Alumni Column – Greek Grad Writes to Colgate Sophomores

Mark Pettit

To the Greek-Eligible Colgate Men:

I hope that everyone has settled in on campus for another successful semester. My name is Mark Pettit and I just graduated from Colgate this past May. I am currently starting my first year of medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Thinking back on my time at Colgate, a very significant part of my experience was my involvement in my fraternity, where over the course of my undergraduate career I served as a Scholarship Chairman, Recruitment Chairman, and Chapter President. I am writing this letter to you today because I am both very passionate and very concerned about Greek life at Colgate. While the female recruitment numbers have been increasing in the recent years, male recruitment numbers have been declining precipitously. The two main goals of this letter are to share with you some of my many beneficial experiences in a fraternity and to dispel some of the rumors and misinformation about Greek life that pervades the Colgate campus.

The first thing that I think about when I think about my fraternity is the feeling of brotherhood, friendship, and camaraderie that I felt throughout my undergraduate years. During the new member education process, my class was welcomed into the fraternity, and I quickly became good friends with the other new members as well as the upperclassmen brothers. From intramural sports to brotherhood events such as special dinners or trips to a movie in Oneida or the Ommegang Brewery to just hanging out playing a game of pool or watching football games on the bigscreen TV, I always looked forward to spending time with my brothers. Even during breaks from Colgate, there was always some kind of brotherhood trip to someone’s house or to fellow chapters on other campuses. During my junior and senior years, I jumped at the opportunity to live in the fraternity house, which was truly an amazing experience. Whenever I needed a break from work, I could find so many of my closest friends just a few steps away. From a group of amazing friends to unforgettable times to a strong support system, my fraternity provided me with so much during my time at Colgate.

This brotherhood extends not only between the members that were on campus while I was an undergraduate, but also to the many alumni members. My fraternity has exposed me to so many older alumni with whom I can network to ask advice, to learn from, or even to make job-related contacts. In the future, it will expose me to many younger members at Colgate. When I joined my fraternity, I knew that there would always be somewhere that I could go during Homecoming and Reunion, or even during a random campus visit, where I would be able to meet a new generation of my fraternity brothers and would immediately have something in common. My fraternity has provided me with exponentially more ties to the Colgate community, both in Hamilton and beyond and of which I otherwise would not have been a part. In many ways, I became part of something that is much more than my four short years as an undergraduate.

While I have a very positive view of fraternities at Colgate, I know that there are students who have some pre-conceived notions, and I’d be lying if I said that every student at Colgate is pro-Greek. I think that one of the major misconceptions concerning fraternities is that they are only about the social life and having somewhere to party. While I definitely agree that the social life and fraternity formals are an enjoyable part of fraternity life, this stereotype skips over entirely the principles on which each fraternity was founded.

Fraternities offer a number of leadership experiences, with a number of positions available that afford members direct contact with the Colgate administration. Personally, I had many valuable experiences and really matured during my time as President of my chapter. While representing my chapter at meetings of other chapter Presidents, I was able to help shape policy during this time of Greek transition at Colgate. In regards to scholarship, Greek-affiliated men regularly have a higher average GPA than the all-men GPA at Colgate. Some fraternities regularly have professors visit their houses for dinner and a short lecture about their field of study.

Joining a fraternity will not have an overwhelmingly negative effect on your grades, which is another common rumor. You will still have enough time to get your work done, study for your tests, and have a social life. Taking myself for example, I was able to balance all of my commitments both in and out of the classroom and in and out of my fraternity, admittedly went out more than I should have, and completed my Molecular Biology major Summa Cum Laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

The final major piece of fraternity life that is similarly pushed aside is the philanthropic work that fraternities take part in at Colgate. Fraternities are regularly the leaders in events such as Relay for Life and Up ‘Til Dawn. Additionally, fraternities sponsor many smaller events ranging from the Beta vs. Sigma Chi Hockey Game to the Great Pumpkin Carving at Phi Delt to Drink for Pink at Phi Tau. Joining a fraternity should be more than just the social life and I can assure you that it is.

For those of you who are against the idea of fraternity life, I understand your opposition but urge you to be open-minded. For those of you who are on the fence about participating in a Greek letter society, I recommend that you at least give it a try and see if it is for you. For those of you who are dead-set about joining a fraternity, I hope that you make sure that you are joining for the right reasons, do not restrict your choices and give each fraternity the chance it deserves.

I encourage you to contact the Recruitment Chairmen or Presidents of the fraternities for more information. Better yet, go down to the fraternity houses before or during recruitment, get a tour of the house, and talk to the undergrad brothers. Ask them about their Colgate and Greek experiences, what it means for them to be a part of their fraternity, and what their fraternity offers to prospective members. Whatever your decision, enjoy your time in Hamilton, and make your own mark on campus; I am envious of you all starting another semester at Colgate.