All Greek to me – rituals and traditions

Members of the College’s Greek community turned out see Mari Ann Callais, national president of Theta Phi Alpha and inspirational speaker, discuss Greek tradition and ritual Monday, Oct. 3.

Callais travels all over the country to promote the importance of “living your rituals.”

“It touches people and is something that we’re most proud of,” Lauren Svec, vice president of Theta Phi Alpha, said about ritual in Greek life.

“It is an honor for us to bring her here,” Heidi Schmid, chaplain of Theta Phi Alpha, said. “Most people do not get to meet their national president and she puts on a great performance.”

Organized primarily by Theta Phi Alpha and cosponsored by Delta Phi Epsilon, the event was open to all sororities and fraternities. Callais started off by grabbing her acoustic guitar and several audience participants graced the stage for a sing-along. Audience members sang along and waved their arms and lighters to songs like “Lean on Me,” “Hakuna Matata” and “Breakaway.”

Callais continually said that she wanted this event to “be about you, not about me,” and wanted both old and new sorority and fraternity members to benefit from it. She encouraged liveliness, interaction and plenty of participation.

“I hope when you leave, your heart says ‘what does this mean to me?'” Callais said.

Callais asked other audience members to participate in activities that would help them understand the importance of working together to follow rituals.

“Because of your individual actions, your community is let down,” Callais said after asking participants to answer questions about not following ritual and how it affected their organization. Students all held a blanket and let go every time Callais said something that they had done that didn’t exactly follow ritual. The blanket dropped quickly.

“Why don’t you hold one another accountable?” she asked.

“It is sad that we have to have National Hazing Prevention Week,” Callais said before talking about how hazing and other actions that do not follow ritual can ruin the Greek image.

“It is not too late to really start practicing your rituals every day,” Callais said. “I didn’t get it when I was your age.”

Callais admitted to making mistakes and assured students this was the time to become better members of their organizations. “Without your rituals, you are no different from the groups sitting next to you,” Callais said, “Would your founders be proud to call you their brothers or sisters?”

The part of the program that held the most audience participation was when Callais asked the audience to share some of their organizations’ histories and how they have incorporated ritual into their association. Dozens of students stood up expressing their past experiences with rituals, focusing on the support that comes with joining a Greek family.

She encouraged the students to go back and read their rituals after realizing that most of the audience members did not raise their hands when asked if they had read them.

“Your generation is intelligent,” Callais said, “but people don’t think you can uphold these rituals that were set in the 1800s.”

She said she had faith in the students and talked about how special it is to be part of a Greek organization.

“You are building relationships that will last a lifetime,” Callais said. “Being a part of a sorority or fraternity is an honor … so don’t just pull out your rituals at initiation. Initiation is just the beginning of your lifelong commitment.”