of the fraternity.
After what happened at AEΠ the night before, I told myself that maybe joining a group of guys that partied all the time probably wouldn’t end up well. However, that night I experienced such a strong connection to other people in that house, something about ZBT just felt right to me. Golden shared all the information on when the events for rushing were and that settled it.
I made the choice then and there to join ZBT.
The rushing process lasted about three months, culminating in an induction ceremony in December. By the night of my class’ induction, the 13 guys who started off as complete strangers were now more than glad to call each other brothers. We blocked off the doors and partied all night, officially sealing our places in the fraternity.
The next morning, I woke up to about 30 text messages from a number of friends and other people who I knew. “Jimmy passed,” said a message from Cooper, a member of my rushing class. Jimmy? Passed? It took me about 10 minutes to understand what he meant. It finally clicked. Jimmy, the president of our class, the one guy who brought us all together and enabled us to become the brothers that we felt we were, was gone.
We received the order to shut down two days later, proving my theory that my dream of being in a fraternity meant to stay just as that — a dream. However, I did still feel like I made one right decision by not rushing AEΠ. They also got shut down, though a few months later due to several allegations of sexual assault. The lead suspect in these cases? Our old friend Ronald.
Although the one-two-punch of losing a brother and then a brotherhood created a wound that could never truly be healed, I will never forget what I learned from the entire process. Experiencing the circle of life firsthand, creating and losing an unforgettable friendship, and witnessing the collapse of personal expectations, are lessons that simply cannot be taught in a classroom.