Speaker calls for return to Greek chivalry

By Marc Larocque

Many students participating in Greek life today don’t live a lifetime commitment to a group’s values because they are not practicing their initiation rituals properly, Dr. Mari Ann Callais said to a crowd of about 60 students at the Curry Student Center Ballroom Sunday night.

“Chapters without ritual are struggling and eventually will close,” Callais said. “Fraternity and sorority chapters need to rid themselves of this stigma that we are all just about the sociality, partying and all that jazz and align ourselves closer to the values of our chapters’ founders.”

Callais emphasized how holding each other accountable and a strong mindset based on rituals and values of chapter founders will lead to a lifelong experience of chivalry.

“The concept of chivalry as courage, honor, loyalty and consideration is a concept of being a good person where your actions speak for themselves,” she said. “Chivalry should be a basic concept for all fraternity men and sorority women because of our rituals, creeds, mottos, to be conscious of these concepts and to be there to remind one another when we may fall short.”

The program began with fraternity and sorority members joining the guitar-wielding Callais on stage for a sing-along, including “Stand by Me,” “Hakuna Matata,” “American Pie” and “Crash Into Me,” by the Dave Matthews Band.

Callais emphasized the importance of memorizing creeds, proper attire for ritual participants and keeping ritual gear clean.

“Rituals help members understand who they are and what they are really about,” Callais said. “It is important that participants have a sincere mind-set when taking part in these rituals.”

Callais also discouraged sorority sisters from wearing their chapter’s letters on their sweat pants bottoms.

“Our letters represent values, history, ritual and I believe that whenever we are displaying them, it should be in good taste. Would the founders approve of the way we are displaying our letters?” Callais said.

Several students at Northeastern said they disagree.

“I don’t think that having our sorority letters on our pants’ bottoms is being demeaning,” said Eve Kellner, a junior biology major and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. “It’s just another way to show your pride.”

A doctor of philosophy in educational leadership and research at Louisiana State University, Callais wrote her dissertation on sorority ritual and how it affects the lives of women. She was brought to Northeastern by Campus Speak, a group that supplies speakers to colleges across the country.

Callais compares Greek life to the devotion of marriage. She drew parallels, citing the important symbolism of the actual ritual of marriage ceremony and Greek initiation rituals as a lifelong commitment.

“I actually knew one sister that was married in her Delta Zeta house because she felt so close to it. Many sisters I know have two great memories: Their wedding day and their sorority initiation,” Callais said.

Callais told more stories about how Greek life should be creating a family environment to hold members accountable for their wrongs. She told the crowd about a sister who saw a random fraternity guy on an airplane who was wearing a T-shirt that boasted of a recent event his fraternity held called “Stomp Out Virginity.” The sister held him accountable by asking him what his chapter’s founder would have thought. He was then compelled to change the shirt he was wearing.

Members of the crowd then told personal stories about how the values and rituals of their chapters have had a positive impact on their lives.

One student told about his fraternity sending flowers and arranging his flight plans after his grandfather died.

Rosemarie O’Conner, a junior physical therapy major, told a story of how she went to her dental hygienist wearing her Delta Zeta sweatshirt. Her dentist told her she was a member as well and they recited their creed together.

The speech was put on two weeks after the Northeastern chapter of Kappa Sigma was suspended following an off-campus party.

“I can’t speak specifically about this situation but I would say that all chapters continue to educate their members and then hold one another accountable,” Callais said.

She told the crowd that to uphold the ideals of their founders would require substantial efforts.

“We should never ask the minimum of time and money from Greeks who are supposed to hold themselves to a higher level. Students should live their letters to the highest standards,” Callais said.

Ellen Lassiter, a senior history major and member of the Delta Zeta sorority, said some students at Northeastern find value through their rituals.

“I think that understanding ritual contacts you with each other. The best part of this is that it connects you to older people,” Lassiter said.

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