I love an educated opinion, but I unabashedly hate an unfounded one.
Last Friday, at around 5 p.m., I received an email that said all it needed to say in the very first sentence, "...the charter of the Alpha Sigma Chapter, located at the University of Tennessee, is hereby revoked..."
Quickly and viciously, 16 words brought one of the most important aspects of my life crashing to the ground in a fiery heap of legalese and passive aggression. The house formerly known as Pong is gone.
As the decision has filtered into local news and social media, many have taken the opportunity to voice their opinions towards the UT Greek system and, more specifically, their opinions of the group of men who have been removed as a result of the decision made by Pi Kappa Phi.
Along with the typical list of grievances against the inherent nature of social fraternities, many have taken it upon themselves to make claims on multiple local news sites as to the character of Pong's former members, claiming we were undeserving of being accepted into the university; that we, along with other Greeks, solely focus on what I can only directly quote as "partying and Ho chasing" and "do what they call sex to each other" (sic).
Although I wish I could come home to my high school friends with grandiose tales of "doing sex to each other," I have regrettably spent more time with my studies and hockey practice rather than exploring mine and my brothers' homoerotic sides.
Sarcasm aside, I am typically fairly tough-skinned, especially against Internet comments – egregiously using "2" and "r" interchangeably with "to" and "are" – about my character and the validity of my acceptance to this university. However, reading these comments in news reports and Facebook posts, hardly a few hours after I had read the email, hurt even more so than finding out I was losing my home here on Fraternity Park Drive.
It is easy to throw stones and yell slurs from inside the vehicle of Internet anonymity, especially at a Greek group with an inherent quality of exclusivity and a stigma of immorality. But I am not writing to ask that you, the reader, defend us. I am not writing to ask that you change your opinion of what constitutes a "standard of conduct."
I am most certainly not writing to ask you pity the loss of the Alpha Sigma Chapter here at UT.
I am simply writing that Pong accomplished its goal.
My life changed from the moment I walked into the front door of 1828 Fraternity Park Drive. I transformed from a gawky, socially inept and insecure 18-year-old to an adult with self-confidence and self-worth that I would have never found anywhere else. Even if those on the outside believe I merely paid for them, the friends I made were brothers I earned.
For all those who claim to know that Pong has never had a significant impact on this university: You have never shaken my hand or seen me study. If you peeked at my bank statement, you would see more 3 a.m. runs to get $5 Cookout trays than country club dues.
Most importantly, many of the ones who have generalized mine and my brothers' characters have never pledged and worked to be a part of something like Alpha Sigma, because pledging creates an "environment of subservience." In my eyes, Pong was something to be earned, and I earned it.
No other place will create men who built the Torch Bearer, the very symbol of our volunteer tradition. No other place will create men who could ride a bicycle 4,000 miles across the nation, stopping everyday to help the disabled along the way, in a matter of one summer. No other place can take a person like me, who came to Knoxville alone and uncomfortable, and give them the confidence to find themselves in a place completely foreign to them.
No other place will have the honor of calling itself Pong.
It may no longer be recognized by the Pi Kappa Phi National Organization or by the University of Tennessee, and the last words spoken of it may exist only on the record of unintelligible Internet comments.
But 1,400 men will forever recognize Alpha Sigma as the place that made us brothers. And I, for one, will know it as the place that made me.
Chase Parker is Alpha Sigma 1324 and a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.