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A Brotherhood We Choose

By Adam Bantz (Butler) 

I joined the Epsilon Mu Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity at Butler University on January 11, 2015. The three years I enjoyed as an active and engaged undergraduate member remain some of the greatest of my life. And as someone who works professionally in the fraternity/sorority industry, I look back with immense gratitude that hazing was not a part of my profoundly impactful fraternity experience. 

In the fraternity/sorority industry, the terms “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” quickly become part of our everyday vocabulary. When attempting to recruit new members, we promote the ease with which we find someone to grab food or play video games with. When applying for awards, we report our chapter’s near-perfect attendance at the retreat we hosted at a 4-H campsite during the second weekend of classes. But what is brotherhood? And what is it not? 

As a gay man, I grew up with primarily female friends. I often found it difficult to develop meaningful relationships with guys my age—with the exception of my (biological) little brother, who, despite being two years younger than me, has always been my biggest role model. Though I likely could not have articulated it at the time, I left home and began my collegiate journey with a desperate desire to start something new but also craving those simple, daily doses of brotherhood I was leaving behind. 

I was fortunate to make close friends in college early, many of whom would become my brothers. When my parents—neither of whom were members of a fraternity/sorority—learned of my desire to join Sigma Nu, there was an immediate worry about the potential harm I could encounter within the fraternity experience. After all, our industry’s reputation precedes itself. With a bit of assumption, I promised them hazing would not be a part of my membership experience. And I was right. 

It is true what they say, college has the potential to be the best four years of your life—and if nothing else, you will never experience anything like it again. Make it count. My undergraduate fraternity experience was hallmarked by a demonstration of collective care I had not previously experienced and have not experienced since. Though my fraternity brothers occupy a very different place in my heart than my biological brother, the relationships I developed through Sigma Nu sustained me through times of immense grief and contributed to some of my greatest achievements. 

What does this have to do with hazing? I shared previously that hazing was not a part of my Sigma Nu experience. That is not to say I did not witness the temptation of behaviors and expectations that often lead chapters down the slippery slope of hazing. I do not claim that my chapter was “better” than any other. However, I was surrounded by men who shared my conviction, even if our motivations differed. As challenging as it can be to be an active bystander, I remained confident in my pursuit of a hazing-free fraternity experience by thinking, speaking, and acting through the following lens: Is this something I would allow my little brother to be a part of? And when I worried my answer was at risk of becoming unclear, I had difficult conversations with people I knew cared deeply about me. 

Brotherhood is more difficult to put into words than one might think. It is eating chicken strips for the fourth time that week with friends. It is playing Xbox on a slightly suspicious couch you bought from Facebook Marketplace. It is participating in teambuilding exercises and sitting around the campfire at your annual chapter retreat. It is difficult conversations that always come from a place of care. It is all of these things. But what brotherhood is not, perhaps, is equally important. Brotherhood does not tolerate the harm of people you care about. And it is not something you would hide your little brother from. It is a gift you want to share with him without reservation or hesitation. Membership in Sigma Nu is not something to be taken lightly. It is something people crave. It is a brotherhood we choose. 

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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