Dear Sacred Purpose Readers,
Today is going to be a good day and here’s why: because today you are here, and that’s enough.
As I sat in the Music Box Theatre in Manhattan, with my best friend and fraternity brother, I began to see myself in a character named Evan. Honestly, I began to see myself in multiple characters that evening. I will admit here and now I cried. I cried a lot. Catharsis is a remarkable feeling, but sorrow is too. I wept for my own thoughts of “not being enough” and for friends whom I watched “disappear” through mental illness and suicide. Witnessing a single performance brought out all those feelings and it was overwhelming.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is one death by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Suicide among males is four times higher than females, and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults 30+. When we discuss mental health, suicide, and suicide prevention, these emotions are tell-tale signs of someone who needs help. Too often these signs are in front of us and we are unable to act. Sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes out of sheer awkwardness, we let little clues pass over us. Let’s back up for a second and catch everyone up to speed.
Dear Evan Hansen is the story of a lonely student who is mistaken to be the best friend of a fellow student who took his own life. Through a series of mishaps and good intentioned white lies, he finds himself befriending the grief-stricken family, truly believing he can help them feel closer to their lost son. His lies soon spin out of control as a video of a speech he makes at an all school memorial assembly goes viral and we learn the extent of his anxiety about connecting in the age of social media.
I will not spoil anything for you, but know, this musical is heartwarming and gut wrenching all in the same breath. So why are we talking about it here? What significance does it have to Sacred Purpose?
Sacred Purpose is at the heart of the smash Broadway Hit Musical Dear Even Hansen, which debuted last December. Bringing in nine Tony Nominations, Dear Evan Hansen has taken the theater world by storm. Much like last year’s Hamilton: An American Musical, it has captured the attention of nearly every demographic imaginable.
Simply put, Dear Evan Hansen connects us. All of us. “Because everyone should matter.” The title character in this musical is anxiety ridden to the point where his interpersonal skills hold him back from making any real connections. Not for a lack of trying, Evan finds himself, like some of us do, caught between living in the real world and living behind our screens. Early in the show, you discover Evan feels like he is on the outside looking in and wondering if anyone would notice if he “just disappeared tomorrow.”
Engaging in conversations around mental health and suicide can be tough. Often, we lend our support by liking, sharing, favoriting, or retweeting posts (similarly to what you might do with this one), only to find out it isn’t enough. Then we create memorial blogs and pages to remember people. We post how loved they are, but unfortunately, those words will never be read or heard by the people who needed it the most.
Evan sings, “I’d rather pretend I’m something better than these broken parts. Pretend I’m something other than this mess that I am.” If you have ever felt this way, you know how easy it is to pretend. You know how to use your coping mechanisms to shield yourself and those you love from the storm in your brain. Thankfully for me, and for Evan, getting help and having someone to talk to pulled us both out of those dark spaces.
But what do you do when you see someone you care for exhibiting these emotions or others like it? Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting someone help and preventing suicide.If you see something, say something. Having an emotionally open dialogue with our brothers, friends, and family about suicide is an important first step in prevention.
“Let that lonely feeling wash away. Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be ok. ‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand, you can reach out your hand.”
Thank you, Evan Hansen, for doing what you’re doing.
For more information about Suicide and Suicide Prevention follow the links below
The Silence of Suicide- Sacred Purpose
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
As many of you know, our goal within Sacred Purpose is to educate not only ourselves but our members and communities about issues that the American college student faces. One of the most important topics is Sexual Assault and Misconduct prevention on college campuses today. Sexual assaults are most likely to happen between the months of August and October and are not limited to women. It is important to note men are victims of sexual assault as well.
Suffice it to say: we must do more, and it starts with us.
I’ve heard it said once before. “Silence is complicity. Silence—you’re an accessory.” Strong, but fair words about the culpability of bystanders who do nothing.
But what can or should we do as Greek men, exactly? How do we combat the systemic bias towards sexual assault reporting? The answer may seem easy, but it will take work.
- Engage in prevention programing.
- Partner with groups on campus and show solidarity with these issues. Your chapter might not be the problem, but your chapter can be a part of the solution.
- Help your campus partners design and implement customized programing for Fraternities and Sororities.
- Participate in training on how to effectively respond when a friend or family member discloses an incident of sexual misconduct.
Hold your university to account and get the education and training YOU need to be a better advocate for sexual assault prevention. Things like:
- Providing bystander intervention training
- Ongoing education starting your freshman year and continuing through graduate school
- Making information regarding on-campus efforts to stem intimate partner violence available to all students
- Engaging men in conversations regarding sexual assault
Your ability to help in any capacity is about sending a strong message to your campus community about your commitment to helping prevent sexual assault and misconduct.
Bystander Intervention Tips
- Talk to your friends honestly and openly about sexual assault.
- Don’t be a bystander – if you see something, intervene in any way you can.
- Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation it probably is.
- Be direct. Ask someone who looks like they may need help if they’re okay.
- Get someone to help you if you see something – enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
- Keep an eye on someone who has had too much to drink.
- If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
- Recognize the potential danger of someone who talks about planning to target another person at a party.
- Be aware if someone is deliberately trying to intoxicate, isolate, or corner someone else.
- Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
- Understand that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s rape.
- Never blame the victim.
If you are a victim, a survivor or helping someone in that situation go to http://www.notalone.gov to get the resources and information you need. You can also call theNational Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
Spring Break 2017 is upon us and with the help of our friends at Holmes Murphy and AFLV, we compiled a list of safety tips for students heading out on Spring break trips!
- Communicate the Details
Make sure family and friends know your departure and arrival times and phone numbers where you can be reached. Set regular check-in times over the trip. Always keep your hotel door locked and never open your door to strangers. Always carry identification, emergency contacts, and important medical history (allergies to medicines, chronic illnesses) in your purse or wallet.
- Drive Responsibly
If you’re taking a road trip as part of your spring break plans, take turns behind the wheel, and always remember: Click It or Ticket. And whoever sits shotgun should stay awake and keep the driver company.
- Hitting the Town
Follow the “buddy system” at all times but, ultimately, know you are responsible for your own personal safety. Trust your instinct if a situation just doesn’t feel safe. Don’t assume that acquaintances are looking out for your best interests. Go out with your friends; come home with your friends. It’s as simple as that.
- Know your Limits
Remember that “moderation” is the key to much in life, including alcohol for those of legal drinking age. Know your limit and stick to it. Use extra precaution while drinking in the sun or in a hot tub. Both affect the body in different ways when alcohol is involved. Less is more. Alcohol and water don’t mix. Avoid swimming and boating while drinking.
- Use Protection
Set your personal boundaries prior to your trip and stick to them. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with, and don’t try to coerce others to do something they’re not comfortable with. And always make sure protection is involved if that’s the direction you choose. The best way to protect yourself against “date rape” drugs is to never leave your drink unattended at bars, nightclubs, and parties. Don’t assume that acquaintances, and even friends, are looking out for your best interests.
- ATM Usage
Visit the ATM during the day, use your hand to cover your PIN when punching it in, and find another ATM if it looks sketch. It’s easy for hackers to insert a chip and collect account numbers and PINs. Your best bet is to use an ATM at a bank instead of a random ATM.
Stay safe and try and get some rest and be ready to hit the ground running when you get back to campus!
During the 2015-2016 school year as a Field Executive for Theta Chi Fraternity, I conducted visits at over 25 chapters and colonies from Terre Haute, Indiana all the way up to Oswego, New York. Every time a visit is conducted a Field Executive makes a presentation to the chapter on the policies of FIPG (Fraternal Information & Programming Group). The policies of FIPG cover four main areas: Alcohol and Drugs, Hazing, Sexual Abuse and Harassment, and Fire/Life Safety (http://fipg.org/). Fire/Life Safety remains an important area for our chapters to focus on.
That’s why I wanted to discuss some simple ways to make sure your living quarters are safe from a fire. Here are a few of the FIPG guidelines to keep in mind:
- Meeting local fire, health, and safety codes/complying with engineering standards are best done through the owner of the property whether it’s an alumni corporation, the school or a 3rd party landlord.
- If you see something unsafe, speak up!
- Posting emergency phone numbers (fire/police/ambulance) in common areas is an extremely easy task. Create, print, and hang up.
- Having evacuation routes posted on the back of each door throughout the house is also a must.
- Possessing a gun is often not permissible on college campuses and never in fraternity houses. Most, if not all, school police stations have gun lockers free for students to use.
- Candles can make your room smell like a gingerbread house; they can also turn the house into a giant campfire. If you are really determined to make your room smell better check your local grocery store. Plug-in air fresheners cost no more than $2 apiece.
Is your house in need of renovations to make it safer and more livable for current and future generations of Theta Chi brothers? The Norwich Housing Corporation, a not-for-profit lender that provides housing loans to alumni-led house corporations associated with chapters of Theta Chi Fraternity, offers Life Safety Loans for these types situations. These loans are offered for financing housing upgrades that are necessary for the reduction of serious safety risks. For more information visit https://www.thetachi.org/the-norwich-housing-corporation/. If you believe that your house would qualify for this loan and are interested email Jim Powell, Chief Financial Officer and Associate Executive Director at JPowell@thetachi.org.
For more information, check out these past blog posts written by Brother Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada. He is the recently retired Nevada State Fire Marshal.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Nick Hoke, Field Executive
The night of September 28, 2014, I received a phone call as I pulled into my driveway. I expected the voice on the other end to radiate positive energy as I had grown accustomed to over the years. Katelyn Katsafanas is the type of person I aspire to be, day in and day out. When my name comes up on someone’s phone, I want to give off that energy too. Unfortunately, when I answered, the conversation that happened was not what I had expected. Katelyn needed my help. A brother needed my help.
Katelyn was dating my pledge brother and best friend, Parker Jordan.
To say Parker and I were close would be an understatement. We received our bids to join Theta Chi Fraternity at the University of Alabama together and from that point on, we forged a relationship that could rival George Strait and Pat Green’s any day. Everyone knew it—we were Texans and like any person blessed to be born in the greatest state in the Union, we were damn proud of it.
Over the years, Parker would come to my family home in Mobile for Mardi Gras and I would play golf with him at his home course in Fort Worth. It was obvious; we were put here to entertain each other and to make lasting memories throughout our time at Alabama. More than friends, we were brothers.
The conversation that came from that phone call shocked me more than anything up to that point in my life. She told me she was worried about Parker. More than worried, actually. She was scared he may hurt himself.
Parker and Katelyn were always upbeat, happy, fun, loud, and the life of the party. She was an amazing match for him, and from the outside looking in, things were perfect in their often glowing little world.
We didn’t know about the demons waging war inside of him. The treacherous mine field Parker was living in was something none of us could comprehend. Katelyn knew I needed to be with Parker in that moment and I could feel it in my bones, she was right.
I remember the conversation we had that night. We talked about school. Parker was in a grueling intermediate accounting course and his ability to think clearly was starting to fade. The stress just intensified the feelings of self-doubt already blurring his thoughts. He was worried he wouldn’t make the grades he needed to get into our local Accounting Honor Society. Parker was making A’s and B’s on all his tests, but still he was overwhelmed. I felt like he was better after we talked it through. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to. I wanted to sleep on his couch that evening but he insisted he was okay. Before I left, we set up a meeting for him with our Dean of Students office and talked about how Katelyn contacted his family.
He promised me, in a tear filled hug, he would not hurt himself. I told him I loved him and headed home.
At this point, an entire support system was beginning to form around Parker. Our Vice President of Health and Safety, Johnston Watkins and a few brothers noticed Parker wasn’t himself and began to check in on him, regularly. This group didn’t even know about the rest of us doing what we could to help Parker. They knew the oaths they took to watch after each other and were living our creed. This was the Fraternity in its most pure form. Brothers looking out for one another and doing everything they could to help. We are our brother’s keeper to the best of our ability.
Parker took his own life, 2 years ago today.
As I write these words, tears still fall. Two years later the pain is still very raw and very real, but I firmly believe on that day, Parker knew he was loved. Mental illness is scary. Modern science still struggles to understand all of its intricacies, just as we do, with those we love suffering from it every day. We will never understand why Parker choose to leave us but the events which followed that horrible day provide comfort for us all.
I have never felt the full breadth of our brotherhood as I did in the days that followed Parker’s death. I was the Chapter President at the time and the outpouring from brothers from around the country was astounding. Hundreds of emails, calls, and texts flooded my phone. If you are reading this today and were one of those people who sent your condolences: Thank You. Your love and support is what this Fraternity truly embodies.
Over the past two years, tens of thousands of dollars for mental health research have been raised in Parker’s name. Right now, a Parker Jordan Memorial Scholarship is being created. Dedicated people who loved Parker have managed to create some good out of this tragedy.
Nothing will bring Parker back. I desperately wish I had the power to do that. The power I do have is to honor him by living the life we often discussed together.
For the readers still with me here, I hope this inspires you to never take a moment for granted. To be cognizant when considering the health, physical and mental, of those around you. Recognize the signs of depression and suicidal tendencies early and never hesitate to act.
Marcus Gibson (Alpha Phi/Alabama 2015)
Editor’s note: It is important to recognize the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. Below are a list of warning signs as well as resources for yourself or those you know who might be in danger of hurting themselves. Make sure you understand your role and promote the intervention of professionals. If someone tells you they want to take their life, offer help and compassion but know there are ways to ensure their safety too. You can report the threat to the police and in most situations, they can physically intervene and take them to a safe place.
According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Click here to find Support for yourself or someone you know
1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
I joined Greek life for the wrong reasons.
It was my first day on campus. The freshman class was escorted to the south side of campus, past the football stadium, through the tailgate lot, and into the basketball arena where we sat down and listened to people on a stage talk at us. Somewhere between leaving my dorm and arriving to the arena, I met Matt.
Matt was a Senior who stood much taller than his 5’9” frame. Nick told me he “knows what it’s like being a Freshman guy here trying to find something to do.” We proceeded to talk, exchanged numbers, and he told me to shoot him a text if I was ever bored. He was in a fraternity and based on what I had heard my short time on campus, being involved in Greek Life was the only way to go.
Flash Forward: Twelve weeks later.
I’m walking into a small room with just one table and three chairs: two for the men in suits behind the table, and one reserved for me, facing them. The men in suits were representatives from the fraternity’s headquarters who flew into town to investigate the hazing accusations against the chapter I was pledging.
“Talk to us about your pledge process,” one asked.
I was told pledging was “the most fun you’ll never want to have again” when I rushed.
The details of my time as a pledge were as fresh in mind then as they are today. They included forced nights of drinking alcohol with my pledge brothers, learning names of pledge classes from years past, memorizing random fraternity facts, consuming various food concoctions, push-ups, sit ups, wall sits, and blindfolds. All for the sake of “brotherhood” and “unity.”
We would all get together in very dark rooms and the active brothers would tell us “nationals are coming down to initiate you early because you are the biggest pledge class on campus. Hell Week is canceled.” Five seconds of joy was quickly squelched by the screams of the active brothers saying “You don’t deserve our brotherhood.” Their reasoning? We didn’t go through hell week like they did. We spent the rest of that night begging and pleading with them to put us through “hell week” as soon as possible. “Because we did it” was the most common response whenever we dared to ask them why.
After a series of written interviews, video depositions, and in-person meetings with numerous pledges and brothers, the chapter was found guilty of the hazing charges. At the conclusion of the investigation the representatives from the fraternity’s headquarters decided to close the chapter and take the charter. All of the undergraduate brothers were suspended. The alumni specifically named in the investigation were suspended. And the most recent pledge class, my pledge class, were de-pledged and told we were not brothers of the fraternity.
At this point it had been six months since my pledge brothers and I accepted our bids and four months since our pledge process was halted after “pledging activities” caused the hospitalization of my pledge brother. It had been two weeks since we were told our pledge class was officially dissolved.
There were twelve of us remaining in the wake of our unusual first journey into Greek life. There were talks of our group going ‘underground’ and running our own local chapter (with none of the rights and privileges of legitimate Greek organization.) This is not what we wanted. This is not what we needed.
Meeting in a spare room of the Liberal Arts Building, the twelve of us, along with a few selected additions, discussed the merits of founding a new group on campus. Looking back, I often wonder what the heck we knew about starting a fraternity. All of us were products of a failed campus organization. It was an imposing amount of courage that propelled us into starting our own organization. One built on the idea that we could offer a better fraternal experience without hazing.
March: 12 members
May: 25 members
October: 41 members
April: 61 members
Twelve pledges who said no to hazing turned into a brotherhood of 61 in 399 days. This is the Iota Sigma chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity.
It wasn’t a scam (regardless of what other fraternities would say) and we weren’t just another fraternity. We built it from the ground up, and our foundation was based on one philosophy: we didn’t need hazing to build a great chapter. My experience taught me hazing made obedient pledges, not good brothers. Hazing was easy, but not effective. Hazing was exhausting, not energizing.
If we were to be a group that lasted a hundred years, our pathway to membership could not be built on the fragility of hazing. Hazing creates division between pledge classes. Hazing creates a culture of obedience rather than one of critical thinking. We had no interest in recruiting 18-year-old projects/liabilities. We existed to recruit good men and make them great…and it worked.
Consistency follows groups who do not haze. A chapter that does not haze consistently ranks among the top in recruitment each year. A chapter that does not haze performs well academically on a consistent basis. A chapter that does not haze consistently places in the top three in Homecoming and Greek Week every year since its founding. A chapter that does not haze is the first fraternity to win chapter of the year in a decade, several other awards on campus, and back-to-back Alter Awards.
Hazing has no place in my chapter because the Founders saw what hazing does to a group of men. You don’t build better men by breaking them down. Like a Division I football powerhouse, you build a great team by recruiting the best and developing their strengths to work for the team. We had a system that consistently won championships, so we recruited new members that would fit that system and perpetuate success. Recruitment became the easiest part of our jobs once the trophies came in and our reputation for winning got out.
Kevin Kutner, Field Executive
As part of our Sacred Purpose commitment to the Mental Health of all our brothers this post comes to us in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week.
For some of us, there are moments we have in our lives that are so painful we wonder how we could ever forget them. The more I talk about it, the more I see it in other people’s lives. Everyone seems to have their painful moments, no matter how trivial. For me, that moment was the day I decided to kill myself.
For so long, I looked for an excuse. Why do I feel this way? Why do I hate myself so much I wanted to not exist? I was a sophomore in college. I had academic scholarships. I was involved. I was in a fraternity with some of the best guys I knew. I had a good family. I even survived cancer. I thought I was going to change the world. Those are the things I was proud of; having depression and anxiety however, were not included.
When I would look into other people’s eyes, I could see a light in them. When something funny came up or someone they liked walked into a room, their eyes would light up. Looking in a mirror you can sometimes see the light in your own eyes. The light that tells you to keep going; you’re meant for something. One day, the light behind my eyes stop shining as bright. Eventually, I saw it go out.
It was then I stopped sleeping. I stopped eating. I hated me. I thought God hated me. I was utterly hopeless.
The seeming totality of darkness came and I was no longer in control. Every night, I’d find solace in the blade of a knife up and down my arms and legs. Why? To kill the numbness. To allow the physical pain to supersede the emotional pain and give myself a breath of fresh air. I’d watch the blood, as pure as rubies, float down my skin like tears.
I would hide the scars in my eyes and on legs so you couldn’t see them. I’d make up excuses as to why I wasn’t sleeping or eating. “It’s just stress” or “I just don’t have time right now” were my go-to excuses. I lost over 30 pounds in just two months. I’d lie when people asked me if I had plans so I can sit in my bedroom, in the dark, accompanied only by my thoughts, or the occasional text to a suicide hotline.
Once they know you’re serious, they’ll ask you for a plan. I’d gone over it so many times in my head, I had it down to a science. I could overdose or jump off of the tallest building on campus. I ran through each option but the deciding factor was my car. I’d go on these long drives by myself and see how fast my car could go. I wanted a rush before I left. I’d drive my car over 120 miles per hour and crash into the cement overpass.
It would be quick and I would be gone.
Then the night came. The night in November I would die. They would find an eloquent letter written about why and I’d try to give them as many answers as possible and hopefully they would understand it was not their fault. I was the broken one.
That’s when my friends intervened. I had made my intentions known to a few folks before and in my hour of need, they knew. This is the moment. They were done listening; this time they pushed. They pushed me toward the help I needed.
I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital. They take your shoelaces in there. I missed my shoelaces. I missed my friends. I missed writing about all of it. There are no pencils and pens, just crayons. The worst part? There’s no music. So I’d write the lyrics down in different colors.
In the middle of my stay, a nurse brought me a package. It was my Theta Chi jersey. My fingers lined the stitching and the fabric absorbed each tear. Those letters represented over a hundred people who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. People who wanted to make me better. They represented an oath I took to live to higher standard, be the best version of myself, and to help all of those around me. I didn’t feel alone anymore. The light in my eyes began to flicker.
From then on, it was a long road. I’d be lying if I said that place fixed everything. It did unearth some truths I wasn’t ready for, but desperately needed to hear. Being there allowed me to see how serious my disease was, but it didn’t fix me. My depression still follows me, but I manage because I found help. I had the support of close friends to continue treatment. They helped me see that my life is more than just a few good years. It is a gift. I kept living because I began to focus on the flickers of light despite the presence of darkness. As the lights gleamed brighter, eventually, my entire world illuminated. I saw hope. I saw the people who believe in me and much as I believe in them.
I’m 24 now. I’ll still face tough times, but I’m living out my dreams because with help, I made the choice to keep living.
So I challenge you:
When your friend is hurting, go to them.
When someone wants to talk, make time to listen.
When the people you love need you, find them and make sure they know you’re there.
You have no idea what people face but it’s your duty to make them feel like they belong here. Tell the people you love that you love them. Tell them often. You have no idea when they’ll need to hear it. These things won’t cure depression, but it’s easier to face hard times when you know that there are people out there that want you to be here.
Believe in others and tell them; show them. Let your actions and words speak volumes. That is how we beat suicide; how we can keep our friends alive. That is how people like me survive and recover and write the story five years later.
Chris Hixon (Iota Theta/Central Florida 2015)
Click here for Risk Factors and Warning Signs
Click here to find Support for yourself or someone you know
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Labor Day Weekend gets deadlier every year. Unfortunately, this trend is not new and the rates have been rising over the past 50 years. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 405 preventable fatalities will take place this weekend.
This sobering information takes my mind back to this time a few years ago when I lost an old friend of mine in a reckless driving accident.
Stuart and I were instant friends when we met at church camp during middle school. That seems to happen with everyone though right? Thrust into a situation where you know either a bunch of folks or no one and you have to make it work. Something was different about Stuart though. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. His sense of humor disarmed everyone. Owning his “big boy” appearance with jokes about his weight, his seemingly always red cheeks, and as we got older, his “old-lady mobile” (he drove a Buick during high school.)
Every year, we would reconvene at church camp. Sometimes without having seen each other since the summer before, but as we got older and were given car privileges/later curfews, Stuart and I became even closer. We realized we grew up just miles away from each other in a large city’s suburban outskirts but were only separated by school zone boundaries. We would go to church together on Sundays and Wednesdays and to rock shows on the weekend. He was always down for a good laugh or a serious talk and we would often jump back and forth between the two. Stuart and I came from vastly different upbringings, but we connected on such a deep level it was hard to keep us separated. You knew stepping foot into his space to be prepared for anything, but you knew you would be different when you stepped out of it. He had that kind of effect.
As we got older, church camps became a thing of the past, college choices were made, and distance came between us. This is something I know most people can relate to, but with Stuart, it was different. No matter the distance, we kept in touch. Through Facebook or random texts, he was always there. Always joking. Always laughing. We watched each other grow from afar but we always knew we had a bond. Our bonds would grow stronger with other people over time, but we always had our childhood. We always had summers and rock shows.
Stuart was in his last semester at Texas State University and set to graduate with a degree in Political Science in December. It was a typical Friday night- hanging out with friends, laughing (his laugh was contagious), telling jokes (not sure if anyone could top his), and responsibly enjoying drinks. As the night was winding down, Stuart was ready to head home and got into the passenger seat of his friend’s car. That was the last ride Stuart would take.
Stuart died at the scene. The car, going over 90 mph, smashed into a retaining wall and eventually wrapping around a tree just west of a golf course. The driver, lost his life later that morning in the hospital.
Reckless driving is one of many risky behaviors to avoid this weekend. In an effort to keep roadways safe, the NSC offers these safe driving tips for Labor Day weekend travelers:
- Don’t drink and drive. Police Officers will be in full force focusing attention on impaired drivers.
- If you do drink, make arrangements for a designated driver or a taxi.
- Wear your seat belt. It is estimated that 148 people may survive collisions this weekend because they will have worn safety belts.
- Enforce a distraction-free zone for drivers. This includes cell phones, gps, etc. – Designate a DJ for the car and someone to text for your driver.
- Allow plenty of travel time to discourage speeding and frustration.
- Drive alert and exercise extreme caution at all times.
Please enjoy yourselves responsibly this weekend and let’s start the fall semester off right.
College. We’re adults now. We’ve heard a thing or two about the birds and the bees. It’s a time when many people begin to have sexual experiences. Whether or not it’s your first time, sex should be an enjoyable and consensual experience.
But then there’s drunk sex. In college you learn you might like alcohol; you might like to have sex. So is it a good idea to put the two together? The truth is, a lot of people are having drunk sex. It happens. People get drunk, have sex, and they might even think it’s consensual.
You’re at a bar and having a few drinks when you notice someone. They’re having a drink too. You two hit it off right away and your flirt game is better than ever. What are the odds? One thing leads to another and you end up back at their place.
Now it’s morning.
Do you remember asking for consent, or did you wake up and not even think about it?
Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no way for you to tell if another person may be too intoxicated to give consent. They may wake up in the morning and realize that they were taken advantage of while under the influence, regardless of what you thought in the moment. Again, if alcohol is involved, there is NO WAY for you to tell if a person is capable of giving consent.
The news headlines blare: “Fraternity Guy Takes Advantage of Drunk College Girl.”
Maybe it seems unlikely to you that this can happen. You’re a “good guy” who doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. The reality is, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 college aged women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
The best way to avoid sexually assaulting someone is to obtain consent. Each state legally defines consent in its own way. While this may seem confusing, RAIIN.org explains the three main components each state uses to define consent: freely given consent, affirmative consent, and capacity to consent. Our focus today is a person’s capacity to give consent. In many states, if a person has consumed any alcohol whatsoever, they legally DO NOT have the capacity to give consent.
You may ask: “So even if they said yes, verbally, enthusiastically, and we were both drunk, this can be considered rape? So every time I had drunk sex, I risked committing a sexual assault?”
Women are often taught ways to avoid being raped: Stay with friends, pour your own drinks, carry pepper spray, etc., but as a man, a fraternity man, what should we be taught? A good first step is opening the discussion on what consent is, and how and when to obtain it. Understand the fact that consent isn’t just a onetime question, but a continuous conversation. Realize that any amount of alcohol negates consent. Educate your members on effective bystander intervention and the role brothers can take to prevent sexual assault throughout the entire community. It is our Sacred Purpose to prevent sexual assaults, because even one is too many.
When you ask for consent, you respect the answer. Period.
If you’re having trouble understanding consent, here’s a helpful video:
PJ Ricketson, Field Executive
I remember the day I knew I was gay. I began having those butterfly feelings in my stomach you hear about in the movies. It was then I knew deep down I had my first crush, and it was on a guy. I knew at that very moment I was not the same as everyone else. I was young, however, and I didn’t really understand the concept of “gay.” Not yet, at least.
For years afterwards, I told myself I had to like girls and anything less was unacceptable. I told myself the part of me who liked guys was just a collection of thoughts—it wasn’t real. While I would tell others I was straight, few would believe it. For years I was bullied because, to others, I seemed different. Every day at school was daunting and miserable; those were some of the darkest years of my life. Those who have been bullied know exactly what that’s like, and while I have forgiven, it is hard to forget.
In high school, I briefly dated a couple girls. Still, I noticed guys who were attractive to me. I told myself that attraction was just “thoughts.” While I never felt one hundred percent comfortable with my sexuality, I felt I finally put that part of me—those thoughts—behind me.
When I arrived at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) I became involved on campus through the Student Government Association. By second semester I accepted a bid to join an interest group that would become the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. While we were still a colony, I began to date a woman at NKU. Even though I had told myself and others I was straight, people still suspected otherwise just as they had years before. The relationship just didn’t feel right, and after a month and a half I ended the relationship. I knew it hurt her, but I couldn’t keep pretending I was happy.
After that relationship, I put dating behind me. I accepted a position on a Cincinnati City Council campaign and devoted much of that summer to it and to my internship at the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. I was really happy working in politics and at the courthouse. In addition, Theta Chi was coming together very strong. By the time sophomore year began, I was beginning to come into my prime.
In November my candidate won a seat on Cincinnati City Council and our colony installed as the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. I began to make a name for myself on campus. My self-confidence grew. When spring semester rolled in, I was appointed to the Interfraternity Council to serve as Vice President of Membership. It was also around this time I noticed someone in an unexpected way – through Twitter. One of my chapter brothers retweeted one of his tweets; I clicked on his profile and found he and I had similar political and social views. I found him on Facebook and sent an innocuous friend request; he accepted it and we began to chat and learn more about each other. As we chatted more and more, I could tell there was a feeling greater than friendship. That part of me—those thoughts—had begun to come back. This time, however, I could not just put those thoughts away. This time was different, and I knew it. I felt it.
By February, things with this guy progressed and we admitted we liked each other. That is when I knew it was time for me to come out.
My chapter brothers immediately came to mind, so at one of our chapter meetings in February I came out, initially as bisexual so I could still hold out hope that I would be “normal.” In my mind, being bisexual was still better than being gay. I was very nervous doing it, but I hoped my brothers would be accepting: that’s exactly what they were. After meeting about a dozen brothers came up to me and congratulated me. One of my brothers said, “All I want is for you to be happy; I’m glad you came out.” They all told me how proud they were of me, and for the first time I felt completely normal.
Things did not work out with that guy. Soon after, however, I dated another guy and I knew I was gay. Not bisexual, but gay. That was my truth and I was finally able to live in it.
The fraternal movement has not always been known to be accepting of its LGBTQ members. There are countless examples from the past—both told and untold—of fraternities hazing, bullying, and kicking out brothers who either came out or whom they suspected of being gay. The most operative word there is “past.”
This is the present.
My Theta Chi brothers created a culture of caring through our collective Sacred Purpose which I needed to finally develop the courage to be who I am and nothing less. In a way, Theta Chi and Greek life saved my life. Without their acceptance, I don’t believe my mental health, to this day, would be in a strong place. Holding onto that burden was one of the hardest things I have ever done. With their support, I live authentically. I live my best life. Theta Chi took a timid college freshman who was lying to himself about his sexuality and helped him become a confident and proud man.
I don’t think I would be where I am today, a First Year at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, without the loving, respectful, and accepting environment that exists in Theta Chi Fraternity. These ideals are the Sacred Purpose we are all called to live. We need to remember this and put it in practice every single day.
Patrick Reagan (Iota Tau/Northern Kentucky 2016)