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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Biggest Regret in College

No, this blog post has nothing to do with the Bike America trip we are currently on. I actually don't know why I started even thinking of this. Maybe it was because today I interviewed Kiersten, and she said some of the most inspiring things about standing up for what you believe in and making things happen no matter what the cost. And that got me thinking of my one big college regret. Yup, I only really have one. I don't regret any of my decisions for those 4 years, I don't regret guys I dated, tests I may have forgotten to study for, I don't even regret the mistakes I made - because they either turned out to be something pretty cool or I learned from them and became the person I am today. I absolutely loved my college experience at the University of Tennessee.

But the one thing I do regret, which is something I apparently was so passionate about if it still haunts me more than 2 years after I have graduated - is not doing more to unify the campus. It's no huge secret that there's a bit of an issue on campus with unifying students of different races. It's apparent to anyone who takes the time to really notice. Even walking into our cafeteria and trying to count the number of times you see students of different ethnic backgrounds and races sitting together at one table, you will find yourself searching for a good while. It just doesn't happen very often.

And no - (except for very extreme cases) I truly deep down do not believe that this happens out of racism or hatred... but just simply out of the lack of opportunity to do activities to get to know and make friends with someone of another race. And this is where my regret comes in - for not taking the organization I was deeply involved with, the organization I loved and have the best memories from, not trying with everything I have to unify the Greek Community.

There are the two organizations called IFC and Panhellenic (all sororities and fraternities on campus) and then there is NPHC (historically African American, hispanic, diverse fraternities and sororities). They are both wonderful, successful organizations on our campus that create friendships and leadership skills. However, they are completely separate entities. There were separate recruitment processes, separate events throughout the year, and even two separate homecomings - which baffled me because isn't the whole idea of homecoming to bring the entire campus together?

Now I understand how this might have come to happen - Greek chapters are very proud of their own traditions and events and of course NPHC, IFC, nor Panhellenic should have to stop doing their own traditions and events that makes them the chapter they are. But why not create a few new traditions that unify and include everyone? I'm not just talking about a once a year Greek Week cook-out. How can you possibly form meaningful friendships by plopping everyone together one day a year. Of course friends are going to sit with friends - and no diversifying will come from it. Why not sit down and think of an event or competition that will pair IFC and Pan with NPHC so we can all have the opportunity to get to know one another. Because that's all it takes to bring us all together - to just simply form friendships. I know this works, because that is exactly what happened in my own chapter.

When my chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha and the NPHC Fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha decided to pair up together for a competition called Carnicus, it became one of the greatest memories of my entire 4 years of college. It was the very first time a sorority and a historically African American fraternity had paired together for this competition. The VERY first time. And we had a blast. I cannot tell you the number of times I was laughing out loud at practices, the moments we all shared rehearsing night after night, and the friendships we formed through this one little competition. No we didn't win, but in the bigger picture - we won something no one else had ever sought after before - we won unity. My chapter and Alpha Phi Alpha stepped outside of the norms and did something different. And I have never been more proud to be a part of my chapter than in that moment.

From then on, we would meet up with those guys and all sit down to have lunch together in the cafeteria. We would go to support them at their step show competitions. They would support us at our philanthropy events. I will never forget hearing one transfer student comment on our friendships with the A Phi A guys and say, "Wow, this kind of thing doesn't happen on other southern campuses." It was a wonderful thing and we had so much hope this would create a spark and a realization that this kind of thing needed to happen within the entire community! The entire campus!! And heck who knew from there?! The entire region!

But it fizzled out. For one reason or another - the bumps and difficulties along the way became too much to continue to fight for what was right and important. At one point talk of a new yearly dance competition was in the works pairing teams of IFC/Panhellenic with NPHC. But because of traditionalist alumni (on both sides) this never became an actuality.

So yes, I do regret not focusing all my time and energy on this in college. I do regret not giving everything I had to help pave the way to something absolutely wonderful. Because the Greek Community on our campus were and are leaders, and if we can all show we are united - the trickle down of that message would be immense. It pains me that my time has long passed, and I don't know what I can possibly do now to help this happen. But all I can hope is that the ones in college right now, the ones who have the opportunity to bring unity to the campus - really go after it. Really make a difference.

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