The life, times and lessons of a bro

Darren D’Altorio

When I reveal one subtle aspect of my life to people who know me but don’t know me, the reaction is priceless.

Their foreheads crinkle. Their eyeballs expand to perfect circles. Their lips separate, forming the classic “O” face. It’s an awkward look of, “I can’t believe you just admitted that.”

I’m in a fraternity.

Yep, I’m a bro. Since the first semester of my freshman year I have been part of the ever-so-small, yet largely criticized, Greek community at Kent State.

Everyone knows the classic profile of a frat boy or sorority girl. Throughout past semesters, this forum page has hosted articles like “The Evolution of a Greek: a Darwinian perspective” by Allison Brager and “Taking responsibility for your actions” by Beth Rankin, which attempted to define, describe and pinpoint the role of Greeks at Kent State.

As you can imagine, they were narrow-minded and stereotypical, blaming fraternity brothers for all the crime and craziness in Kent and claiming sorority sisters excel at dressing like Jersey Shore whores and worshipping “Laguna Beach.”

These are just a couple of the portraits painted about Greek life. Not to mention the multitude of criticisms witnessed by me and other members of the Greek community every day: You pay for your friends. You’re a tool/douchebag/whore/alcoholic/asshole.

For a community that represents only 4 percent of the Kent State population, these negative opinions are a lot of wasted thought. Rarely does positive light shine on the Greeks of Kent State, but here is some perspective from my experience as a brother.

Greek chapters work to promote ideals, both personal and communal. Community service, charitable contribution, academic excellence and friendship are all focal points for my chapter.

In the past, these agendas have been mucked up by idiotic behavior on behalf of some Greek members, casting a grim shadow over the entire community.

To be fair, my fraternity is not innocent. Our house has seen fights. Some of our brothers have failed out of school. Drug and alcohol abuse has been a problem for some. A few semesters ago we were put on social probation by campus because a certain percentage of our members didn’t attend a mandatory meeting. In these ways we have failed at living up to our ideals. We’ve failed the campus, the Greek community and ourselves.

In the wake, I have realized the power of fraternity more than ever this semester. It all hit me last weekend when I was locked in the parlor room of my fraternity house from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Saturday.

This sequestration was necessary. A brother confessed to being addicted to cocaine.

A lock-in like this is not something normal. In the past eight semesters, only two have been called. It’s a time to make every member of our chapter, both young and old, more aware of what we stand for so we can better serve campus and ourselves. It is a time to share personal stories.

Cigarette smoke hung in the air that night, along with the spectrum of emotions created by each individual’s story.

I learned that as a child, one of my brothers watched his father die on the floor of his home and watched his mother almost do the same as she abused pills in the aftermath.

I learned that many of my brothers suffered from addiction to drugs at some point in their lives.

I learned that one of my brothers fights personal, narrow-minded attitudes of racism instilled in him from his small-town upbringing, where the Ku Klux Klan is alive and well.

I learned that one of my brothers, who was adopted from Korea, loves America with all his soul.

I learned that half of my brothers, myself included, come from a broken home.

I learned that my fraternity has become the center of these guys’ lives. It is a foundation, a home base, an organization that strives to make individuals become better people.

We entered college as strangers. We saw something positive about the fraternity that drew us into the mystery. Then we all invested time, energy and money to be a part of the organization, uniting individual men under a title, three letters that represent a mission.

We realized our downfalls and shortcomings, then we rallied around our ideals and pledged to change our lives and our chapter for the better.

I hope each member of the Greek community understands the power of the organization to which he or she belongs.

And to the haters, who will always be haters: Keep hating, because you make us better, and for that we thank you.

Darren D’Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major, vice president of Phi Sigma Kappa and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].