The Climate Has Changed

By Laurence A. Bolotin —

There is no “I” in Greek. Just months ago, we all learned of a life taken way too soon as a result of pledging and hazing at Pennsylvania State University that resulted in charges against nearly two dozen students, including attempted manslaughter. This news traveled the world.

Regardless of the letters we wear, all fraternities were once again painted with the same brush. And now, just months later, I learned recently of another untimely death of a fraternity pledge at Louisiana State University. Now the fraternity is being investigated as a result of this being a possible hazing situation. While I certainly won’t and can’t pass judgement, given that we don’t have specifics on this death, I can say with certainty that this will continue to change the landscape of the college men’s fraternity.

As fraternity men, we made an oath at the time of our initiation to be our brothers’ keepers, to keep each other out of harm’s way and to be there for one another when in need. Many still ask the question why ZBT made the bold decision to abolish pledging in 1989 … the tragedy at Penn State, and possibly at LSU, are just two of the many reasons. All one has to do is google “pledging” and “hazing” and what you’ll find is a tarnished fraternity brand — for everyone.

We must come together to demand and expect better of each other, of our peers and our brothers.

Let me be clear: We are here to ensure that our brothers have a fun, safe and healthy fraternity experience where all brothers are treated as equals and have all the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other brother. Let me also be clear: If you, or a chapter, decides to disregard your safety or the safety of others, there are consequences that could lead to university expulsion, significant impacts on your career and, most frightening, hurting or killing someone. Is this what we became Greek to experience? I know we didn’t.

I’ve seen the comments on social media on the unofficial Facebook groups that involve ZBT. Is this what we want our brand to be known as? I’ve had difficult conversations with chapters that decided that pledging and hazing was the way to build better men and had to, subsequently, share the news that their chapter was going to be closed for endangering the lives of others. Is this what we joined ZBT for? I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with Chapter Presidents guiding them through difficult situations when their brothers believed that alcohol and drugs are central to the fraternity experience. Is this what fraternity has become?

Brothers, now is the time to show the world how Greek life makes better men and, specifically, how ZBT does so in a way where all are treated equally and in a safe environment that builds brothers up, rather than breaking brothers down.

I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to several different chapters and met with executive boards, individual brothers and chapter advisors, and I can tell you that we have OUTSTANDING men in our fraternity. Recruitment is vital in ensuring that we are initiating men looking for a values-based experience focused on our Mission as the world’s first Jewish fraternity (and an inclusive one) as well as the tenets of our Credo: Intellectual Awareness, Social Responsibility, Integrity and Brotherly Love.

No longer can the days of the negative stories we read in the media continue, because at some point fraternities will cease to exist because universities will see no value. I, for one, am going to do all I can to make sure I never see that day. I hope you’ll join me along that path.

The ZBT staff is always available to you … and when I say always I’m referring to the 1 a.m. calls I’ve received from chapter brothers needing help, because I, too, made an oath that a brother in need is a brother indeed. I hope you’ll utilize us and see us as your allies, your brothers, your mentors and those who want you to have the best fraternity and ZBT experience possible.

Let’s make sure the world knows that it’s great to be a ZBT.