Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Greetings From the Back Row

Greetings from the back row.

I’m the brother you hate. I’m apathetic. I’m lazy. I’m the one who contributes nothing worthwhile, except an occasional laugh from one of my sarcastic comments. I like to come to parties and a meeting every once in a while. My lack of attendance drives you crazy. So does my smokeless tobacco habit.

I’ve been referred to as Joe Spitcup. Mr. Apathy. Bluto. The
Chapter Idiot.

I wasn’t always this unlikable fellow you see before you. In fact, when I first joined the chapter, I was ready to go. I had a lot to offer. I was the captain of my high school’s wrestling team and served on the yearbook staff. I’ve been a leader in clubs before. I’ve been good to my friends, and great to my two little sisters. I’ve always considered myself to be one of the good guys.

So how did I get this way? How am I now sitting in the back row? You may assume that I was just a bad recruit; that I joined for the wrong reasons. Perhaps you think I’m just one of those jerks who will always be this way. Actually, I bet you stopped thinking about me long ago. I am a waste of your time. I’m an impediment, a roadblock.

I don’t blame you for thinking these things. This whole back row is full of guys that fit that description. It’s not me, but I’ve chosen to be with these guys. I’ve chosen the back row, and so I deserve the perception that comes along with it.

However, I didn’t choose the back row at first. I started in the front.

I used to sit up close. I was eager to participate. I wanted to matter. But then a series of things began to happen.

I once had an idea in a chapter meeting that someone else said was “fucking stupid.” At the next meeting, I sat a little further back.

There was another time when I volunteered to go to the IFC meeting for the chapter. I forgot to go, and our president was pissed. I don’t blame him. I felt terrible about it. I’m still learning how to be better organized in my life, but that’s not an excuse. Anyhow, I volunteered to make it up by going the next week, but it was decided to send someone else.

I really haven’t been asked to do anything since, and I haven’t really volunteered. I just decided to sit a little further back in the meetings.

At the next meeting, I received the “dumb-ass brother of the week award” for messing up that part in our initiation ritual. I laughed along with everyone, but I felt really uncomfortable. By the way, I have an idea for other awards we could give that might actually inspire some positive action. Let me know if you want any of those ideas. I don’t think they’re stupid.

Anyhow, I didn’t really want to be called out again for an award like that, and so at the next meeting, I sat a little further back.

Then there was the time at our Spring mixer when an older brother offered me a joint, and I tried it. You heard about that, and I think you’re comment was “great – another pothead.” I regretted doing it immensely (and instantly), but I didn’t want to admit that. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I didn’t want to show how low my confidence level really is.

So, at our next meeting, I just sat a little further back.

And I found myself in the back row.

Since then, I really haven’t been a good brother. I stopped going to meetings. I found a group to hang out with who aren’t the best influence. I started playing the roles of “jock” and “big drinker” because at least they gave me an identity. I’m not what I expected to be, but at least I’m something.

The funny thing is, I joined a fraternity because I wanted to be better. I actually think I might be a lesser person because of it.

By the way, I’m not looking for sympathy or welfare. I’ve decided to be here in the back row. It’s not really your job to reach out to every low-contributing member of the chapter, or even acknowledge our presence. You’re busy, after all. You’ll be just fine paying no attention to me. 

I just wanted you to understand a few of the things that led to my life in the back row. Perhaps you can stop the next guy from drifting back here.

And I guess I also want you to know that if you were just to offer me a small invitation to engage, just a minor role or opportunity, I would do absolutely amazing things for this chapter. I would be the best member you could ask for. 

But I can’t expect that. I can’t even expect you to notice me anymore. After all, it’s quite a distance from where you are and where I sit. Here. In the back row.


  1. Good post, although I would add that it isn't always the disaffected Brothers in the back, but the brothers who just rotated off of Exec or the seniors who have other things on their mind. It's often a question of re-energizing the Brothers who are tired or who have seen and done it all.

    On another note, as an Adviser I cannot emphasize more how beneficial positive reinforcement is over negative.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I can completely identify with the back row. People don't mean to be so condescending, but after a while it just ate at me. I'm glad you posted. It uspet me to read, because it rekindled all of those old emotions of feeling completely unwanted and worthless to the chapter. It was also the first thing that has really been a motivation for me to get reinvolved.

    Thank you.

  3. Interesting post. Within my chapter I notice the most apathetic brothers are former exec/seniors. The worst thing I've seen happen is poor mentoring from older brothers, thus leading to younger brothers doing nothing for the chapter but quoting "TFMs" and half-assing everything under the guise that their Brooks Brothers wardrobe and frattier-then-thou attitude make up for it; it doesn't.

  4. I was in a sorority and quickly began to feel as you state above...and sooner or later the bad jokes and disregard for me, as a human being, ate away. When I had good ideas I didn't speak them and when I did speak up, it wasn't as good as the others or it was just plain, as they stated "fucking stupid." I eventually deactivated because it was emotionally draining to put myself through the weekly ritual of it all - at one point a leader in the chapter discussed how many of the pledges are numbers that we need, not people...and then I remembered that I once was a pledge and ultimately, I felt only as important as the number they gave me.

  5. What an outstanding blog entry. Thank you for sharing. I think every chapter deals with this type of scenario - from the best to the struggling chapter. I am an outgoing President of a successful chapter, and I have seen it happen to my Brothers all to often. It is time to combat situations like these; we can be proactive and truly live-out our ritual. After all, we are all part of a values-based organization - we're part of a lifetime commitment. Let's inspire our Brothers and Sisters and them excited. Make them remember the WHY. Why did they join your organization? WHY did they sign that bid card? WHY did they visit your chapter on preference night?

  6. Is this a condemnation of megative leadership, or a an excuse for someone to sit in the back and do nothing? I am not really sure.

    When the person says, all I need is a little positive encouragement to be the best member you could ask for, I wonder how the other "best" members got to be the "best".

    Should bad decisions and lack of motivation be encouraged. Getting caught trying pot, evne if regretting it, is still trying pot. A trust has been broken and needs to be regained, nto brushed off and overlooked.

    You have a person who admits 1) nto follwoing through on a promise hurting the reputation of the chapter, 2) a person who didn't know the ritual, 3) a person who tried illegal drugs and this person wants to be encouraged and praised?

    I understand postive reinforcement, but where is personal responsibility? Where is being accountable for your actions? Where is having some intestinal fortitude to be better. I guess in today's society, we should just lob positive compliments on everyone even if undeserved.

  7. I see your point but I disagree with your strong reaction. This person isn't perfect and never claimed to be. In fact, he says he's responsible for messing up with the IFC meeting. He even tried to make it up. The problem came in when, rather than helping him make it up or trying to see his point of view/amend his idea and seriously take it into consideration, his brothers just shot him down. They put somebody else in, regardless of his motivation to make it up. They told him his ideas were "fucking stupid." They shot down an already falling brother rather than offer him a helping hand to get back on the horse. And that's it. They did shoot him down. He's not asking for a handout, just serious consideration as an equal human being.

    I thought as you did when I first read this post, but after further analyzing I realized that this guy did try. Sure he could've done more, but it is a two-way street. He could've done more just as much as they could've supported him more. Sometimes truly understanding a situation requires taking a step back and trying to understand it from all perspectives. Give it a try. You might find it betters yourself.

  8. I am an alumni of my chapter and I completely agree with your statement. I am a legacy and I was overlooked because you have to let legacys in and I felt so small. The only reason why I stayed in was my best friend who stood up for me infront of the entire chapter because she believed in me. I became respected and a role model after this. Keep your head up because great things come to great people. Make the change and it all starts with one person.