Fiji hopes to change view of greek community

A smile says it all, and so does paying it forward.

Phi Gamma Delta, or Fiji, wants to show fraternities are not just about mixers between the greeks, parties on the weekend or the large fraternity houses lining the streets.

The group created the 26 Acts of Kindness — a project to help others without being asked.

“It extended from doing something for a memorial for the 26 people that died during the Newton (Conn.) massacre,” Fiji President Louis Michael said. “We are living on for those 26 people, and in doing so, we can do something kind and go out of your way once a day to do something for someone else.”

Shoveling sidewalks, giving blood, brushing off snowy cars and helping carry groceries are some of the work the students have been doing.

The idea was sparked by MSU and Fiji alumnus and motivational speaker Jim Tuman, who came to speak to the greek system last month, Interfraternity Council, or IFC, president Tony Biallas said.

Some students’ views of greek life come from nationwide issues with greeks and shows such as “I’m Shmacked,” which shows party scenes of colleges and visited MSU in fall 2012, Biallas said. Fraternity and sorority presidents both agreed not to allow the show to film in greek houses.

MSU fraternities are no strangers to problems with underage drinking reports and arrests. In 2010, 10 reports of underage drinking at fraternities were reported, according to East Lansing police records. In this same year, there were about 15 arrests at IFC fraternities and nine made the following September.

Sigma Phi Epsilon’s charter was revoked in January 2012 for risky behavior and “poor operations,” but was restored in fall of 2012.

“There are probably some people out there that are not in it for the right reasons,” Michael said. “I understand where some of the bad stigma may come from, although that’s not the case. As far as stigma goes, it’s always going to be like that, giant colorful letters that people may not know what they mean because there is a certain secrecy with greek life, unless you are in it.”

The sometimes negative view from students and the community gives a much deeper meaning to 26 Acts of Kindness than simply putting Fiji’s name on the map, Michael said.

“It kind of hits home, especially in college, and it is very humbling,” Michael said.

Group effort to promote paying it forward in the community has made members want to become more involved, such as planning to fix up local parks.

So far, 26 Acts of Kindness has had positive feedback from the Fiji brotherhood, Fiji community service chairman Max Becker said.

“The greek community always had taken up bigger projects, and now we want to reach out more so on a day to day basis,” Becker said.

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