Beta Theta Pi Fraternity 167th General Convention: Model Initiation Transcript

by Paul Wagoner, Miami ’08

CW: homophobic slur

“Looking back on many rush processes over my three years, it still amazes how anyone becomes a member of the Alpha Chapter.  The entire process of debate, the late hours, the upholding of our standards all cause a lot of headache and compromise.  For this reason, I was even more surprised to learn that all but one member voted for me when my bid was discussed.  I knew the chapter had made its decision based on my merits and my character…not on anything beyond my control.

In high school I was student body president, ran cross country and track, in the choir, and eventually valedictorian.  Michigan was my school of choice.  A school where I didn’t have to worry about finding likeminded friends.  Financially, it wasn’t possible, however.  I wanted to ensure my sister also had the opportunity to attend school so I opted to stay in state.  Miami University in Ohio was a stretch for me.  In 2003 Miami was ranked as the 5th worst school for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender students.  A traditionally conservative atmosphere additionally heightened by a large Greek population didn’t sound appealing to me.  But I eventually found myself in Oxford and enjoyed my first semester.  I joined the Glee Club and developed a network of friends.  Those friends happened to belong to Beta Theta Pi.  They encouraged me to apply for the Recruitment Through Scholarship award which I won.  Actually joining the chapter still seemed questionable to me, though.

I agonized over how to address my sexuality during rush.  Should I be truthful, or should I skirt the issue.  Beta was known for asking the question, “How would you treat my sister if I let you date her?”  This question was a difficult one to answer for me, because I’m not interested in anyone’s sister. Answering it truthfully without compromising the strong ties I had in the chapter was difficult.  My biggest fear was that the chapter would identify me only by my sexual orientation.  I’ve never been one to wear my sexuality on my sleeve, I have always let my accomplishments and personality speak for me.  These accomplishments, combined with my character, earned me the honor of being elected pledge class president by my brothers.

My time spent as a brother has been incredibly rewarding.  I sometimes overhear a brother use derogatory words like fag, even if it is just an offhanded remark.  The difference with our brotherhood, however, is our ability to hold one another accountable for something like that.  I can talk to that brother and teach him how hurtful terms like that can be, especially to those not as comfortable with themselves as I am.  At the same time, he can teach me about how he’s a product of his roots, and will work harder to be more sensitive.  That’s what cultivation of the intellect truly means.  Learning from one another outside of the classroom.

Since I’ve been in the Greek system at Miami, I have developed friendships with members of other fraternities struggling to identify themselves in a traditionally very uniform community.  Many chapters often claim that “our house is the most diverse house on campus,” especially during recruitment.  How diverse are we really?  Is your chapter diverse enough to be accepting to an openly gay member?  Is your chapter diverse enough to call me brother?  I hope so, because that’s exactly what each of you is to me.

To me, unity of action is the responsibility of each of us to hold one another accountable.  Whether it’s confronting a brother about a hurtful comment or intervening with a brother who has an alcohol dependency, each of us has the obligation to keep our standards high.  Disagreement doesn’t mean there’s a lack of unity.  It is necessary in a fraternal structure.  True unity is working jointly toward a common goal.  As a junior, I helped organize a $10,000 fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims three weeks before our IFC did anything.  This is what Betas do.  We mutually aid and assist.  Sometime it’s others…and sometimes it’s one another.”

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